Anyone over a certain age will be able to relate to this familiar image, the pile of multi colour Lego bricks dumped out on the floor. Red, blue, yellow, black, white. There is nothing there yet, just a messy pile of imagination. The box it came from doesn’t have a picture of a Death Star on it. It has a smiling child and some colourful blocks. This is where I am at the start of 2019. In front of me is my life, some would say it is in ruins. Torn down, stomped, everything I ever knew a pile of colourful bricks scattered on the floor. But I am not in ruins. No at all, I have everything I need, I am looking a beautiful green baseplate.
I can do what I want. I can be creative. I can colour outside the lines. I can build and tear down. I can start over as many times as I want because I have the control. As long as I don’t end up with a Death Star… the world is my Lego kit.
I recently turned 44, which is actually unimaginable to me. When I was teenager, which was just moments ago I am sure, I paid close attention to what the older women in my life were saying. After 40 it is better, after 40 you stop caring what other people think. After 40 there is freedom. I was listening but don’t mistake that for HEARING, because what I heard was a bunch of old ladies trying to make themselves, and each other, feel better about being old. How can being over 40 possibly outshine being 20? At 20 I had my cute tight body. I had a libido that NEVER quit. I ate what I wanted. I could party all night, and usually did. I had the WHOLE future ahead of me. I had energy and my joints didn’t ache when I rolled out of bed in the morning, although let’s face it, it was actually mid afternoon.
Gloss over the fact that I HATED that beautiful tight little body. I thought it was fat and ugly – its only worth was for pleasing a man. That is of course why nightly I was feeding that cute tight little body a cocktail of toxic chemicals that would make Leary blush. I needed to feel, well… anything. I also needed to be numb enough to allow the revolving door of men who were not invested, not worthy, not single to use that tight little body; and high enough to make believe they loved me.
Gloss over the fact that I hardly knew where I lived from one day to the next. I came home from 18 month European vacation with a backpack that held everything I owned, all my hopes and dreams crammed deep inside it’s pockets. No house to go home to. No parent to sigh and roll their eyes at me. No plan. No plan. A backpack and a broken heart. I was 20 and I had the world at my feet.
Gloss over the fact that no one gave a fuck about me. Not one person. I had friends. I had family. But if I dropped off the face of the earth it was going to take a long time for anyone to notice. I made damn sure of that.
Gloss over the fact that I didn’t have a job or a penny to my name. Not only didn’t I have a roof over my head, but I also didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. No wonder my body is so cute and tight, it is utterly malnourished. When there was money from the odd job here and there it went to smokes or beer or bar cover.
Yeah how can being over 40 be better than ANY of that?
Being over 40 is HARD. My body is soft and round in all the wrong places. I need to spend a small fortune to have my breasts pretend they still live in the Northern hemisphere. When I roll out of bed in the morning, the actual honest to goodness morning, it is sometimes still DARK out, my body hurts, like… everywhere. Things snap, crack,and pop and I am not talking about my cereal. I am still feeding myself a cocktail of drugs, but they are for my blood pressure and my serotonin and so I can fall asleep because my body is EXHAUSTED, but my mind never wants to lose a second. I know now… the seconds are finite. They are ticking away so fast that they leave me breathless. The speed of life is terrifyingly fast, infinitely faster than the speed of light. Yesterday I was 20.
Being over 40 is hard. My hair is grey. Not just one or two of them. I am not sure I can legitimately call myself brunette anymore. There are these lines around my eyes. Laugh lines they call them, but they aren’t just there when I laugh – they have taken up permanent residence. There is a WHOLE section of the cosmetic counter designed to eradicate them but I feel like a traitor when I think about getting rid of them. I earned those lines like I earned every single grey hair. Speaking of hair, let’s talk about my upper lip and chin! On second thought, no. Let’s not. Being over 40 is hard.
But let me tell you about all the ways it is awesome. How those women I was listening to were actually telling the truth and I just didn’t know how to HEAR them.
My body is soft and round, and I wear mom jeans. I am comfortable in the skin I am in. Do I like it every day? Don’t be stupid. There are bumps and lumps. There is acne where none ever existed as a teenager. And please please please don’t get me started on the hair..on my NIPPLES. What the fuck is with that? But I love my body. I appreciate how much work it is doing. I don’t take it for granted for a moment because I know how lucky I am. I have had enough close calls. I have seen friends suffer and win, and some suffer and fail. Getting up every day is a blessing. I don’t always treat it like a blessing but I know that it is. I never worry about where I am going to sleep. I have a beautifully appointed, perfectly matching bedroom in my home, that I OWN. The matching Ikea sheet set keeps me warm at night while I think about renewing my mortgage and making sure the power bill is paid, which it always is. All the dishes in my cupboard match each other. There are more useless gadgets than I can name. There are rooms and rooms of furniture, nicknacks, books, clothes, Christmas decorations. I can’t even pack to go away for a WEEKEND in the backpack I brought home from Europe.
I cannot for the life of me remember the last time I was worried about what I was going to eat. I mean, I am ALWAYS saying there is nothing to eat in our house, but the cupboards are full to bursting and there is so much in the freezer that I don’t actually know what is in there. I am the exact opposite of malnourished. My ass is VERY well nourished.
I know what I like, I know what I stand for, I know what my morals and values are. Fuck, I have morals and values. That is pretty awesome. I would not trade any of it for that tight little body.