Then I had a pity party. Poor me. I fixed that one with shopping. Thank goodness the Victoria's Secret semi-annual clearance sale coincides with my birthday! Next, I denied it. You're just a number and can't hurt me! I'm still the same person I was yesterday!
But eventually acceptance set in. She is just a number, but a big one. For most of us women it means we are done having kids. That one hurts. Whether you have zero or ten kids, it hurts. It means that we have a few more wrinkles, gray hairs and pounds. It means we have consumed a good portion of the years we are given on this earth.
I have a friend with Carpe Diem tattooed on his wrist. The full quote from Horace's Odes is "Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero". Translating roughly to "Sieze the day, trusting little in tomorrow." Turning 40 makes you think about how few tomorrows you have.
My friend realized at an early age that he was dying. We all are from the moment we are born. Like most, I found this a morbid thought and wondered why he would want to focus on that. On the eve of my 40th, feeling a swirl of emotions towards that little bitch, I got it.
It's motivating. Being fully and consciously aware of our limited time on earth, does motivate you to not waste a minute. If you had an hour, a day, a week to live, what would you do with that time? Use it! It's harder after 40, with those extra pounds and a few new aches and pains in our bodies. But it's not impossible.
I'm blessed to have two parents who are showing me how to age gracefully. At almost 70 and past 70, they still pursue their passions whether it's dancing, fishing or helping others. The key is to recognize, deeply and painfully, that time is truly short and should not be wasted.
In his TED talk, Larry Smith talks about what will you say to your kid when they approach you with a dream. The best thing to say is "Go for it kid, just like I did." But can you say that? Or is your response more like "I had a dream too, but then I had you." or "I had a dream too, but chasing it got difficult so I gave up?" or "I had a dream too, but I was afraid?"
I realized during my countdown to 40, that I cannot say "Go for it kid, just like I did." But I want to. And I'm going to. Because time is fleeting. Shed a tear for wasted time. Trust not in the future and gobble up this very moment!
Longfellow put it way better than I can ever hope with words as elegant and concise as they come. And so I leave you with his words.
A PSALM OF LIFE
WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST
TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o'erhead !
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.