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Yesterday was my 40th birthday. That black and white sentence I’ve just typed looks foreign and surreal to me. It doesn’t strike fear or insecurity into my heart. It only looks so utterly strange. 40 is an epitaph that surely belongs in the descriptions of other people. 40 is how old my friends’ parents are – or were, ages ago, I suppose. I’ve become that person and the oddity of it is what strikes me most just now.

There are freedoms accompanying 40.  A gentle release of sorts has taken place over time.  One doesn’t have to worry so much about what others are thinking of her.  One realizes, instead, that others actually spend very little time out of their busy lives worrying about her and her middle-aged shenanigans.  I’m vastly freer to just be myself and to lean back and enjoy the process.

Were it not for the fact that my back aches now, I’d have to say I wholeheartedly prefer being 40 over any other age I’ve been so far.  Even with the troublesome back, it’s pretty lovely here, at 40.

I like being surrounded by my now-older offspring.  I like not having to tote a diaper bag around with me everywhere I go, being sure to not forget the nutritious snack times four.  I like the interactions I have with my noisy, talkative older offspring, who by and large are now fairly competent with preparing their own snack.  I like reading in bed with them, surreptitiously watching them read their Calvin and Hobbes books, delighting as they giggle to themselves, not realizing I am watching.  Older kids are fun.

I like the gentle, established love that being married to the same man for eighteen years has brought in its wake.  I love the way we are quicker in this later stage in the game to be kind to one another, no longer needing to correct one another in our public story-telling exaggerations.  I like how we just like each other now and don’t need to prove that like to anyone anymore.  I like setting his vitamins out every day for him, knowing that without me, he would never remember to take them.  I like that he scolded me this morning when I groggily made my way out to the kitchen at nearly nine o’clock to fetch that all-important first coffee of the day with, why didn’t you just turn on your nightstand lamp?  I was watching for it so I could bring you your coffee!

I like feeling comfortable inside my own skin.  I like liking my own skin, at long last.  It’s ironic that my body is saggier and older than it’s ever been, and that I like it more than I ever have.  It makes me want to beller to young girls from the rooftops, Love your bodies while they’re still so beautiful, Girls!  And yet I know that even if I did, and even if they heard me without assuming that I was certifiable, they wouldn’t.  They’d still be their own worst critic and wouldn’t understand how fearfully and wonderfully made they really were.  I want to touch their soft, unlined cheeks and tell them how lovely they are.

Just know that you have something lovely to look forward to when you turn 40.  I look forward to the company.  Chime in all ye 50’s, too, to tell us all about how they – the 50’s – are even better than these 40’s I rave of.