Most of my friends are in the forties. There is something about turning forty, being forty. 40. Everyone dreads the 40’s. Turning forty is some harbinger of doom.
I have an alternate opinion.
It is the 30’s that are awful. The thirties were treacherous. I was no longer the 20 something with all of her world ahead. The thirties were the years of starting a family, starting my practice, establishing a home. We got our mortgage. Debt became obvious. Time management was beyond manageable. There was simply not enough time for all that needed to be done. I was sick with pressure.
Somewhere in my late thirties I became aware that I was starting to rattle apart. The pace was deadly. I was living at a pace that was 5th gear and on cruise control. I believe it was a primitive form of self-preservation that led me to realize I needed to down shift. The thirties were like a long, flat two-lane stretch of road in the desert, no place to get off, no other destination and no diversions. So, we just stay on the road, racing to the other side. We bury the needle with a lead foot to the other side. We convince ourselves that speed is exhilarating. We ignore the voice in our gut that says, “This is madness, shouldn’t we slow down?”
I want to think I am wise enough to down shift. When I saw the horizon hint at a change in terrain, I backed off a little. That was when the rattling sound and the knocking became evident. I realized I was more than dinged and a little overheated….I risked irreversible damage.
It is naive to think the road is always going to be clearly marked: slippery when wet, tight curve ahead, lanes merging, construction ahead, no passing zone. Unfortunately, our roads are not always clearly marked. We get sick unexpectedly, parents die, friends have catastrophes that shake our own foundations. Even really positive things cause the footings to shift. Our kids go to college. We land an awesome promotion. Some people win the lottery. Suddenly we are facing the reality of the unexpected.
But I think the Forties are better. They are unpredictable. The scenery is more variable. I am moving at a pace that affords me a chance to see it, enjoy it. I have learned that adrenaline is different than pleasure.
I do not have to have my heart in my throat and be filled with fear to feel alive. Actually, I can lie still, focus inward, hesitate and the sensual world pops out all around. The Forties are for convertibles (maybe motorcycles). They are for the leisurely country drive. They are for the lingering meal with family. They are for the divestment. We spent the Thirties collecting a bunch of crap. I find now I spend my time jettisoning more and more of that crap. I am lightening the load.
It makes taking the curves a bit safer.