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!