Boldness is what I hoped to find on the other side of 40. And I found it, just not in the way I thought. Not through some magical, easy transition; but hard fought, earned through tears cried in the dead of night when no one else could bear witness. Forged as I sat with lawyers, and divvied up assets and found the courage to speak up for my children and myself. The courage that comes when you are backed into a corner, and have to fight before you end up homeless at the hands of someone you trusted with your life. Something I would never have dreamed was possible, or waiting for me in the future. Shock doesn’t even begin to describe it.
My comfortable suburban housewife existence was ripped away overnight and I was forced to confront some harsh truths about myself. I had become ‘vanilla’ (although vanilla is one of my favorite ice cream flavors so I’ve never understood the bad rap it gets) and I had lost my creative spark. For almost two decades I had supported my partner in numerous business ventures without taking time for myself. Emotionally I had broad shoulders from carrying so much for so long, but in other areas I had shrunk to be virtually nonexistent. I realized quickly that to be successful as a single mum I couldn’t continue, as I had been, neglecting my own needs and spreading myself thin.
My divorce went through just before I turned 40 and it heralded a new era of freedom for me. Free to work out who I was, whose I was, and realizing I didn’t need anyone else’s approval to be me. I started making time to go to the gym, a task that is not easy for me, but I loved the girls I trained with and I noticed a difference in my mood when I had. I prioritised my mental health by seeing a therapist regularly, something I recommend to everyone, as there are so many benefits. In the past I would have balked at the cost but I think the loss of my marriage really highlighted to me what is truly important in life. And emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing are top priorities now. Self-care is the key to so much and the earlier we understand that the greater our longevity.
The year I turned 40 I found my voice. I went to a karaoke bar and sung a solo, something I would never have attempted in the past. I also began leading the music team at church, and singing freely which was also a new experience, born out of many hours singing to (or maybe at?) God when I didn’t know what else to do. I took my kids camping – in a tent! – And even started my Masters degree at university. I rode waterslides, took my daughter go karting; things I would never have attempted in the past! My 40s have become a decade to try new things; awareness that life is short and you might as well “have a go”- and embracing the ability to say no! I used to be the first person to volunteer for All.The.Things. but now I take a moment and really think about whether I want to commit to something before I do. That’s what the 40s are all about! Self-awareness and the right to say No… and especially (in the time honoured words of Shania) “the prerogative to have a little FUN” – and I intend to.