This entry is a bit of a departure for my blog, which primarily centers on health and wellness subjects. But I feel justified to stray from my usual path today. Because it’s my birthday. My 40th birthday. The Big 4-0. Four decades. Twenty plus twenty. You get the idea. It’s a milestone birthday, so please indulge me as I wax philosophical about my life thus far.
Most of my birthdays over the last decade have come and gone with adequate, yet unmemorable fanfare, and even less reflection. By the time I hit 30, then started having babies, the world became so much less about me, and most of my subsequent birthday celebrations demonstrated that. I say that not to complain, but to make the point that I don’t want this birthday—my, gulp, 40th—to pass by as just another day. Because it’s not. Should I be blessed to live to 80, I’m officially middle age, even though the sweet cashier at Wal-Mart who carded me said middle age is really 55. Bless her.
I teeter between moments of mourning for my youth, and thankfulness that I’ve had this much life. It’s not that I wish I could return to my 20s, because I don’t. I lacked wisdom, humility and perspective that I’ve earned since then through mistakes, loss and perseverance.
It’s just that 40 is, well, FOOOOOORTY. This is when people start saying, “You’re how old? Oh, I hope I look like you when I’m that old.” And, “Oh girl, you look great for your age.”
What else happens at 40? Brown spots. I’m now noticing brown spots. And random gray hairs in conspicuous places. And the insistence on wearing large brimmed hats when I’m in the sun. And less tolerance for teenage shenanigans. And growing pessimism and weariness of government, politics, food quality, the environment and what the future looks like for my boys. Oh, and phobias—of flying, murky ocean water, cruise ships and germs.
Despite all of that, there’s a lot of good stuff about turning 40: four decades’ worth of memorable loving, laughing and living it up—and great health! So, to kick off my mid-life celebration, I’m going to pause long enough to reflect on 20 highlights and reasons for gratitude in my 40 years (in no particular order) :
1. I have functional relationships with my immediate family members. It’s actually better than that, but being a child of divorce and having familial ups and downs since, I’m just thankful that I can call any of my closest relatives and end the conversation with “I love you.”
2. I married a remarkable man. After a bitter breakup with a prior boyfriend in college, I’ll never forget my sister saying to me, “If he’s not the one God intended, think how much better that one will be.” She was right.
3. I was able to get pregnant three times, and deliver two precious boys. Despite losing my second pregnancy, I embrace that experience because it made me more compassionate, humble and relatable.
4. I was able to breastfeed my children—an act that, for me, made me feel wholly woman, perfectly nourished my children and gave greater utility to my body as it was designed.
5. I was raised by parents who were focused on instilling character in me, not on indulging every whim and wish my adolescent heart desired. Character-building moments were often painful, but made me resilient and appreciative.
6. I’ve traveled abroad and throughout North America, which has blessed me with perspective. It taught me that I am such a minute part of this world, yet have an ability to make positive contributions that benefit us all.
7. I was raised in the church and came to accept Christ as my savior at an early age. My faith has served as my compass and foundation throughout my life.
8. I was born in North Carolina. I love that state, and despite growing up mostly in Florida, returning to that state as an adult instantly reconnected me to my roots.
9. I have a small handful of loyal friends. They have sustained me through relocations, remind me of the value of community and raise my spirits when I’m down.
10. I have never been poor, hungry, unsheltered, unwanted or unloved. Considering the immeasurable poverty, homelessness, abuse and anquish experienced by millions in this world, I consider that a significant highlight in my life.
11. I get to pursue my passion for fitness professionally. While the financial compensation is lacking in this field, the reward I receive from clients whose lives are enhanced through my facilitation is highly fulfilling.
12. I had a strong female figure in my life—my grandmother, Priscilla—who was ahead of her time with fashion, nutrition and fitness. By example, she taught me to be independent, confident and brave.
13. I have never had a serious illness or injury. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, being able to move your body as it was designed is, well, everything. I have friends with varying degrees of physical limitations, and their perseverance inspires me and makes me thankful for my full physical capacity.
14. I worked in corporate America for a decade, and while I was reluctant to conform to the confines of cubicle life and corporate speak early on, that experience has paid dividends ever since.
15. I have eaten my favorite food—pizza—all over the world, and am thankful that my top pick comes from a U.S. chain.
16. My last three homes have backed up to woods. Not a big deal to some, but being able to step out on the back porch and see nature in action, hear rustling leaves and watch the seasons change provides an oft needed slice of serenity.
17. I grew up without a dishwasher, clothes dryer, computer and cable tv, and my first car had no AC and a hole in the floor board. Why is this a highlight? Because I sure as heck appreciate having those things now!!
18. I’ve been able to easily secure employment throughout my life. I had great jobs in college, a career in communications with a Fortune 500 company immediately upon graduating, have had my own communications consulting business for years, and have held positions of authority at leading health and wellness businesses. For some folks, good jobs are elusive. I’ve been blessed with several.
19. My palate has evolved such that I truly desire healthy foods over fast foods. I fully embrace and believe the “you-are-what-you-eat” concept, and am thankful to have access to nutritionally dense food options. I grew up eating organic vegetables from my family’s garden. I had no idea then how beneficial and unusual that was to be able to pick fresh lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, green onions, pole beans, gourds and herbs from my own back yard. How I wish I had that now!
20. I stepped on the scale this morning, and my weight is essentially the same as it was when I was 20. Woohoo! Even better, my body composition has improved since my 20s as I have applied what I’ve learned over the years about exercise techniques and clean eating. I’m much leaner and more defined at 40. And I love that my job allows me to help other people achieve similar results.
As I celebrate this birthday and reflect on my life’s journey so far, my heart is full with gratitude. I have been blessed immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined. Bring on the next 40 (although I’m in no hurry!)!!
Want to help me celebrate? Join me in :
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Molly is a wife, mom,
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.