failed at forty

I suppose it’s time I addressed the title of my blog. The truth is, it wasn’t my first choice. I had a lot of ideas…until I Googled those working titles and some explicitly naughty things came up (…seems the XXX folks can find a way to associate nearly any topic with their content). I went through an entire list, hopes dashed. I awoke the next morning with “Failed at Forty” in my head, Googled it, and then began right away. I’m calling it inspired.

A few months ago, I turned forty. At the time, I faced this milestone with more than a modicum of dread. These “big” birthdays often inspire a deeper level of self-reflection than the one-through-fours or six-through-nines, and all I could think about was how far from what I wanted my life had become.

I think that I expected, at forty, to be happily married. If pressed to elaborate, I might have come up with something like this:  My husband would be handsome and successful, a lawyer or architect or something; he’d love spending time with me and our children; he would surprise me with gifts of Marc Jacobs handbags, David Yurman jewelry, books and other things I love. I would be happy and successful in my career. My husband and I would take turns shuttling our children from school to piano lessons to soccer and skiing. We would have a spacious home, support the arts, entertain often and take Caribbean and ski vacations. I was sure I’d be celebrating my fortieth with a spectacular trip to the Amalfi Coast, Paris or Thailand with my loving husband.

In fact, I spent my birthday at home in middle America, paying off my ex’s debt and setting a court date. I had contemplated a trip somewhere by myself, perhaps to visit a friend, but some unhappy financial surprises would have made such an extravagance imprudent. Sure I went out with girlfriends, but my heart was not engaged in any sort of celebration. I felt like a failure. So much of what I wanted seemed further from my grasp than ever. To be honest, I was pretty depressed about my situation.

The brilliant thing about failure is that, with time, it brings about great clarity. It is because of the experiences I’ve had — my failed relationship, my attainment of a mediocre position in my career — that I now know more clearly than ever what is truly and deeply important to me. I have a fairly well-developed grasp of my own strengths and weaknesses, and have discovered what makes me feel whole, fulfilled and alive. I am grateful for these lessons learned.

Thus, it is because I am failed at forty that I am more poised than ever to set about creating the life I truly want. And that, my friends, feels like a pretty darned blessed place to be!

4 thoughts on “failed at forty

  1. I feel failed at 40. With the possibility of losing my job (a job I despise) looming, a failed marriage lying in the dust, an unsatisfied and deep desire to write and two boys that depend on me – I feel like my life is in the center of a tornado. No air to breathe and turmoil around me. I see this was posted in 2011, I hope that the years have blessed you with success.

    1. Oh Andrew, I feel your pain. I’ve been single seven years now and have had so many ups and downs! There are other jobs and other relationships, and it can seem like so much effort to find the silver lining and stay positive. Success is how you define it… unfortunately for me, I define it as finding that one loving relationship to last a lifetime… and I’m still seeking.

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