Being in the forties could be a sweet spot for most women, who have hopefully learnt to love themselves and managing their lives better.
I have often heard this line – what is age, it is just a number… I am hearing it more often now a days because I am watching a series called Younger, revolving around a 40 year old woman passing off herself as a 26 year old in order to get back into publishing industry after being a stay at home mom for years and a messy divorce.
I also hear people telling me that forties is the new thirties, as if I will be offended to be told that I am forty! Why should I be offended? That’s a fact, as much that I was thirty a decade ago & will be fifty a decade later!
When I was in my twenties, I used to be an angry young lady and my mother would always tell me that you will mellow down with time. I used to think that it means that I would lose myself as I grow older. In my own bubble world of my twenties, I was a grand character like Xena, The Warrior Princess, so I would get irritated hearing that.
Now 20 years later, my mom’s words ring in my ears as I have mellowed down. Just like everyone else who gets knocked down by life many times and rises from ashes, I realized that it’s best to leave your ego in those ashes. I also learnt to accept the fact that in life, there will always be 2 parts. One, the circumstances you find yourself in over which you do not have much control, and the other – how you choose to react to those circumstances which is your Karma. So, you learn to focus on what you can control and not fret too much about what is beyond your capacity to control!
We see a very sexist picturization of midlife crisis in movies. While men at 40 get naughty and start dating younger women or driving Harley Davidsons to feel young in sexless marriages, women are pictured as bored housewives with over-ambitious husbands pre-occupied with their ambitions and grown up kids, either spending times in kitty parties or looking for love outside marriage. In the West, where women are more open about their sexuality, we also see women having clandestine cougar relationships.
This is my take on being forty. I feel that in your forties, you learn to embrace yourself completely, be at ease with yourself. Therefore, those panic attacks at seeing shades of grey in your hair become lesser. There comes a certain sense of ease and confidence in your personality where you are not doing anything to impress the world at large anymore but are being just yourself.
There is one dialogue in the movie Eat, Pray, Love where Julia Roberts finds love once again after a bitter divorce and refuses it saying, “Finally I have found equilibrium in my life & I don’t want to lose it.” You develop a relationship with yourself and you seem to complete yourself or embrace the incompleteness. So, it’s a beautiful age where you are surrounded by your own warmth, where you have accepted yourself. Acceptance of large crowds of unknown faces who just stood there watching while you slugged it out in battles of life no longer matters. You know that your confidence in yourself is not misplaced, you have body of proof behind you or rather in you..
Twenties is that decade of our life when we are full of dreams, an almost egotistic bloated self-belief where life seems like a never ending party & pursuit of big dreams where we have a plan for the entire life – car by 28, marriage by 30, house by 35, and so on…
Then comes the thirties when life starts knocking us down but still in the hangover of that self-belief of twenties, we are hard on ourselves. We blame ourselves for our failures, analyze and re-analyze what we could have done differently. We ask questions in our thirties, questions about what we want from our lives and why we are doing everything we are doing, where we want to go and where we have come from…
Forties is the age when you finally realize that your entire life is not in your complete control, everything that went wrong was not your fault and even if it was, accept it, learn from it and move on. We come to terms with ourselves, our life, and accept the fact that perfection does not exist in the real world. That imperfections can be beautiful, and so are we – no matter how large we are in size, how time has written stories on our face in wrinkles, or how experience has started shining from our hair…
I remember I went on a trip to Leh, Ladakh a few years ago. There was lot of walking and climbing of stairs. People on the tour with me looked at my size and asked me if I could do it! I just said one thing – the size of my spirit is larger than the size of my body.
By the time we are forty, we have seen a few health problems which have been wake up calls. In the forties we finally start on the trip to a healthy life because we know its now or never – better start exercising now or you will never be able to do it. So, we are wiser because of all the pain we have gone through, understand our bodies much better and have developed the self-discipline and restraint to finally doing the right things for ourselves.
Forties is also the age when we become serious about money. We finally start investing for our retirement because that is no longer a distant impossibility but a clear and present danger. We develop a certain gravity and start investing our time in much deeper pursuits which seemed incomprehensible in twenties.
We are no longer surrounded by unnecessary people who will just be dead weight pulling us down. By now, we have figured out who are the ones worth keeping, and we make the effort to keep them in our life. But at the same time, we stop judging people, accepting differences, and don’t get weighed down by expectations of others. We accept that people’s expectations are their problem not ours.
Forties is an interesting age, where we are exactly at an intersection where we have still not lost sight of the positivity and optimism of the twenties & thirties, and can also see much clearly into future realities of fifties & sixties. So, we have a balanced perspective. I could draw a parallel to being born in 1970s & early 1980s. We understand technology very well because we started that journey and still know the importance of human touch. We have seen things change and were part of that journey of change – the era of liberalization, the coming of a consumerist age, the economic recessions. Therefore, no one knows better than us that change is the law of nature, be it economy, politics, demographics, technology, mindsets or own minds & bodies… we also know that we are quite capable of coping with all these changes.
It is quite possible that whatever I have written about being in forties is not true for everyone. Being a single woman, my life is not cluttered with coping with the perceptions and opinions of others. My journey to self-discovery is more close and observable for myself but I think taken in right perspective, everything is true for all of us depending on our attitudes towards ourselves and life. If we look with a positive mind, we will always be able to smile in face of all challenges that life throws on us. After all, we will have to face them as they come, how will being sad about them going to help anyway?
My mother used to say you laugh, and the world laughs with you, you cry and you cry alone… So laugh even if you are alone because a company with a smile is much preferable even when you have to be your only company…
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