Category Archives: Turning Forty

death gives our lives structure

I’m paraphrasing here, but I heard a sentiment today on a podcast that said something like, “death gives structure to our lives.” I wrote it down on a slip of paper, tore it off the pad and shoved it into my pocket as I left the office earlier.

Here’s why it stuck with me and I was compelled to bring it up:  To optimize choice, it’s suggested (based on computer algorithms) that we consider 37 percent of our options and then chose the next best option we come across. You can apply this to searching for a mate, a restaurant for dinner, a house…

But I’m in my mid forties. My life is, ostensibly, half over. And, as I shared with my children the other day, I am driven by fear. Meaning:  I am not driven by fear of water, fear of heights, fear of sharks, fear of injury… Nay, I am driven by fear of not experiencing all I want to experience while I am still physically able and alive. But, in truth, it is less fear than lust for life; I have already experienced so much more than many around me:  I have water skied, slalomed, knee boarded and tubed behind a boat; I have yet to wakeboard. I have paddle boarded and surfed in the ocean. I have also downhill skied, hiked, biked, learned karate, run, skated, tried and enjoyed many flavors and textures of food and drink… I have traveled, but not everywhere or even to every continent. In short, I am somewhat driven to experience as much as humanly possible.

Why call it fear? Mostly to contrast a “healthier” fear to one of my children’s sometimes limiting fear of heights.

By the same token, I am not afraid of living / spending my life alone. My desire for partnership is stronger than my fear of embarking on another round of online dating. If there is fear in my quest for partnership, it is only the fear of not giving my children what I believe so strongly they deserve:  a loving and healthy relationship model.

So these are the thoughts in my head as we embark on vacation number two for the year… I will embrace adventure for myself and for them, I will use my vacation time, and we will all get on an airplane no less than three times a year to explore all the wonderful places to see, meet all the people there are to meet and thrust ourselves into the world with abandon.

And then, when we come back, I will brave yet another round of online dating and see if I might be able to apply this 37 percent algorithm somehow. You’ll be the first to know!


and now, a few words about boobs

It’s time for a frank discussion about my breasts. They are large. Larger than strictly necessary…and, in fact, larger than I find desirable. (Of course I am not a man…even my son loves them.) Don’t get me wrong. I think they are fabulous — but they were fabulous a few cup sizes ago. Now they are beginning to verge on ridiculous!

A few times in my life — and to my utter dismay — my mammaries have experienced sudden growth spurts that I can only attribute to hormones. At these times, even while nursing, I have turned toward the heavens and asked, “Were they not already large enough?!?” At this point, I would say they’ve gone beyond merely voluptuous to…I can barely bring myself to type it…matronly. Ugh.

You see, I have a bone to pick with my large breasts:  They get in the way of certain activities, such as yoga or other forms of exercise. They make it difficult to find clothing that fits well. And they have the audacity to precede me — they practically announce themselves.

Women, it seems, tend to be dissatisfied with their breasts no matter their cup size. It’s like hair:  just as straight-haired women wish they had more body while curly-haired women wish it were easier to grow their hair long and casually pull it up into a pony tail, small-breasted women wish they were better endowed, while large-breasted women would happily give up some of the frontal weight in favor of perkiness and, well, convenience.

Clearly, some people, men and women alike, prefer large breasts. Although it is beyond my own comprehension, some women actually pay to have breasts larger than a D-cup. I wonder if they know in advance how difficult it will be to find clothing that matches their new proportions? Even many of the cute lingerie lines only go up to a C-cup in size. And trying to find a cute bathing suit? Fuhgeddaboudit.

I am a practical woman: I’d like to pull something in my size off a clothing rack and have confidence that it will fit, even in front…or to exercise without feeling them in the way. And I am also self-conscious; I sometimes wonder whether people can take me seriously in professional settings. It’s as though these things require an explanation or apology. As Jessica Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) so eloquently put it:

“I’m not bad; I’m just drawn this way.”

Over the years, I’ve seen girlfriends lose weight from the top down, dropping cup sizes before melting an ounce from waist or hips. It’s not like that for me — I’ve managed to go up and down in weight, but I’ve never managed to drop a cup size; I’ve only grown. Even as I find myself more able to love and accept my body as it is — and I truly do appreciate my well-proportioned curves, I’m not yet ready to feel matronly…so I’m off to work out, hoping that — this time — I can reverse the trend.


singlism?

An enormous thank you to the friend who pointed my back to this article, to which I’m sure I’ve linked before. A thought-provoking, thorough, and still timely read for which I haven’t the time just now to provide commentary…


relationship article round-up

I’ve noticed a lot of interesting stuff out there on the inter webs. I don’t have a ton of time for commentary so, for now, I’ll just direct your attention to a few:

Imagine my surprise when I saw this article on trends website PSFK. Evidently anonymous blog The Plankton, which discusses dating from the perspective of a woman as “a plankton on the food chain of sexuality,” has attracted worldwide interest for its unique point of view. As a 40-year-old woman, I can’t say that I consider myself to be at the bottom of the sexual food chain. I have, however, experienced some disinterest that — and this is a gut feeling only — might be attributed to the difficulty in dating a nearly full-time single mother…and that bums me out a little.

This headline on HuffPost Divorce popped out at me the other day:  On Second Thought, Don’t Get Married by Dr. Neil Clark Warren. For those of you who don’t know, the author is the dude who founded eHarmony.com. Americans believe, in large numbers, that marriage is becoming obsolete. Yet millions of couples still marry, and millions more want to, but are not allowed to in most states. I absolutely see both sides of this issue, as I’ve lived it. And I agree with Clark Warren that we don’t focus enough on learning how to choose a mate, build successful relationships and resolve conflict.

Finally, I’m a big fan of Dan Savage and all the work he’s done to share frank, open discussions about sexuality and sexual ethics (not to mention the amazing It Gets Better project and his political activism). In this NYT Magazine piece, Savage talks about covering off on sexual expectations before commitment — think of it like having the financial pre-nup discussion, but about fidelity. It’s actually kind of ground-breaking thinking and while, as a monogamist, it’s still kind of hard to wrap my head around it, it certainly bears discussing — e.g. If one of us cheats, does that mean the relationship is over? Could we forgive, work it out and move on? What might it mean? etc. Good discussions to have before taking the plunge, right?


confessions of a relationship dummy

As you can tell from several of my posts, I am still far from having male-female relationships figured out. In fact, I seem to still make a lot of dumb mistakes. I’ve confessed before that I’m a late bloomer, that my brain-to-mouth filter is under-functioning at best, and that I’ve never really had any good relationship examples. But then, who among us have? Healthy, loving relationships among our parents’ generation seem pretty rare…in fact, I can think of just a few couples in my parents’ group who have found genuine long-term happiness together.

Thankfully, in talking with friends, I’m not alone in not having all the answers. I have friends nearly two decades into marriage who haven’t figured it out. In fact, I was surprised to learn that one married couple I know are both reading relationship self-help books. (His is entitled How to Save Your Marriage in 5 Minutes a Day or similar…So of course I asked the obvious:  Does that five minutes include the sex? He said that yes, it was supposed to, but he didn’t elaborate. Not sure I’ll be buying that book any time soon.)

Who are these people who find life-long happiness? Who are these lovely older couples who still walk side-by-side on the beach and hold hands and talk after decades of marriage? And how do I get to be among their ranks?

Well…I’m going to have to figure that one out as I go along.


love: I think I’m on to something here!

I’m coming back into the awareness that I am a vessel…that the universal energy and love are abundant and boundless, and I’m working to get out of the way and let it all flow. This awareness is transforming my energy quickly and powerfully. I feel more fulfilled, joyful, loving and peaceful than I have in a long time…probably in a decade.

Still, I’ve struggled to define my passion and purpose. Suddenly I find it’s much easier when I rephrase the question as such:  How do I express love?

And then the answers flow easily for me:

  • I accept people unconditionally.
  • I write.
  • I facilitate understanding.
  • I share what I’ve learned and what I know.
  • I provide a different perspective.
  • I connect people and things.

So that seems to be the easy part… Now how do I share this love with the world in a way that sustains me and others?


…as neuroses go…

I have a friend who blogs about dating. She’s a good decade younger than I am, and sometimes I enjoy taking a trip down memory lane to revisit the anxieties of singledom that I, too, once experienced through a much different lens than I do now. (In fact, I don’t have a lick of anxiety about being single just now…no ticking clock, no need for a partner, etc…)

So this post on imagining the worst kind of cracked me up. Turns out, my feelings about the worst thing you could learn about someone you’re dating are not that much different than this 20-Nothing’s list. STDs, bankruptcy, dishonesty, debt, violent crimes — yep, those pretty much top my list, too.

And I think being forty and having seen a lot of relationship “stuff” in the past couple of decades, one tends to mellow to a lot of the ethical conundrums that would have been deal-breakers at a younger age. And, in present tense, they may be deal breakers now…but to learn that someone we like may have made a misstep in his or her “youth” no longer evokes the same harsh moral judgement as it would have a decade ago.

Having been through a rocky relationship, I’ve experienced rage, temptation and vulnerability, meanwhile behaving at times in ways that are difficult to reconcile with the woman I know as me. We are all human and fallible, and my attitude toward many indiscretions has softened as a result of my experience.

To summarize, I still think STDs and murder top this list, though it’s something I don’t spend much time pondering. And I’d probably add “failing to provide for one’s children” — that’s right up there for me, too.


my eyes are on the prize

The theme for the past week or so is keeping my eyes on the prize. It’s popped up in dialogue with friends, in horoscopes, on the radio…

So what is the prize?

Well…it’s not any of the men I’ve written about here, regardless of how much I’m intrigued by or adore them. It’s not my current day job.

The prize is enjoying life now.

The prize is spending quality time with my children.

The prize is good health.

The prize is a healthy, loving relationship.

The prize is fulfilling work that shares something positive with the world.


waking from a magnificent dream

This morning, on the verge of sleep and wakefulness, I dreamt / saw this vision:

I was at the edge of the arctic, standing on what I thought was solid ground. I placed a stake in the ground, and suddenly realized that the apparent earth I’d been standing on was a floating chunk of ice, drifting out to sea — like the hungry, solitary polar bear you’ve seen in a documentary.

There was a moment of panic as I realized I would be lost, cold and alone, adrift on the frigid sea. And then, a mere breath later, as I found my balance on this gently rocking ice raft, I looked around and realized the sea was full of people like me:  I was drifting into a community of free-floating individuals, none of whom looked cold, alone or afraid. In fact, they were smiling.

Another deep breath…and then I knew I didn’t need to be afraid, either. I felt welcome.


reflections on the fortieth birthday

About six months ago…

I’ve already written a bit about how this milestone birthday hit me — it is, after all, included in the title of this blog.

I am a Libra, in love with being in love, quick to fall. You’d think I’d know better by this time in life, yet there I was, falling again for the distant and unavailable man in Chicago, falling faster and harder than any rational, reasoning soul ought. It was as though everything out of his mouth was customized especially for a sucker like me!

Meanwhile, as my birthday approached, I was despairing my not having yet attained the stature or status in life that I would have like to have claimed for myself. The successful career and marriage I’d imagined for myself had eluded me — in fact, I had just that week interviewed unsuccessfully for a new role. I had envisioned I’d be spending my upcoming big day in France or Italy with the love of my life. Or, barring that, a poet.

I experienced some incredibly ugly feelings, a range from self-doubting and unworthy to angry, hateful and outraged. The best I could describe it was “prickly,” like a porcupine, as though anyone who came too near was in danger of me flaring some fierce quills. While my friends insisted on taking me out to celebrate my birthday, I was in no mood to inflict my toxic self on anyone.

I remember thinking that, if Chi-guy had been feeling anything like this that last time I’d seen him, no wonder he didn’t want to get close to me! He had been pretty low at that time, and what I was experiencing gave me greater empathy and opened me to be more forgiving. We had continued to be in contact, loosely — in fact, he had just texted me a very hot photo! After the attention I had paid to his birthday, I wondered what he might do for mine.

On the big day, I dragged myself to the store for a new outfit — dress and heels — to wear out on the town. As I shopped, I started to get excited for my night out and spending time with my girlfriends. Yet my excitement was muted, like being as happy as you can be when you’re depressed, which isn’t particularly happy. Even as I got ready, went to dinner, bar hopped and danced with some amazing girlfriends, I was very down and emotional. Meanwhile, I put on a smiley face and plowed forth.

I’m not always sure whether I’ve found the right balance between “fake it ’till you make it” and being truly authentic. I genuinely believe that happiness and contentment can be a conscious choice. Sometimes this involves deciding to make the best of a situation, putting on a brave face and going out. But my gamely facade crumbled when one of my girlfriends told me how beautiful I looked, how much she admired me, and how fabulous and empowered a strong and sexy forty-year-old me seemed to be. (This was from a woman who has yet to hit this milestone birthday.) I immediately began to tear up, because I felt none of those things — and, by the way, thank you for pointing out this conflict between how I look and how I feel and, therefore, bringing up all my feelings of inadequacy.

Chi-guy, meanwhile, had not called, texted, emailed or sent a card. One girlfriend remarked, “Well, it’s better to know now.” (He left a message a couple of days later. Miss.)

While the intense malaise of my birthday lasted for about a week in total, I continued to feel low for several weeks — maybe months — following. That I was forty, in an unsatisfying job and without a loving partner in life were conditions that did not just evaporate, after all. And it was going to take some time and work to make the major transitions that would bring greater balance, peace and a feeling of forward progress.