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Thoughts About Turning 40

alec vanderboom

Tomorrow I turn 40. I'm really having bad thoughts about this birthday. It's so small to admit, but I don't want to grow old. For me, it's hard to look at the gap from where I am--which currently feels like no where--compared to where I thought I'd be.

When I was a new mother at age 30 (with a 2 year old daughter and a newborn son) there was a wife of a photographer friend in Madison, Wisconsin who invited me to her huge 40th Birthday party. I had just quit practicing law and I was searching about for new female role models. I looked around at her life as a party guest and decided "This is what I want too!" She and her artist husband had moved away from Chicago into the smaller city of Madison. They had this beautiful old house. They had two kids and were making a life on a small salary from their artistic talents. They had lots of fun friends. They were also Catholics who spoke lovingly about their son's baptism and their uncle who was a priest.

I'm turning 40 tomorrow and I haven't planned a party. I've been in the middle of this house selling trauma and didn't know where I'd be living on my birthday. I didn't know if I'd be in my current house, or five hours away staying at my parents, or moving into a new house without any appliances.

I'm turning 40. Not only is there is no party, but there are very few friends in my life. I have a few, precious friends. I have some interesting acquaintances. The rest feels like this barren loneliness. This year, I went on bed rest for four weeks. I've had more solitude and then more loneliness (which feels to me like empty "by-my-self-ness" without feeling close to God) in 2014 than ever before.

My 30s was rough. I lost a lot of friends. It was hard to become a Catholic in that way. I lost a lot of secular friends because they were really mad that I chose to quit my job, have more kids, and go to church more regularly. Sometimes I chose to end friendships from my 20s that became a negative influence on me. But sometimes people just flipped out.

In my 30s I also ended some intense friendships with fellow Catholic Moms. I went through a period as a Mom of 3 at age 32 when I was lost all these friendships with women from college and law school. That loss of identity as a fellow "career girl" really hit me. In response, I grabbed onto these friendships with other Catholic Moms who looked like me on the outside--stay at home Moms with lots of children. I rushed people into "best friend status" way too quickly. I got burned out. One of the most painful things is to slowly realize over and over again "Wow! I don't have anything in common with you!"

My spirituality as a Catholic is in Carmel. Carmel is chill! I'm a contemplative. I'm still. I'm deep. I'm patient. I'm relaxed. I'm zealous for God--but I wait for him to lead me in small quiet ways.

I'm hopeful that I've healed enough from co-dependency (which I define personally as when I act like a chameleon and become whoever I think people want me to be, instead of who I am honestly as myself) to start making friendships that are based on the unchangeable characteristics of my heart--instead of the surface things like "same college, same job, same Swim Team, same church."

I've had some moments of authentic connection in 2014 that are so beautiful they bring tears to my eyes. I hope 2015 bring me more of those moments.

Another hard thing about turning 40 is that I haven't finished my book. I'm not even close. I realize that I can't blame the new babies or the house move. The real problem is me! I don't place enough priority on doing my own writing work each day. One of the traits of codependency is "Have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines and completely projects." I have trouble with completing my book task--especially since this is a goal that I set for myself and I'm handling by myself without the structure imposed by outside accountability. In recovery I need to "avoid procrastination by meeting my responsibilities in a timely manner." So that is a goal for me in my 40s. I'd like to avoid procrastination in my writing, in my business projects, in my homeschooling teaching life, and in my house cleaning.

Tomorrow I turn 40. I don't have a big party planned. I don't have a new house. I don't have a book finished or a movie review website or some new business stationary.

I do have a really nice life. I have a measure of inner peace that been really hard won. I have a strong, sexy marriage. I have six unique kids whose company I really enjoy.  On the good days, I feel valuable. I feel like there are not enough people in the world who stop to enjoy pretty sunsets or who like to watch movies or who cheerfully talk to toddlers in the Target checkout line. My current life is not at all the "future valuable social contribution" I talked about making during my Rhodes Scholarship Interview at age 22. Yet wisdom sometimes comes with age. I look forward to becoming more peaceful, more calm and to have more space to easily love myself and others in the future.