Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Forty Already? How did that happen?

On September 29th 2015 I’ll officially bid my 30s goodbye. Stepping into the decade of “sophistication,” crossing the other half of the line and welcoming the “later years.” 

I’m not prepared. I’m not ready. I don’t feel forty. How did this happen so quickly? 

With the sense of ‘time-is-running out’ I’ve been approaching forty with an unrelenting urgency to “get stuff done.” With barely a dent made to my bucket list, I need to move quickly - before the aches and pains set in, before my body sags to unrecognizable proportions and before my wrinkles deepen and multiply.

In this fast-pace society we put a high premium on speed. Faster cars are worth more. Fast food is convenient. Learning to read in kindergarten is better than 1st grade. Let’s hurry up and graduate so we can work full-time, get married, have kids. We rush through life in a hurry to get somewhere other than here. And then when we get there we’ve moved so fast we have no idea we ever arrived. We missed the whole thing entirely, and still we’re in a hurry to get to the next better place.

Slow has become synonymous with dumb or inefficient.  But it’s in slowing down that we discover. If we decelerate by ½ we notice twice more. And it’s in those moments, in between the leaving and going that life happens.

Now that forty is literally knocking down my door, I’ve ironically slowed down just enough to recognize this stage for the milestone it is. There wasn’t an exact moment when my foot left the pedal. It was more of a gradual letting go. Instead of a looming end, forty became symbolic for a life half lived.  Representing experience that accompanies a certain amount of confidence and trust. Now I get to live my second half.  The time when having to make sense of things isn’t as important, when the important things matter more, and when life’s fragility keeps us embracing each moment for as long as possible. Suddenly time slows. And now ‘slow’ becomes a celebration.

So let’s celebrate that. Let’s celebrate love instead of fear, generosity instead of greed, kindness instead of hate, less instead of more.

It’s not about how much I’ve done or have or what I need to do. What these years have taught me is that no matter how much I do, if I live by societies standards it will never be enough. I’ll forever be in a hurry to end up in the same place. As long as my identity and self-worth are tied to someone else’s measure of success, I’ll never feel whole, complete or satisfied.

It took forty years to look myself in the mirror and fully embracing the woman I am, to admit that I
count even if I’m not the winner or the best. Why am I spending my precious time struggling to meet a criteria set by a society that mostly celebrates speed, power and wealth?

The best thing forty taught me is to set my own standards.  So I’ve done exactly that and set only one - to remember the everyday blessings and to value them as much as I value myself.

Oh, and about that bucket…I’ve kicked it :)

 More things forty has taught me:
  1. Age and wisdom aren’t directly proportional. You can be young and wise or old and stupid.
  2. It’s ok to take a few steps back. Forgive yourself and start again.
  3. Stop worrying about what others think. News flash: They’re not thinking of you!
  4. Our minds love having something to ruminate about. They create problems that don’t exist just to work hard at solving non-existing problems.
  5. 95% of all our thoughts are useless
  6. Anais Nin had it right when she said, “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are."
  7.  Gratitude is the best anti-depressant.
  8. At forty friendships matter again – but this time quality REALLY counts.
  9. Travel not to move but to be moved.
  10. “When you live your life in 'what if' that ends up being the only possibility”  –Sarah Silverman
  11. Right now is the only thing that’s real. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Don’t miss it.
  12. What you think you become
  13. Marc Nepo describes listening as a practice of leaning in softly with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.  He’s on to something.
  14.  Expressing vulnerability isn’t a weakness it’s a courageous strength. Just ask Brene Brown.
  15. Get intimate with your emotions they’re here for a reason.  Get to know them.
  16. Figure out what makes you come alive and do more of that.
  17. Marianne Williamson said that our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, it’s that we are powerful beyond measure. Taking time to understand that is life altering.
  18. Poison Ivy is mean.
  19. “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer  - (Poison Ivy isn’t mean?)
  20. Jeans just aren’t comfortable. Stop trying.
  21.  Ask for help
  22. Be kind instead of right.
  23. Don’t try to cover up your age lines or erase them. Embrace them instead. I know. Crazy idea especially if you live in LA or NYC.  
  24. Natural is beautiful but so is a little sparkle J
  25. “I don’t have time,” is a big lie we tell ourselves. We have time. We choose to use it in other ways. 
  26.  “Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is a way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life…The extraordinary will take care of itself.” – William Martin from the book “That Parent’s Tao Te Ching.”
  27. Happy people aren’t envious. They share in the happiness of others.
  28. Self-hugs work. A little self-compassion goes a long way.
  29. Small breasts are underrated. They’re perfect for braless liberation. Free people isn’t just an expensive brand.
  30. Get to know a person before you find out what they do for a living.
  31.  Being afraid doesn’t keep you safe it keeps you trapped.
  32.  Go to bed every night and remind yourself that you tried your best.
  33. Spend as much time as possible with children. They can teach you more than most adults.
  34.   Just do it. What are you waiting for?  
  35. Don’t ask, “Can I?” Ask yourself “How can I?” instead.  - Ellen Langer
  36. Only intrinsic rewards motivate. Extrinsic rewards actually decrease performance. I know this sounds like a contradiction. Business models have it all wrong. Just watch Dan Pink’s Ted Talk.
  37.  There are two ways to live – mindlessly or mindfully. You get to pick.
  38. About sex: It’s much better once you get the hell out of your head! Stop overanalyzing and drop into your body. And women do it before you start drying up. At that point you’ve got other things to worry about (so I’ve heard).
  39. Try to find at least one new thing you like about your partner everyday.
  40. Speak up. You may not get another chance.

Now is your chance to speak up and share your thoughts! What has your age taught you? I’d love to know.


  1. Lots of good stuff in your 40 list, Valerie. I am an old guy now .... my list is shorter: 1 listen, listen, listen 2 speak with gratitude and curiosity 3 be kind 4 do it well. Keeps me busy enough. Thanks for giving me so much good stuff to think about. Randolph Proksch

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting Randolph. It's always helpful to get feedback and add to the piece...especially when you have such powerful words of wisdom. I love how your list gets shorter as you get older...that's a brilliant point. You only need to remember what really matters. It looks like you have it narrowed down to the most important. Listen, gratitude, curiosity, kindness and goodness.......exactly! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. In an interview with Neil deGras Tyson - at age 92, Norman Lear (creator of ALL IN THE FAMILY, MAUDE, among many fabulous sitcoms) answered Neils question, what has age taught you, like this: consider this - you are a grain of sand on the universes beach of life; now consider this - the universe created that space on the beach, created you, to live at this moment. With that, Norman describes the awe that floods me when looking up into the night sky, far from the city lights. Randolph Proksch

  4. How beautiful.Thanks for sharing that Randolph. I just love it.

  5. Gloria Steinem in her essay DOING SIXTY from her 1994 book MOVING BEYOND WORDS - profound reflections on what she has learned with age, from one of our national treasures - here is a tidbit to chew and meditate on - EXPRESS WITHOUT ALSO HAVING TO PERSUADE. The book also contains Ms. Steinems essay on the strongest woman in the world, Bev Francis - inspiration on balancing crazy life demands, staying mentally/physically healthy, and becoming a champion at any age . Randolph Proksch