Life Begins At 40

Well folks, on Tuesday I turned 40 and I figured it was time to consider how I feel about this, and to assess why this decade already feels so very different to the last. My birthday falls on St Patrick’s Day, which used to pass by without the least little bit of attention when I was young, and so it surprises me now to find celebrations beginning to spring up around this particularly minor saint. He really ought to be renamed the patron saint of the mid-life crisis because nowadays he seems to symbolize the question about what a person has actually achieved of value. It’s a bit tragic that the only thing he was famous for – supposedly driving the snakes out of Ireland – has subsequently been disproved as a scientific impossibility. So what did Patrick do, exactly? Umm, not sure. I think he was a missionary of the diplomatic variety, or at least that suits me because it makes him a man close to my own heart. I’ve always felt I was wired up in a fundamental sort of way to go around zealously trying to convert people to various cerebral causes. It’s not the kind of work that produces tangible results, so I won’t waste my time trying to figure out if I ever achieved any. But pause a moment there; that in itself is a significant difference for me. I used to feel that I had wasted a precious day unless I had something to show for it, I lived each day, in fact, as if it were my last, which after much experimentation I have to tell you is a terrible lifestyle with nothing to recommend it. But the first thirty-five years were distinctly marked by the sensation that there was not enough time, that I had to hurry, hurry, to pack added value into every moment.

One of the quotations I really liked when I was ambling around the internet, figuring out what I thought about ageing, was this one: ‘If life really begins on your 40th birthday it’s because that’s when women finally get it… the guts to take back their lives.’ If I finally begin to feel now like I have more time – paradoxically, of course, given that I undeniably have less of it ahead – then it’s because more of it finally belongs to me. I married and had a child early, my job was extremely taxing, and I was certainly in collusion with all the demands that rained down. When I was invited to write an article, I never once turned the editors down; if there were a shortage of teachers, I never evaded extra hours, extra responsibility. I felt I owed both my family and my work equal, and equally large, shares in me. I ran around offloading parts of my self to everyone in need as if I were on special offer, as if I had crates of myself back at some vast warehouse and I couldn’t shift the goods fast enough. What didn’t belong to my family belonged to the university, and so inside myself I was as poor as any third world country. Giving up the university job was such a revelation; I felt sick at the thought of it, but the resulting sense of spaciousness has been just wonderful. And it’s interesting to do something different, too. The Buddhists are right: when you end up carrying things you feel you can’t bear to be parted from, they end up as burdens, not gifts any more. The only thing you truly possess in this world is yourself, and giving it away in the hope of external validation is an illusion I spent far too many years chasing.

This has been the biggest rearrangement of ideas I’ve been through. Getting to the top of my profession looked like success, it had all the trappings of something that would give me a lot of pleasure, and in fact it was quite a significant strain. Don’t get me wrong; I loved so much of my job, but I never lost the feeling that I needed to prove myself. If I wrote a good publication, if I taught well, then I simply seemed to set a standard I then needed to maintain. It’s amazing now I look back that the things I was particularly good at – giving lectures and papers – were things I did at high cost. I always had stage fright and I can’t tell you how nice it is not to have to put myself through that. Although if you told me I had to deal with 50 people, I would still rather give them a lecture than a cocktail party. And I’ve published some books, but you know what? The thrill of seeing your name in print lasts all of about ten minutes, if that. Working on non-fiction projects, I’ve come to the conclusion (and it’s taken me about a year to get there) that it really doesn’t matter if I never get published again. There are books I want to write because there are things that interest me, but it’s the writing that’s the exciting part, the finding out, the thinking it all through, the seeing what comes out on paper. I didn’t feel like this even five years ago. Then I felt that all it would take would be one book, the right book, to make me feel like I’d made it, like I had somehow sealed my fate or my value, between a pair of hardbound covers. A cultural myth again. Or maybe other people do somehow feel validated by the right event, be it a publication or whatever. I never have done, and don’t imagine I ever will.

If there’s one thing I regret so far, it’s that chronic fatigue meant I never had the experience of working hard, working intensely and finding an honest human enjoyment in that. I liked work, but the result was always exhaustion. It’s not so much fun facing up to the years ahead when things do start to go wrong with you, on the basis of knowing how those physical breakdowns can be debilitating and confidence-destroying. It would be better to be ignorant about that still. But the last few years have taught me to recognize what I need and to make sure I secure it for myself. It struck me that the ageing process is one of a general solidification, a kind of crystallization into a distinct shape, as the formlessness of youth gradually falls away to reveal the outline of the individual. I feel now that there are things I know, and this knowledge is encouraging; it literally gives me the courage to express myself and to make decisions. But I don’t want to fall prey to mental inflexibility. I want to be sure I can still change my mind, or take on board new ideas and concepts. I don’t want to hunker down behind the rampart of my personal philosophy and sit the rest of the battle out there. It’s change that keeps you young, I think, in whatever form it takes.

Okay, you’ve been very patient, because what you really want to know about my 40th birthday is what books I got, right? Here are the lovely books I received:

Jhumpa Lahiri – The Namesake

Elizabeth Stout – Olive Kitteridge

Patrick McGrath – Asylum

Jilly Cooper – The Common Years

Nicholas Sparks – The Notebook

Francine Prose – Blue Angel

Adam Thorpe – The Rules of Perspective

Elena Ferranti – The Days of Abandonment

Elena Ferranti – Troubling Love

Louise Gluck – Vita Nova

Ayn Rand – The Fountainhead

Jessica Mitford – Hons and Rebels

Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveller’s Wife

I read somewhere that by the time you hit 40, you are aware that you’ve probably only got about 2,000 books left to read. All I can say is, we’ll see about that.

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38 thoughts on “Life Begins At 40

  1. Oh indeed! I’m looking forward to hearing about those 2,000 and more (but only if you feel like it, of course!)

    And thank you for this lovely birthday post — it’s inspiring, eye-opening and very moving to hear you thinking about this new decade. I wish you only the best of it all, and I can tell, just from the tone of what you write, that you are moving into a wonderful time in your life.

    Much love to you! Lily

  2. Very happy birthday to you, dear Litlove. I can’t believe I am actually on time with this comment too. Those books look fabulous but I do wonder what you’ll make of Ayn Rand. And the Time Traveller’s Wife rings faint bells but I canit think where. As for turning 40, I like your philosophy about it. And today I had the sobering realisation that although I’m quite despairing of the thought that I might never write a book, I really want to have the experience of having tried. So this year (and I turn 39 soon), a big goal will be spending time writing every day. It’s the process that I want rather than the outcome (although that’s also important). As you say, it’s the working things out that matters and also the enjoyment of a project in progress. Best of luck with yours and looking forward to the 2,000 book reviews ahead!

  3. Happy birthday! ;)

    Since I have fibro at such a young age, one of my biggest fears is that it gets even worse as I age. I feel like I already know a lot of what older people must go through, and it makes me nervous! That being said, I love the idea of ‘the formlessness of youth gradually fall[ing] away to reveal the outline of the individual.’ So I still have comfort!

  4. I am right behind you in birthdays – with turning 40 (in two weeks), this post was very, very poignant and timely. You’ve given me much to think about (although the 2,000 books is going to nag at me for the rest of the month :) I think that’s what I have on my Shelfari plan-to-read list. Regardless, happy belated birthday and may you have a wonderful 40th year and many, many more.

  5. Happy Birthday! Welcome to the club. I’ll be 42 in June. This is a great post. I think you’re so right. The best thing for me about my age is being comfortable with who I am, where I am, and what I have/have not accomplished. I, too, like so many other women, spent way too many years trying to be everything to everybody. It’s simply not worth it. My husband recently got a motorcycle, and I’ve been riding with him some. This is not something I would have ever dreamed either of us would do, but it’s fun. I know we’re embarassing our kids to death. :) I’m over worrying about what people think. You got some really nice books for your birthday — I love Olive Kitteridge. I know people are sick to death of hearing me sing its praises, but I just can’t help it. I’ll be interested to see what you think.

  6. Belated happy birthday Litlove! You really accomplished an awful lot in your first 40 years and I have no doubt that, as talented and driven as you are, you will achieve a lot more in the next 40 years (perhaps at a more mellow pace.) There’s a lot to think about in your reflections and I am still mulling over them. I recently turned 40 too and, while I’m not sure I get it yet exactly, I do agree that the project of a crafting a life well lived can’t be based entirely on a need for external validation and certainly not on the ever ratcheting standards and demands of an impersonal institution or profession. I admire your courage in striking out in a different direction.

    Can’t wait to hear what you think about Ayn Rand. I’ve always felt like I should read some of her stuff but have never yet been able to bring myself to.

  7. “The only thing you truly possess in this world is yourself, and giving it away in the hope of external validation is an illusion I spent far too many years chasing.” what a lovely sentiment to head in the better part of your years with! I’m 45 now, and I have to say I have enjoyed this decade far more than any other of my life – even though parts of my body are rebelling, as in today as I sit at home pumped full of Advil and unable to walk thanks to my back- I love what you had to say as you looked backwards and a bit forwards in your life. Congratulations on your books for your birthday! they’re the best gift (other than having loved one around), aren’t they?

    there had better be more than 2,000 books to read in my life!!! Happy late 40th birthday, Litlove.

  8. And a very happy birthday to you, Litlove, this is a wonderful, thoughtful and eloquent post.

    I’m not far behind you. I turn 40 in July. I’m ready to embrace it, unlike my 30th where I ran away for two weeks (to Ireland, then Greece) because I wasn’t ready to let go of my 20s. I’ve had some health issues and a potential cancer scare this past 6 months, too, which makes me realise that I really need to look after myself if I’m to really enjoy my encroaching old age!!

    You received some great books. What is the trick to receiving books as gifts?? No one ever gives me books, the argument being that I have enough already. They don’t seem to understand that you can *never* have enough books!!

  9. Happy Birthday Litlove. And many happy returns. It sounds like you have things well in perspective! I’m with you on getting in more than 2,000 books–I probably have that many unread books in my TBR stacks (okay, that might be an exaggeration, but it feels like it sometimes!). Your stack of new books sounds wonderful and I have a few of the same on my reading list as well. Enjoy them all! :)

  10. Dear Litlove sending you many birthday wishes and welcome to the 40s club :)
    I love your outlook on not falling prey to mental inflexibility. I feel like the older I’m getting the more I’m willing to take risks. Oh gosh maybe I’ll become some crazy bohemian lady but you know, I think that would be fun.hee.
    Anyway, enjoy your new books!

  11. Happy birthday. I was 40 on March 10. I am Irish, though, so had I been born on March 17 that would be particularly thrilling, I am very envious.

    “Hons and Rebels” – Fabulous. “The Time Traveller’s Wife” – Not so fabulous.

  12. Two thousand books?? Is that all?! I just don’t think those statisticians know who they’re dealing with! I scoff at their 2,000 books, Litlove, and I look forwarding to your singlehandedly dismantling this piffling prediction.

    Happy Birthday, dear Litlove. I am a couple of years behind you, but still relate keenly to everything you say in this lovely and reflective meditation on living your life.

  13. A belated Happy Birthday to you — I hope that you look back on your 40th birthday as the first of a series of best birthdays ever.

    While I’ve often been uncomfortably tormented by the idea that my body has never worked properly and will probably just get worse as I age, I’m also coming to realize that what I lack in physical endurance, I make up for in sheer cunning. We may be getting more frail, but we’re also becoming much more clever with the passing years, and working smarter rather than harder. There’s saving grace in that … I think of people who have always relied upon the strength of their bodies, and how traumatic it is for them when they start to slow down and stiffen up as the years pass. There’s a curious advantage to having learned to outwit and circumvent the failures of the body at an early age … I think there’s more benefit to it than we realize.

  14. I stumbled on your blog and am very glad I did. I was also born on St. Patrick’s Day, though I’m older than you, and have published books and have had Chronic Fatigue for many years–more years than you’d want to imagine, though it does get better with time. You have to learn to appreciate languor. You’re right that age crystallizes the self: you begin to enjoy your flaws the way you do those of characters in fiction–they’re what make you a person. Letting go of worrying about them gives you time to polish your strengths. Or so I believe on good days. I do envy people with energy, though, more than anything.

    Have you read the Louise Gluck yet? Her poems are so sad and so beautiful. Sadder as she ages. I don’t think it has to be that way.You must have wonderful friends to get so many books. I got a Kindle from my sister and am growing very fond of it.It’s not really as good a reading experience but it’s so light and portable. Happy birthday.

  15. Happy Birthday to you, Litlove.
    You have summed it up perfectly: one gets to an age where you realize… to hell with it all. It is all about the trip, certainly not the destination, so you had better enjoy the trip! It is so much nicer not to have to worry about what others think, not to have to worry about looking after everyone but yourself – about not having enough time for you. It is quite an amazing feeling – I am so glad you have gotten there.

    As far as St. Patrick’s Day – it’s not about him, really. It is about the folks over here, with that little bit of Irish blood in us, yearning after the old sod. It’s an excuse to have a party, eat some potatoes and cabbage, dance and listen to music, and maybe tip a pint. What the heck! Any excuse to enjoy the “trip” as far as I’m concerned.

    Anyway, happy birthday. Take care of your sweet self this year ;)

  16. Happy birthday! A significant number of friends and people I know have turned forty in the last two years and I feel as if I am benefiting from the collective wisdom by osmosis (or, for a more comforting image, coffee poured through a filter).

  17. Happy Birthday litlove! What a lovely post. I like that you have taken the time to consider how you feel about turning forty, and that you shared your insights. I’ll be turning forty next year, so they’re very encouraging. I only hope I receive as many good books as gifts :-)

  18. My blogging friends! Thank you all so very much for your wonderful comments – what a way to see in 40! I should have said something about how much blogging has brought to my life these past three years, but maybe that’s a post for another day.

    Bloglily – what a lovely comment! I’m finally growing up a bit – and this may simply be the end to arrested development. ;) But I’m inspired also by my dear blogging friends, and yes, that most certainly means you.

    Dear Pete – I’m very excited by the thought of you committing to a writing project. I have absolutely no doubt that you could produce a wonderful book, and I promise you that sitting down, even if just for an hour, every day with the computer is the way to do it. Sheer slog! And you’re still such a young whippersnapper. ;) I’m looking forward to Ayn Rand – I’ve heard such conflicting things I cannot help but be hugely intrigued.

    Eva – hugs to you! I tell you, once I realised the key was to stop deciding in my head what I wanted to do then force my body into doing it, and to choose instead to figure out how much energy I had every day and tailor my activities to that, things have become much, much better. I couldn’t have done that when I was younger, though. So my experience is that these things improve with age as one makes smarter choices about living with them. You’re going to be formidable, Eva, so you just need to prepare for that!

    Betty and Boo’s Mommy – and a very happy birthday to you in two week’s time! It’s all I can do to stop myself from starting to write lists right NOW to figure out how to get those books in and which they should be! :) Thank you for the lovely comment – I’ll watch out for your celebrations on your blog!

    Lisa – I love the thought of you and your husband on your motorbike, embarrassing the children. Fantastic! It’s entirely obligatory, you know, or else they’ll never want to grow up and leave home. :) Ah I knew one of my blogging friends had recommended Olive Kitteridge and I couldn’t remember who (I do miss my memory these days, alas!). I’m reading it at the moment and think it’s sheer class.

    Ms Make Tea – thank you so much and a belated happy birthday to you. I have forgotten every single one of my friend’s birthdays so far this year, because I think I was trying to forget this one. But it’s not been so bad. I’ve only really felt that my philosophy was changing in the past year, although now I can see how it was changing from a while back. And being out of my institution for a significant period made a big difference to me. We’ll see how it goes – I reserve the right to change my mind completely in another five years! ;) And I’m looking forward to Rand – I have heard so much about her that’s contradictory, I am most intrigued.

    Susan – I have found it so heartening to hear so many of my blogging friends say that they are really enjoying their 40s. That is such good news! And every year contains a little Advil, alas. Although I am most sorry to hear about your back and hope it improves very soon. Here’s to those 2,000 books – I’m looking forward to each and every one!

    Kimbofo – I absolutely understand the running away! I thought I might have to do it this year, but, as it turns out, so far so good. Oh you poor thing, though, to have had such awful luck on the health front. You really do have my every sympathy. Take very good care of yourself, won’t you? As for books as presents, aha, the thing to do is to prepare yourself a lovely amazon wish list and then send the link around to everyone who gets you a birthday present. As you can see, I find it works very well! :)

    Danielle – we will keep pace on a few of these books, maybe! I’m looking forward to Tana French, which arrived just the other day. I cannot tell you how much I wish I could have a really good look around your bookshelves! Thank you for the lovely comment and here’s to 2,000 more books, at the very least. :)

  19. iliana – I have to admit the thought of being a crazy old bohemian lady rather appeals to me, too! I so want my son’s children to say ‘No, you don’t understand, you just really have to see our grandmother.’ I know just what you mean about feeling more able to take risks. It is very nice. Thank you for the lovely comment and I feel I’m in great company, age-wise! :)

    Anne – and a happy belated birthday to you! I know, I’ve always felt it a terrible shame I have no Irish blood whatsoever (or at least not as far as I know!). I’m really looking forward to Hons and Rebels, which I’ve wanted for a while now – so glad you liked it.

    Doctordi – I know, you are just a young strip of a girl! Thank you for the lovely comment and the birthday wishes. I am busy planning where I could put more bookshelving, because you know, 2,000, that’s going to make a dent. The problem is convincing myself I shouldn’t spend all my time laying in stocks now for the future. Oh but wait, isn’t that what I do most days anyway? ;)

    David – thank you for the lovely wishes and the most encouraging thoughts. I do agree and also applaud the idea of embracing cunning. Yes. Let’s. I also agree wholeheartedly with working smarter rather than harder. You are definitely onto something there. Oh and I was delighted to find the original comment had made it through fine – I was very glad to have your fine thoughts on the matter!

    Margaret – hello and welcome and my goodness me, what a lot of similarities we have! I love the thought of appreciating my flaws as if I were a fictional character – what a great notion. And yes, I appreciate languour for the way it compliments reading so well. Without one I wouldn’t have had so much of the other, so that’s a very bright silver lining indeed. I have been reading the Gluck and finding the poems really gorgeous. Actually I had a mind to post one later today – we’ll see how that goes. Interesting to hear about the kindle, too. I am bothered at the moment by the thought of not being able to see how far through a book you are, but I can quite see the attraction of the storage space! :)

    Yogamum – I find it so encouraging when bloggers I admire turn out to be a similar age to me – and to be enjoying their 40s! Thank you for the lovely wishes and the encouragement! :)

    Qugrainne – having read about your family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration, I can imagine that St Patrick’s is a real blast with you! Thank you for the lovely message. I’ve always been so concerned to please people, and I still am, but it’s a relief to tone it down a notch and to include myself in there. Isn’t it surprising how much difference it makes? :)

    Harvestbird – I have always really liked the thought of osmosis – such a delightfully effortless activity! :) Thank you for the message – I must say I have picked up all kinds of wonderful things from my fellow bloggers and couldn’t be more grateful to our community for that!

    Charlotte – nice to think of us going into this together! And that would be the 40s AND a fairly hefty reading project! ;)

    apiece – oh thank you for the lovely message. I know you are still a young thing!:) But I can promise you that from here, right now, it doesn’t look too bad.

  20. Happy Birthday! I really enjoyed hearing the conclusions you’ve come to about your life and life in general. At the arena where I ice skate with my kids, adults have recently started wearing helmets, myself included. (Most kids have been in helmets for years). I was talking to an older man (in his 60′s) about it because he was one of the first, and he told me an anecdote about why (involving a friend’s accident; the friend’s helmet split in half but he was fine). And he added that at his age he has nothing to prove. He said that aging had a lot of good in it, a few bad things, but in the main–good. Nobody knows what the future holds, young or old, but it’s still encouraging to hear. Add to that, one of our regular skaters is in her 80′s! Enjoy the books!

  21. Happy Birthday! Did you get cake with your books too? A big slab of something decadent and caution to the wind on how much fat and calories it must contain? I enjoyed reading your thoughts on ageing especially since I have a birthday coming up. My mom has always compalined about how she was too old for whatever was up for discussion. She did this when she was 30 and does this now that she is 60. I am determined that I will never be “too old” no matter how old I am. Like you I don’t want to hunker down behind the ramparts. 2,000 books left doesn’t seem like enough. But if that is the case, it means I should really think about being more selective. But then on my deathbed am I going to regret never having read a certain book?

  22. Happy Belated Birthday, Litlove! If you had been in Savannah, GA, you could have pretended the whole fuss was over your birthday, and St. Patrick was simply along for the ride! I am “a woman of a certain age.” And I’ve learned a thing or two. Mostly, it has been a remarkable journey – both good stuff and bad stuff thrown in. I choose to concentrate on the good stuff; it is not always an easy thing to do. I’ve learned to listen more, and speak less often. I learned that the house of my dreams, was not necessarily the home of my dreams. I’ve learned that I can stand on my own two feet, but have people who love me to pick me up just, in case. And, on top of it all, I’ve got a LOT more than 2,000 books to go. Just watch me.

  23. Happy birthday! And welcome to the forties! I love it here. I’ve felt freed by reaching my forties, and I’m not exactly sure why, but I know it has something to do with not feeling like I have to please everyone else any more. You received some fabulous books. I’m interested to hear what you think of Olive Kitteridge, as it was one of my favorite books last year. I really liked The Namesake, too. And I’d like to hear what you think of Blue Angel, as well. Happy reading, and happy year to you :)

  24. What a wonderful, thoughtful birthday post! Having just celebrated a birthday myself (although I’m quite a bit past 40-sigh) I was especially interested in your thoughts. I’ve gone through a similar awakening, although mine came a bit later simply because I started out on my “career” later in life. I still find myself taking on a lot of activities, and doing a lot of things people might term “work,” but I’ve come to a place where I can enjoy doing them without feeling as if I need to in order to impress someone or prove myself. There’s a lot more satisfaction in the process now (as you said about publishing) than in the constant need to perform at a level set arbitrarily by others.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re finding this balance in your life now, and hope you can maintain it.

    By the way, that’s a great bookstack you’ve got in front of you! Can’t wait to hear what you think about these – lots of my favorites are on that list!

    Happy Birthday! Happy Reading!

  25. Boy, did I need to read this post as I sit here trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life (and ignoring well-meaning friends pulling me in all kinds of directions). Bet you didn’t know you were going to give ME a gift for your 40th! Glad to hear you’re already getting off to a great start for what should be a wonderful decade for you. (Oh, and can’t wait to hear if you love Time Traveler’s Wife as much as I did. If nothing else, your keen psychological eye on it will be great fun to read — if you post on it. I’m not trying to pressure you to post. You know, life is too short…)

  26. Happy birthday, kiddo! Now you can be one of us. The forties really are great for most women because we’re finally grown-up enough to not care about what others think. If you’re lucky, you’ll finally feel free of the constraints that society (and family) want to place on you.

    Woot!

  27. Happy Birthday! Solidifying without hardening can be a challenge sometimes. But with such a supple, sensitive and compassionate mind, rigidity is something you need never worry about. From one 40 year old to another, thanks for the wise words.

  28. Happy birthday, Litlove. I’m very glad to read the comments about people enjoying their 40s — I’ve got a few years yet before I get there, but I’m glad to know I have something to look forward to! :) I just read an essay by Montaigne where he makes the same point you did, that the only thing you truly possess is yourself. I’m very glad to be hearing this piece of wisdom from various places — it seems I need to pay attention to it!

  29. Happy birthday! and may your life be full of happy snakes that glitter gold and green in the sun.

    thanks for this great post. after the left-punch of cancer followed by the right-punch of divorce, i’ve found myself without confidence and not knowing where to get validation. it was, before, somehow built in to being married. now it’s not. i don’t even quite know what I like in this new disconnected life i’m trying to live but don’t quite feel.

    can you say how that self-confidence re-manifested? doesn’t seem like a process that i control. i’m very much waiting, hoping that some new sense will appear inside me.

    –op

  30. Lilian – thank you so much! It’s very heartening to think that 80-year-olds are out there, skating away. I think it’s a mercy that we can’t see the future, but today has been good and that’s the best anyone can say!

    Stefanie – do you know, I didn’t get any cake! I should make myself one I’ve found I like which is a kind of dessert orange cake (I can make it with fructose okay). I certainly don’t want to consider myself too old for new thoughts. How awful would that be? And I know what you mean about the stress of the 2,000 book list – what if I miss The One off? ;)

    Grad – I am securing myself a ringside seat for that! And it was nice of Savannah to have a party for me, even though I couldn’t make it! ;) I like your thoughts on life. I hope I’ll have the same philosophy as you as I age. It sounds very sane.

    Gentle Reader – it makes me so happy to hear so many of my blogging friends enjoying the 40s! And oh it is a relief to feel I don’t have to please quite so much. I’ll always worry about other people and their comfort and approval, but I’ve needed to go easy on that for several years. Finally, I may be getting there. I’m really enjoying Olive Kitteridge and funnily enough, I’d planned to read Blue Angel next!

    Becca -thank you for your lovely comment! It’s really encouraging to hear that you’ve been through a similar process and found that it produces a sane balance in life. I’m all about experience now, finding the right speed for me to enjoy my activities, just as you say. I’m beginning to feel like I’ve joined a really lovely club! :)

    Emily – I’m pretty sure The Time Traveler’s Wife is going to be part of the next 2,000! ;) And I can think of nothing nicer than giving you a gift on my birthday. That’s how it should always go! You’ve got plenty of time to think about what you want to do – that’s the nice part. I only recommend lots and lots of transitional space – dreamy, thinky space – so that lovely ideas can come to you. I’m quite excited to think of you branching out!

    Chartroose – I think I’ll send a virtual hug for having called me ‘kiddo’. How nice at my age! ;) If that kind of freedom from the search for approval accompanies this age (and I think it might), then I’m all for it! :)

    Lokesh – you are SUCH a sweetie! Thank you for that lovely comment. I didn’t know we were contemporaries, but it reinforces my idea of having joined a delightful club.

    Dorothy – you are just a young slip of a girl! ;) I learned the hard way with ME that I was my best resource and without me there wasn’t much I could do! So I’m right there with Montaigne, which isn’t something I expected to say!

    Openpalm – now you really have been through the wars, so I’m not at all surprised that it’s taken a while to get back to a comfortable place. I won’t pretend that I’ve got all my confidence back – not by a long shot. But what really helps is to know what you want, and particularly if there are things you’d like to do next. Finding new projects for myself, projects I didn’t think I ought to take on because I ought to do sensible things instead, but which really enthused me, has made a big difference. But before I could do that, I had to accept how I was feeling and work that out of my system. I’m not quite done with that, but I have more space inside now to pursue interests and to balance it out. Good luck, my friend, and just stick with the journey. You can be confident that it you just trust to life, it will carry you forward to a better place.

    Anne – thank you so much! That’s two votes for the Niffenegger, so I must definitely get to it in the very near future! :)

  31. Litlove – Happy Birthday (with an apology for being so late on this!). Those are wonderful books. And I can’t help but echo – 2000 books, my foot!

  32. Sorry for being so late, but a Very Happy Birthday! I’m with the 2000 books my foot brigade. That figure assumes that you are only going to live to be 70 and that you are not capable of reading more than one book a week. Hogwash.

    I’m starting to feel like the Old Woman of the Internet, since I am 55.75 years old and still loving it. You young things! I agree with David Rochester though, the slow erosion of stamina and flexibility are annoying. I do wake up stiff, but soon walk myself out of it. I have not lost power, I can still move a rock the same size I could when I was 25. But I can’t do as many in a row as I used to. Our first float this weekend was 8 miles, and I was not even sore afterwards.

    I have been enjoying your blog, lurking, reading, sometimes commenting. You have much to be proud of, and you are more inspiring than you realize.

  33. Verbivore – thank you so much! And no need to apologise, good wishes are welcome at any time!

    Healingmagichands – the same goes to you! We are all of us going to knock that pathetic 2000 out of the ball park, right? And it’s wonderful to hear your strength and fortitude just streaming through your comments. Bless you for saying such lovely things – if anything’s going to keep me youthful and optimistic, it’s my blogging friends.

  34. I am now 62 and have just retired – not because I wanted to but simply because the work is not out there any more for me, other younger more computerlit wise PA’s are after the jobs now, which are lessening by the day. I am coming to terms with this and as I did when I was 40, am taking stock of what I have done in my life and on the whole, despite the fact I am a double divorcee, feel pretty happy now. I have travelled, I have had interesting jobs, lots of wonderful friends, read books by the hundred, have seen great musicians and opera singers perform throughout my life, circumnavigated the globe and now I find a quiet day is a lovely thing.

    BUT the best thing of all are my two wonderful daughters who bring such joy to my life and who are such good companions. I am now looking forward to what the next few years will bring, OK trepidation at being on one’s own as one gets older, but you cannot have everything.

    I very much enjoy your blog Litlove and am sorry that your fatigue has held you back, but you seem to me to have achieved a huge amount already at only 40 (which now seems a child to me!) so I wish you many happy returns, slightly late I know but they are heartfelt

  35. Elaine – oh what a lovely comment! Big virtual hugs to you; we should celebrate our engagement with growing older in the very best way – more book buying. I feel more settled about myself now than I’ve ever done before, more comfortable with my eccentricities, if you like, and it is extremely encouraging to think that that’s something that will develop more with time. I love the way you write about your life – you sound so accepting of it, so contented with it, the good, the bad, and everything in between, and I really hope I will feel that way too as I grow older. It’s lovely to think that your daughters bring you such joy, and that I can easily identify with. Watching children grow up and become their own people is just the best thing ever.

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