When I thought about what my life might look like at forty, I imagined many things. A loving and dedicated partner. A daughter headed off to college. A fat bank account. A framed degree on my wall. A surgically enhanced, improved figure.
Instead though, what this last decade, and especially the past two years, have brought are unexpected blessings.
True, abiding friendships.
A job I really enjoy.
An opportunity to sing to my heart’s content – and to have people applaud.
A spirituality not tied to or influenced by any church or it’s dogma.
Parents who are still alive and actively involved in my life…in my kids lives.
Not a perfect body, but a healthier one. A more fit one.
And certainly, the most beautiful grandchild who has ever been born. To anyone. In the history of time.
Anyhow, my 40th birthday was celebrated with sushi and wine with good friends – those true friends I mentioned earlier – and a few transient ones who taught me lessons. I still wasn’t sure which kind of wine to order, but I have learned to just go with what I like. People are less judgmental about that sort of thing than I’d realized. There was also a crème brulee at Lulav that made me purr. As far as the day itself, it was made special by special people, and I wouldn’t change a thing about that day either.
What I really haven’t done up until now is to ponder…to think about what I’ve learned in 40 years.
I’m still much the same person I was at 20, and at 30. There have been additions and subtractions in the personnel but I still have the same ideals I’ve always had. Injustice is just as sickening to me as it was then, more so now because I’ve been subjected to it personally. Forever the underdog’s champion, I take up any cause when there is the need for someone to step up. Civil rights, bullying, inequality, you name it. I have always believed that not only should you live and let live, you should make damn sure that your kids are doing the same. You don’t have to share the ideals of your neighbor but neither should you shit on their steps. I’ve learned that no amount of squawking is going to change closed minds. No amount of screaming will make me heard by the people who need most to hear me. Somehow it hasn’t quieted me. It’s just made me back up the words with actions. Some known to others, some only known by me. But I sleep just fine at night knowing that everything I fight for and believe in feels good and just and right to me.
As far as love…honestly, I don’t know that I’ve learned much. Sometimes I think I have high standards, and that’s what keeps me from settling. Other times I worry that I use that invisible checklist of qualities I seek as a barrier. It’s much harder to hurt me from behind a steel wall. I’ve learned that I’m really ok just being alone, but that it’s nice when someone other than the kids cares if I make it home at night.
Mostly what I’ve learned is that life is short. Too short to be anything other than happy, and way too short to spend a moment letting the opinions, lifestyle choices, and bad decisions of others change how I feel about myself. I still think I’m kind of awesome. And even better than that is not caring who agrees with me.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have over 100 photographs to edit and share with the world. They are of the most exquisite beauty I’ve ever seen.
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