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.