I turned 40 earlier this month. I never used to care about age or understand why some people lie about their age. "It's just a number," I would say to people. 30 was no big deal. I felt fine with being a thirty-year-old. It was just another birthday, though I do remember having a small party to celebrate it. I suppose it was an excuse to to have a celebration and enjoy some pizza and cake with people. Oh, and drinks. Many, many drinks. It was a good time. I eased into adulthood, perhaps happy to leave the immature twenties behind.
In the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, however, I kind of felt something new. I kind of kept reflecting upon my age, my health, my death. Will I live another 40 years? Is this really the middle of my life? The past forty years seem to have been short - will the next forty also feel short, or even shorter?
I'm still not much for lying about age or denying it to myself. I am facing these thoughts, mostly out loud to my husband, who turned 40 last year. It's weird how I never anticipated this birthday being much more than some random milestone assigned by society. I'm starting to get what those "Over the Hill" birthday party favors and gag gifts are about. It's a way for everyone to acknowledge these feelings, but tempered with some humor. I suppose celebrating birthdays with people both older and younger than yourself is really the right way to do it. The older folks have gone through it already themselves, and survived! That's encouraging. The younger folks remind me of my younger days, not expecting to know what reaching older ages is like, both physically and mentally.
Now that I've been "wearing" 40 for a few weeks, it seems to be less scary. I still have to face the facts that I am now in a new age group. Mammograms, colonoscopies, and bifocals are surely lining up for me in the near future. I've had a few mammograms already - and yeah, OUCH - they are not fun. But assuming the results keep coming back negative for any abnormalities, I'm okay with that.
I came close to getting a colonoscopy back when my IBS was flaring up over several months, but as luck would have it, my awesome GI gave me a new medication that actually worked and we canceled the exam. I am also aware of the process, as my husband has had several colonoscopies, due to his Crohn's disease. It's not fun, lasts longer than a mammogram, and is pretty inconvenient, too. Still, I can get through that. I also have had an endoscopy done, if that counts for anything.
As for bifocals, I'm already nearsighted since high school, and usually opt for contact lenses to correct my distance vision. Since that car accident in 2006, though, my vision has changed in several ways, and continues to change rather frequently. I already notice my very near vision has become blurry, making reading fine print challenging. Again, though, perhaps a prescription change is not so terrible. I've been managing corrective lenses thus far. I can probably handle that. I guess.
So, these are not so scary. Aging gracefully may still be an option for me. Many folks make it to 80 and 90 in relatively good health. With lifelong conditions like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Myofascial Pain, and Asthma, I understand I have additional challenges, but I also understand that being as fit as I can be is the key to empowering me with the best health I can achieve. I know that eating healthy and staying active goes a long way toward preserving good health, so I will strive to do those things.
Some other recent events have also caused me to reflect on my age and mortality.
Near the end of the workday on my 40th birthday, my husband suffered a severe kidney stone attack. The stone was 6.5mm across and was stuck very near the left kidney. I'll spare you the details, but life was miserable for him for several weeks thanks to this surprise. We had to cancel my birthday party, and he felt bad about that, but I wanted him to feel better and stay close to home in case of any complications. He's passed some of it and is feeling much better now, finally.
I also recently learned that my mother-in-law had suffered a stroke. This was not her first, but it seems more serious that the one she had before I met her. Although she was told that one side of her body will not recover this time, I am hoping that she can beat the odds and regain some function and sensation that was lost. Thank goodness it was not her dominant side and she can still do some things. I'm also glad that she can talk and remember us all.
As we approach the year 2013, I have listed a few new resolutions (which I never used to do until 2012) that take into consideration my age, my health, my family, and my wants and needs. I wish to be more responsible with my own health, as an investment of my old age as well as to help relieve others of the need to worry about me. This includes considering making decisions and arrangements for what will happen to my remains when I die. I feel it's the responsible thing to do.
When life manages to give me warnings, I strive to make the most of it, whether it's through me or others, and learn something from it. I won't live my life sheltered, but I will not live recklessly if I can help it.
Take care and do pay attention to your own body and look for the warning signs that could help keep you healthy and young at heart. I hope the next year brings you closer to your personal goals and opens your eyes to wonderful opportunities!