Turning 40 – some reflections

 

Some treats of turning 40! Photo by Marija Smits

Some treats of turning 40. Photo by Marija Smits.

I’m not particularly worried about getting older, but there’s something about the number 40 that doesn’t particularly appeal to me. You see, in my quirky little overthinking brain, numbers have personalities. 5 is probably my favourite number because it’s a little bit curvy but it also has some straight bits. I consider it a friendly (but upstanding) number. It’s odd but, somehow, warm. The number 4 is all straight and cross and it looks rather irritable. And 0, well, that could be taken as a disappointed ‘oh’ (as in ‘forty, oh dear’). Or perhaps a rather surprised ‘oh’ or perhaps it’s sole function is to look like the shape of the mouth of the person screaming in Edvard Munch’s famous painting. I don’t know. I digress.

Yet, time marches onwards and it doesn’t care for my own particular preferences when it comes to what my age is now. So… I’m 40 now, and it’s time for a little reflection on the past decade and the forthcoming decade.

At thirty, I was pregnant with my first child, my darling girl. She was born in April, approximately a month before I turned 31. That 31st birthday was not particularly memorable to me because my life didn’t seem to be about me anymore. Instead, everything was about this tiny being who had entered our lives and time itself seemed to have shifted. I have photo albums which, instead of being labelled by months (or years), were instead labelled with my daughter’s name and by how old she was (in months). It took me quite a few years to shift back to ‘normal’ calendar months, which, I guess, shows just how much my life back then revolved around her.

So, in essence, the past decade, for me, has been very much about becoming a mother, first to my daughter, and then three-and-a-half years later to my son. It has been about breastfeeding, coping with little sleep, finding my own path as an HSP parent, finding a ‘tribe’ of like-minded mothers and lots and lots of nappy changing.

But it’s also been about finding a new surge of creativity within me and learning hundreds of new skills (some of which I used to set up and manage my small press, Mother’s Milk Books – but that’s a whole other story!). And throughout this hazy decade, I’ve been reading and writing, which has helped me hugely with reflecting on who I am, my place on this earth, and what I want to spend my days doing. The non-fiction books I wrote about here helped me enormously with my reflections, but I realize that not everything is done, soul-work wise, so I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this list soon. I’m aware, too, that I want to read more about politics, psychology, feminism and history; Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks and Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond have been on my reading list for a while. And I’ve also just got Love and Limerence, by Dorothy Tennov, which I hope will help to clarify some of my (as yet) incompletely developed ideas about love, lust and romance and what they mean to me as an individual.

Writing-wise, I *think* I’ve served my apprenticeship having written an okayish first novel (which will most likely stay hidden away in a drawer), lots and lots of poetry, a fair few short stories, a children’s chapter book, several children’s picture books and lastly… a good beginning on an epic fantasy trilogy.

So, what will the next decade be about? Well, my last decade taught me a lot about time. And how it’s very precious. And finite. So, perhaps, my oh-so-very-urgent desire for ‘better’ or ‘success’ was understandable. I was child-like in my impatience for wanting to be ‘better’ at art NOW! Or ‘better’ at writing NOW! But when it comes to mastering a skill, time and patience and dedication to the skill are the only things that will make a difference. So I am definitely going to be more accepting of that fact. And I have to face the fact, too, that if I don’t make time for my creativity it won’t happen. And I don’t want to live with the regret of not having tried my very best to master a creative skill and then shared the fruit of my labours with others (although my view on how to share the products of my creativity is still very much in flux).

So… as ever, boundaries will be important. It’s too easy to let social media, never-ending work and other societal pulls drag me away from what’s really key to my wellbeing: time spent with my loved ones (at home, and in nature) and time spent on creative endeavours.

I know I have a tendency to overthink things (the horrors of OCD rumination never seem too far away) but I am cautiously (I’ve got to be cautious, right? I’m an HSP!) looking forward to this decade. And what more can I give myself than the gift of being open to the challenges and gifts of the next decade? None.

Forty, after the party. Photo by Marija Smits

Forty, after the party. Photo by Marija Smits.

 

And a huge welcome back to Maddy from Writing Bubble after her week’s internet break. It’s good to have you back!

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21 comments on “Turning 40 – some reflections

  1. Emily Organ says:

    Happy birthday! 40 definitely makes you reflect, I dreaded reaching it for some time and now I’m on the wrong side of it by almost two years I actually enjoy it. I reflect on the decades as you do. My twenties was all work and socialising and my thirties was about bringing three babies into the world in just the same way as you. As I turned 40 my youngest started school and that felt like an important marker for me – that my forties would be about pursuing the ambitions I’ve harboured and put on the back burner for so long. And 40 is sobering because it makes me realise I might be halfway through my life now (perhaps more than) and so I really need to make things happen. It’s a time for new impetus. It’s great to see what you’ve achieved so far – both with motherhood and your publishing and writing – the rest of your life begins now!

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  2. Becky says:

    Happy birthday! I was a bit traumatized about turning 40 a few months ago. But I also quite enjoy the feeling of starting out in a new, fresh decade – there’s something exhilarating about that, I think! It’s funny,isn’t it, the associations we have with numbers – my associations are quite nice, though: forty reminds me of words like fortitude, fortify, forte, etc, (words from ‘fort’ meaning strength).

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  3. It actually sounds like you’re in a very good place right now. Happy Birthday! I have the big 4 – 0 coming up in a couple of years, and actually I’m feeling way less stressed about the prospect than I was about 30. I’d had so many preconceptions of where I’d be by then and spent my whole time comparing myself to my unmet expectations. Since then I think I’ve got much better at just living, and relishing the different challenges and opportunities life throws up. Hopefully I can hold on to that as the nex milestone gets closer! And here’s hoping that you can take this next decade by storm 🙂 xx

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  4. All you young things, wait until you start thinking about summing up your 50s like poor old me! Many Happy Returns, Teika; hope your 40s are as fun filled and creative as your 30s. BTW, next time, share the cake! 😉

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  5. 38to39a says:

    Happy birthday! I had all three children in my 30s, between 32 and 39 in fact. And I ran a couple of businesses. And wrote a lot of non fiction. What that means is that a lot of my thirties was a blur, and there are whole years where I couldn’t tell you what new music came out, whole swathes of films I never knew about. So, that means my forties have been a wonderful rediscovery of culture of all sorts, or taking hold of what I write and giving it space to grow, to write about what I want to write about, not what sells. Have a wonderful time in your forties – getting older can be magical.

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  6. I was lucky enough to not notice turning 40 – I was still in the ‘struggle with nappies and sleepless nights’ stage with our youngest daughter 🙂

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  7. maddy@writingbubble says:

    Love your description of numbers at the beginning – it really made me smile! I think it’s good to reflect at the end of a decade and 30’s seem to be a ‘big’ decade for many of us – certainly they’ve been so for you – you’ve achieved so much. I certainly think you’ve served your apprenticeship and very much agree that it all takes time.

    I remember turning 30 and thinking ‘no decade will ever be as amazing as my 20’s’ but then I did do most of my degree in my early 20’s, run my own business and move in with my husband (then boyfriend) and buy our first house and get married and have our first baby (at 29). And in a way what can top that? And yet there’s been something so much more calmly, creatively fulfilling about my thirties (I’m now 38) that i’m already starting to think nothing will top them! I rather like the idea of a life where each decade is wonderful in its own way but always trumped by the next one though. Here’s to a wonderful forties for you (and me when I get there but that’s ages away, ages and ages… eeek). Thanks for the lovely welcome back and for linking to #WhatImWriting xx

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    • Marija Smits says:

      Yes, I think there’s always a tendency to look back and remember the highlights and worry that the highlights may not be as ‘high’ in the next decade. But for some, I guess, some decades contain much pain, so perhaps it’s easier to look forward then. It sounds as though you had a lot going on in your 20s but that your 30s are being fulfilling in so many other ways. And that is lovely too. And you’re welcome re: the welcome back. It’s great to have you back! M xx

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  8. Rachael says:

    I love the way you describe numbers! My favourite is 3 I think, and 9. Both very curvy. I used to say it was 7 but I think it was fashionable to say that maybe.. Although I do think there is something special about the number 7, spiritually….

    But I digress! I turn 40 next year so was especially interesting to read your take on the last ten and the next ten years ahead… But what I really stopped by to say was… Happy Birthday! 🙂 x

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    • Marija Smits says:

      Thank you Rachael, and yes, I think 7 is quite spiritual, isn’t it? Then again, I think 3 is as well, though! And I’ll look forward to reading about your reflections when you turn 40. Surely time for some poetry then…? Take care! x

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  9. Nicola Young says:

    Welcome to the club.It does seem like the 30’s was a decade of focusing on being a parent and I began to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel as I emerged from that. I’m trying to look at this next decade as a time to focus more on me, but the kids need me in different ways to how they did when they were little. I really did feel quite stressed and panicked when I first turned 40 last December. I know that might sounds ridiculous, but I just did. I’ve calmed down a great deal since then and I’ve enjoyed the many nights out and outings I’ve had whilst commiserating!

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    • Marija Smits says:

      Thank you Nicola! Yes, the kids still need us, don’t they? Just in different ways. But it’s good to be able to focus a little more on our own creative endeavours. And I’m glad you had many nights out celebrating/commiserating! 😉

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  10. I really enjoyed your description of the numbers 4 and 0 – great! I see numbers in colours and 4 is yellow and zero is white, and the colour yellow isn’t one of my faves. I turned 40 18months ago and must admit to finding it quite a hard mental adjustment. Like you, much of my 30s was spent having and bringing up two children, they are 9 and nearly 7 now so life is different for all of us. I have definitely turned back to writing which I did all the time before the children. I also agree with you that happiness is being with the family and putting the breaks on social media.Hope you had a a good Birthday. #whatimwriting

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    • Marija Smits says:

      How interesting that you see numbers in colours, and it’s good to know that you’re focussing on your writing too as your children get older. I can empathise with that! Thanks for your kind wishes! 🙂

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  11. Like you Teika, 40 didn’t sit well, but 8 years in and ever nearing 50 I am kind of used to it and I feel ok. I know you will make the most of what your new decade has to offer. Wishing you a Happy Birthday and much fulfilment in the coming years! xxxx

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    • Marija Smits says:

      Many thanks Jane for your kind wishes, and I have to say that it’s good to know that others are comfortable with the 40s decade. And considering how creative and talented you are it inspires me to keep going and working at my own creative endeavours. There’s beauty everywhere… 🙂

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  12. I felt better about the 4 when I realised how close it was to Phwoar! You’ll be Phwoar-tea, I’m sure, which is more than a bit fabulous. xxx

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  13. Jessica Starr TheStoryWitch says:

    Sounds wonderful! Happy Birthday Teika

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