Someone told me the only remarkable thing about your 40th birthday was that you stopped dreading turning 40.
And that’s been sort of true. I had a wonderful birthday; it was a Friday. I took the day off work. The kids had a Mother’s Day celebration at school and so a bunch of 2-5 year olds sang me happy birthday. My mom and I watched their performance. In the evening, I took the kids to a local lemon orchard. I don’t know what I had expected to happen, but it was one of the happiest days of my life.
I am so much happier at 40 than I was at 30. I am no longer worried about meeting the right person, and I am no longer under the clock to have kids. After spending almost my entire life in cold places, I live where I always wanted to live, in a warm place. My husband is in fellowship which (in some ways) is less bad than his residency was. My career is finally in a situation where I enjoy my daily work and there is a heavy technical component. I earn more than I used to. Statistically, my fertility is likely gone but that doesn’t hurt as much as I would have expected…even if my body worked, I am physically and mentally tired, and I don’t feel that I would be able to raise more kids at this point anyway. I had no idea how hard it was, especially the newborn period.
But despite the positives, of course I am scared. The immutable fact is that the glass is half empty now. And the part that is full…who knows what the dregs will contain. I saw both of my parents suffer with cancer and it was terrifying. There is more loss ahead of me, assuming I am lucky and live out my natural lifespan. My mom will go one day. My kids will grow up and move away, and maybe I will be dependent on them for basic life needs. Statistically I will probably outlive my husband. My hair is greying and my body aging, and my friends have been saying they are old for years.
My kids are growing up, slowly and fast–“the days are long and the years are short” and all. I love and am enchanted by the people they are, and yet sometimes I also miss the little people they were; how they didn’t understand anything at all about the world, and therefore were entertained by the smallest things–a new shape, or a color. They don’t remember those little people, either. So I am alone with those memories.
As I grow older, the memories of my youth seem to stand out more. A summer trip to India when I was 10 stands out above almost all the rest. I remember that trip as among the happiest times of my life. It was a different kind of happy than becoming a mom, though that was of course a joyous occasion also. The thing was that childbirth was (along with the joy) scary and painful and exhausting, and since I hadn’t raised kids before, I didn’t really understand what was ahead. I was reliving it all this morning, and I just realized that while I cut my daughter’s cord, I don’t remember who cut my son’s. I suppose one of the medical personnel must have done it. Those memories though, stand out too. Such is memory–most ordinary days fall through the sieve; a few, though, remain forever. Someone said they make a soft pillow to lay one’s head on in old age.