The 40s: The Most Delightfully Dangerous Years of Your Life

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This is hardly about thinking when you were 10 that when you turned 40 you would be old; and then becoming 40, and discovering that you don’t really feel that old. Being 40, you may, or will discover, to your delight, is much like your 20s, only better. When you’re in your 40s, you’re old enough to have all the legal fun you want; and most likely, you have more money to do it with. In your 40s, you already know what it is you want. The 20s are the era of exploration; the 40s are the era of actually getting what you want.

People in their 40s are fascinating to watch. Now, with so many of my friends in the becoming 40, and in the 40 age range, I am surrounded by people who are discovering the deepest yearnings of their heart; the funny thing is, none of them were looking for the deepest yearnings of their heart. They were content living their lives as upstanding adults; many are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, some are single, childless and travel around the world. But suddenly; there it is, like the Holy Grail, all spelled out in front of them. And the Grail demands changes.

This I have observed. People in their 40s secrete hormones that are not unlike adolescents. These hormones make it difficult for those in their 40s to sleep; a deep seated restlessness seems to attack at 2 a.m., and sometimes leads them to think horrible thoughts that, under morning’s light, make no sense. Insomnia reigns, leading to tiredness, irritability, and the feeling of “getting old,” of course. (Here’s a hint: Heed those stirrings, and the symptoms will leave…)

The hormones seem to awaken primal parts of the their brains and sometimes make them think about doing crazy things; things that threaten the survival of their career or family. Those who heed the musings of the heart seem to go through a period of traumatic upheaval and pain that touches everyone in their intimate circle. The lives of many of the 40-year-olds I know are sometimes more interesting than the tabloids at the grocery store; they make the shenanigans of adolescents seem like, well, child’s play.

The prospect of seeing what the heart wants, and realizing this may involve a re-ordering of life’s priorities, can be terrifying. Much simpler, we believe, to simply ignore those constant tapings on the door of the soul. This can lead to misery; putting a lid on the heart, closing down walls and siphoning off the heart so that it can no longer feel the ache of missing something; while at the same time stunting the heart from feeling the joy. Because it is, after all, the presence of joy that takes us to our heart’s desire. I wonder sometimes, if this is the cause of all of those anxiety attacks, muscle aches and illnesses; the heart is screaming for the soul to wake up and following its path.

Suddenly, joy has become a dangerous thing. Joy will demand that you cut off anything that is not serving you; like the dead branches of a tree.

When I see that upheaval face-to-face, I am always caught in some sort of awe-inspiring revelation. That once mousey husband, who always seemed so irritated, is transformed into an outgoing, successful carpenter – who now has a new wife. His eyes glisten, and, really, “I do think he looks more handsome now.” Every time I see this conversion, I am amazed beyond belief; what was once misery has been transformed by simply aligning one’s purpose with the joys of their own heart.

Still, some have the courage to look at the heart’s yearnings directly in the eye, and try to see if there is a way they can make some small, minor modification to realign life’s priorities.  To their delight, they often find that this one small step seemed to have opened up the entire universe. Options that never once existed are spread out like a table laden with food and jewels.  They followed the musing of their heart and escaped through the tunnel without a scratch; they remain unscathed; their intimate circle is equally unharmed, and miraculously benefits from the afterglow of joy.

A friend gently told me this when I was in my 30s: When you cross the street, you will have left an opening around everyone who once stood beside you. They will begin to act differently just because you moved. This, they cannot do, until you cross the street.

It’s up to you to make the move; so that the lives of those around you can be transformed.

Living an authentic life requires an inordinate amount of courage and introspection. Those in their 40s are just beginning to understand the gravity of the responsibility we have to our own lives. You might be able to get by living someone else’s dream when you’re young, in your 20s. But this will never hold up when you reach your 40s.

Your soul will demand that you fess up, pay attention and align your life with your heart.

12 comments on “The 40s: The Most Delightfully Dangerous Years of Your Life
  1. What a lovely post. I once heard Oprah Winfrey say that she thought the 40s was fabulous, until she entered her 50s. She said she finally felt whole and terrifically happy.

    This has been true for me. I found that the 40s still holds vestiges of the errors we made in our 30s; we have to mop up, unless we didn’t make any errors in our 30s. By 50 you know exactly what needs to be done, and usually you’ve been doing it between 45 and 50. This is what I think makes the 50s so wonderful: we’re there.

    The other thing about the mid- to late-40s and the early 50s is that we can hear the loud ticking of the death clock. We know we’re in our decline; we can no longer say we are “middle aged,” unless we’re deluded enough to think we’re going to live to be 100 (and in our right minds!).

    The best is yet to come. My parents are in their 70s now and they say it is the best time of their lives.

  2. You wrote: “When you cross the street, you will have left an opening around everyone who once stood beside you. They will begin to act differently just because you moved. This, they cannot do, until you cross the street. It’s up to you to make the move; so that the lives of those around you can be transformed.”

    That is so profound. What a great piece. Is this all original? This is one of your best posts.

    The part I quoted will surely stay with me for awhile.

  3. Pingback: The One Mistake I Always Make | Susiej

  4. I’m 34, so the friends turning 40 has just begun. My friend’s husband has gone loco, just started smoking after years of not, drinking heavily, bought himself an insanely expensive guitar without mentioning it it her, and worst of all, had an affair with a cuter younger blond and broke his wife’s heart. He’s not really that remorseful and seems to want out, after 18 years together and with two kids who are 10 and 8, this is all so tragic for the family. This all happened in the weeks after his 40th birthday! Hopefully it’s not like this for too many families once the 40’s hit.

    Another chime of “beautiful post!”

  5. This is hardly about thinking when you were 10 that when you turned 40 you would be old; and then becoming 40, and discovering that you don’t really feel that old. Being 40, you may, or will discover, to your delight, is much like your 20s, only better. When you’re in your 40s, you’re old enough to have all the legal fun you want; and most likely, you have more money to do it with. In your 40s, you already know what it is you want. The 20s are the era of exploration; the 40s are the era of actually getting what you want.

    People in their 40s are fascinating to watch. Now, with so many of my friends in the becoming 40, and in the 40 age range, I am surrounded by people who are discovering the deepest yearnings of their heart; the funny thing is, none of them were looking for the deepest yearnings of their heart. They were content living their lives as upstanding adults; many are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, some are single, childless and travel around the world. But suddenly; there it is, like the Holy Grail, all spelled out in front of them. And the Grail demands changes.

    This I have observed. People in their 40s secrete hormones that are not unlike adolescents. These hormones make it difficult for those in their 40s to sleep; a deep seated restlessness seems to attack at 2 a.m., and sometimes leads them to think horrible thoughts that, under morning’s light, make no sense. Insomnia reigns, leading to tiredness, irritability, and the feeling of “getting old,” of course. (Here’s a hint: Heed those stirrings, and the symptoms will leave…)

    The hormones seem to awaken primal parts of the their brains and sometimes make them think about doing crazy things; things that threaten the survival of their career or family. Those who heed the musings of the heart seem to go through a period of traumatic upheaval and pain that touches everyone in their intimate circle. The lives of many of the 40-year-olds I know are sometimes more interesting than the tabloids at the grocery store; they make the shenanigans of adolescents seem like, well, child’s play.

    The prospect of seeing what the heart wants, and realizing this may involve a re-ordering of life’s priorities, can be terrifying. Much simpler, we believe, to simply ignore those constant tapings on the door of the soul. This can lead to misery; putting a lid on the heart, closing down walls and siphoning off the heart so that it can no longer feel the ache of missing something; while at the same time stunting the heart from feeling the joy. Because it is, after all, the presence of joy that takes us to our heart’s desire. I wonder sometimes, if this is the cause of all of those anxiety attacks, muscle aches and illnesses; the heart is screaming for the soul to wake up and following its path.

    Suddenly, joy has become a dangerous thing. Joy will demand that you cut off anything that is not serving you; like the dead branches of a tree.

    When I see that upheaval face-to-face, I am always caught in some sort of awe-inspiring revelation. That once mousey husband, who always seemed so irritated, is transformed into an outgoing, successful carpenter – who now has a new wife. His eyes glisten, and, really, “I do think he looks more handsome now.” Every time I see this conversion, I am amazed beyond belief; what was once misery has been transformed by simply aligning one’s purpose with the joys of their own heart.

    Still, some have the courage to look at the heart’s yearnings directly in the eye, and try to see if there is a way they can make some small, minor modification to realign life’s priorities. To their delight, they often find that this one small step seemed to have opened up the entire universe. Options that never once existed are spread out like a table laden with food and jewels. They followed the musing of their heart and escaped through the tunnel without a scratch; they remain unscathed; their intimate circle is equally unharmed, and miraculously benefits from the afterglow of joy.

    A friend gently told me this when I was in my 30s: When you cross the street, you will have left an opening around everyone who once stood beside you. They will begin to act differently just because you moved. This, they cannot do, until you cross the street.

    It’s up to you to make the move; so that the lives of those around you can be transformed.

    Living an authentic life requires an inordinate amount of courage and introspection. Those in their 40s are just beginning to understand the gravity of the responsibility we have to our own lives. You might be able to get by living someone else’s dream when you’re young, in your 20s. But this will never hold up when you reach your 40s.

    Your soul will demand that you fess up, pay attention and align your life with your heart.
    Related Posts:

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    * Where I got this crazy idea there are spirits and stuff…
    * It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt
    * So They Can’t Take Their Eyes off You
    * Smiles and Sticks of Gums

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    8 Comments

    1.
    Lisa Milton ~ Sep 22, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I don’t know if I am thrilled about my 40s or scared to death…

    But you are right. It’s an amazing time. (My husband is 41.)
    2.
    Hip Mom’s Guide ~ Sep 22, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Whoa, what a great post. Beautifully said.
    3.
    louann ~ Sep 23, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Now I have something to look forward to =)

    Being in my 20’s has been pretty tough.
    4.
    Yogamum ~ Sep 24, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I so agree with you. I am loving my 40’s and feeling like I finally moving into the live I am “supposed” to be living.
    5.
    Eve ~ Sep 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    What a lovely post. I once heard Oprah Winfrey say that she thought the 40s was fabulous, until she entered her 50s. She said she finally felt whole and terrifically happy.

    This has been true for me. I found that the 40s still holds vestiges of the errors we made in our 30s; we have to mop up, unless we didn’t make any errors in our 30s. By 50 you know exactly what needs to be done, and usually you’ve been doing it between 45 and 50. This is what I think makes the 50s so wonderful: we’re there.

    The other thing about the mid- to late-40s and the early 50s is that we can hear the loud ticking of the death clock. We know we’re in our decline; we can no longer say we are “middle aged,” unless we’re deluded enough to think we’re going to live to be 100 (and in our right minds!).

    The best is yet to come. My parents are in their 70s now and they say it is the best time of their lives.
    6.
    MotherPie ~ Sep 25, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    You wrote: “When you cross the street, you will have left an opening around everyone who once stood beside you. They will begin to act differently just because you moved. This, they cannot do, until you cross the street. It’s up to you to make the move; so that the lives of those around you can be transformed.”

    That is so profound. What a great piece. Is this all original? This is one of your best posts.

    The part I quoted will surely stay with me for awhile.
    7.
    The One Mistake I Always Make | Susiej ~ Sep 29, 2008 at 11:04 am

    […] questions for the author of Nights in RodantheStocks can dive in a day; and they can rise in a dayThe 40s: The Most Delightfully Dangerous Years of Your LifeA weekend in 24 […]
    8.
    :::::::::::: wife mom maniac :::::::::::: ~ Oct 5, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I’m 34, so the friends turning 40 has just begun. My friend’s husband has gone loco, just started smoking after years of not, drinking heavily, bought himself an insanely expensive guitar without mentioning it it her, and worst of all, had an affair with a cuter younger blond and broke his wife’s heart. He’s not really that remorseful and seems to want out, after 18 years together and with two kids who are 10 and 8, this is all so tragic for the family. This all happened in the weeks after his 40th birthday! Hopefully it’s not like this for too many families once the 40’s hit.

    Another chime of “beautiful post!”

  6. I’m 43 now…a triple divorce, painfully single for a few years, still seeking to create a financial and emotional and sexual stability that won’t eat away at my soul or just come crashing down around my ears.

    Its a relief to read something designed for my age group. If I don’t die from artificial causes or a disease or anything I’m at about the halfway point.

  7. Pingback: When words get messy | Black Girl in Maine

  8. You know, I’m 29 and… well, I think my idealized self is projected into my 40s. Our youth-worshipping culture fixates on one’s 20s, even media depicts 20-somethings obtaining things that realistically is reserved for one’s 40s. Even scientific studies suggest that the 40s are the decade of human life in which one attain optimal prowess (for instance, a 40-year old man in ancient paleolithic cultures wasn’t considered an old, run-down tribal “elder,” he was, to the contrary, the perfect mixture of physical robustness and experience; they were the treasured leaders of hunting parties and war bands, not mere arm-chair officials).

    One thing that is important to remember though, is that being in one’s 40s means that one has had enough time on earth for one’s bad habits to have really started to catch up with oneself; accordingly I’d like to think of the 40s as a time when your health and physical situation are much more reflective of the sort of person you are rather than merely genetic happenstance. One’s 40s should be celebrated, not dreaded as it seems to be by our society of myopic, Bieber-worshipping nincompoops. Cheers to 40-somethings.

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