Turning forty, the day…

Turning forty, the day after.

It doesn't feel so different. At lunch on Saturday, one of my friends asked if I had any resolutions for my forties. It took me a second to come up with an answer, because for the most part, I haven't thought of this birthday that way. But I suppose I do have some intentions, at least, if not full on resolutions. There are three main areas I've been thinking about with this birthday:

  • the shape of my daily life
  • my health
  • mortality
I know, that last one is grim -- perhaps it's best to address it first and get it over with. I've never had much of a sense of my own mortality, which I know is a little strange. It's teenagers who are supposed to think their lives are endless and invincible, but mostly, I feel that way too. But now, hitting forty, which stands there smack in the middle of my life like an unyielding rock, I am more than a little aware that I am most likely on the downward slope, that according to average life expectancies, I may have fewer days in front of me than behind me. And my grandparents all died in their early sixties, if I'm remembering right, so I may have many fewer days than average. I may not -- my nutrition and health care are substantially better than theirs. But still. And of course, a heart attack could take me in my fifties, or sooner. And yes, anyone of any age could be hit by a bus tomorrow, I know. But the odds against me are a little higher now, and rising.

Children are a great consolation, I am finding. Not so much the genetic link, but the raising of them, the feeling that something large and substantial that I have had a hand in creating will go on. And of course I have some of that in every student I teach, in every story I tell, but this is bigger. And it may end with them, it's no guarantee of immortality -- our kids may decide not to have children themselves, or, worse, decide that there's nothing we've taught them that they'd want to pass on. It's an entirely irrational consolation, I'm afraid, but still, I'll take comfort where and while I can.

I'm focusing on health not so much to stave off death (although I will take that if it comes), but to live better now. I haven't been the athletic sort, and now it is getting harder and harder to lift myself off the couch to go run around the table with the children. It takes effort. And so I'm wanting (and who knows if I will actually follow through with any of this) to make a sustained effort to get into good, healthy physical shape. Strong, fast, fit. It should be possible, even at this late date, but every day that passes makes it a little harder as the body ages and the couch ever-beckons. I'm not sure right now how I want to try to go about this shift; anything sustained will have to wait until I recover from the upcoming surgery. For now, I will garden as much as I can. In the fall -- maybe a stronger commitment to the gym and yoga class, maybe even a personal trainer. If I don't get fit in my forties, how likely is it that I'll do it in my fifties?

The surgery is starting to make me a little anxious, but I think that will help with the body as well. Since I was nine years old, I've been burdened with these breasts which are outsized for my frame, which I must bind down tightly to run with, which are dragging at my entire body, straining the muscles of my back. Kevin tells me that I am starting to develop a hunch, which is seriously upsetting. I don't know if the breasts are related to that, but on August 10th, I will have a few pounds of flesh removed from them, going down from a large E to a C. I would go smaller if the surgeon would allow it -- I have fantasies of being almost breast-less, and being able to just run freely, at last. But they don't want to take that much off; it's not as safe. So, a C it is.

I was talking to a friend about it yesterday, and she asked if a lift would be involved. And yes, I hadn't realized that when I first went in to schedule the surgery, but it turns out that they don't just cut away and leave them hanging low, but rather reshape as they go. I doubt they'll have the perkiness of a teenager, but my breasts will be smaller and somewhat high, for the first time in my life. It seems unreal, like magic. Kev wondered if it would be difficult for my body image, to not be the super-curvy one anymore. I don't know. Maybe I'll feel more beautiful with a smaller shape, maybe not. We'll have to wait and see. I wish this were all easier, that surgery didn't involve some risk, that we could all just shape and reshape our bodies as we chose, with ease. That would be fascinating.

In the end, I will try to live happily, at peace, with whatever shape I have. That's pretty much the goal for the shape of my daily life. Yesterday, on my birthday, rather than do some big celebration (which I had already done the weekend previous, because I will never miss a chance to throw a party), I tried to just live a good day. Eat well, drink tea, play with the children, take care of them, play a board game with a friend, watch a show, read a book, garden, straighten the house and enjoy its beauty. It all went well until around 4-ish, when I went out on some errands that took longer than I'd expected, so that suddenly I was back, and it was almost the kids' bedtimes, and the day was almost over, and I still had some stressful work to do for my job, and for a few minutes, I was pretty unhappy. But that passed. And the day ended well; I did the work as best as I could, and there was some satisfaction in that, and then Kev came to put me to bed and we had a little time to talk. I like ending my days with him.

I have some ambition still -- to write a great book. Or many. But I also want to weigh in my life, very strongly, simply living well. I spent much of the last decade working hard to achieve -- to get the career, partner, children, house that I wanted. And I was lucky enough that the hard work did pay off (and I am very aware of how tremendously lucky I have been -- so many people work so hard for much less reward). But I am tired, people. It's been unrelenting, the last few years. There was a time when there was more leisure in my life, and my days had a better shape to them. So now I will try to garden every day while the weather holds, I will try to stop and smell the roses, hah! I will play with my children, instead of just minding them. I will savor my food instead of bolting it as I rush from one thing to another.

That's the goal, anyway, for the next ten years, and going forward. We'll see how I do. Wish me luck.

2 thoughts on “Turning forty, the day…”

  1. I wish you ALL THE LUCK. <3
    And I hope the surgery will be everything you want it to be. Happy belated birthday! You're awesome. 🙂

  2. Your body image may bounce a while before finding its new place to settle. A friend of mine who had it (5’2″; also going from an F to a C) said that it was a bit of a head-shift from going from being rounded/super-curvy to round/plump, and that it was harder dealing with that in the beginning when her breasts were still bruised and leaking and swollen. A few months out, she was pleased with the surgery results, and liked just being round 🙂 .

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