My birthday twin, my college friend Eric spelled it out this way: Two to the second power times ten, or simply XL. I know why he did it. To avoid having to write it out in plain English or Arabic numerals. FORTY. 40. Whoa.
I've never been one to cringe at the numerals racking up, birthday by birthday. I've always said I will celebrate my birthday in full, and I will. But this one, this one. What is it about entering this fourth decade that makes me shrink from the number? Is it the idea of what forty should be? My mother seemed impossibly old at 40, when I was a child. It floors me that she was just two years from being diagnosed with breast cancer at 42. That has always seemed an age so far in the future for me, and now it is here. It's that decade of increasing medical exams and recommendations and infertility and eyesight and I don't know what else. I worry about stupid things, like how old I will be when Helene and Ajax are in college, when they get married, when they have children. I sort of hope they'll have children in their 20's, not like me, so I won't be such an old grandparent. This was not in the master plan, having a baby barely past newborn on my fortieth birthday.
My wonderful cousin-in-law Jamie wrote to me this morning and said, "don't let people tell you it's bad - our kids keep us young!" Yes to that. Yes to getting out with them, and playing, running to keep up with my daughter on her balance bike. Yes to being silly more often. Yes to being older and wiser and mellower and more patient. (It's true! You should have seen me in my 20's, dear god) . Yes to blowing this decade all to hell. Yes to having another race medal hanging heavy around my neck sometime in the future. Yes to being an expert at my job. Yes to having enough money. Yes to the broad and deep and incredible group of people I'm privileged to call my friends. Yes to knowing some of them for almost my entire life. Yes to the amazing family that I have - made up of the one I was born to, the one I married into, and the one I've made for myself. Yes to living well and deliciously and not missing a damn thing. Yes to not being twenty or thirty anymore, for being past the tumult and uncertainty that those ages brought to me.
Yes to all of that. Bring it, forty.
*Title by U2, my favorite band ever. I can listen to Unforgettable Fire and become an awkward, angsty teen again. Take that, forty!