So it finally happened: I was 40 last week.
I have spent the last 18 months or so counting down to this moment, treating it as some kind of deadline to get my life in order.
I trusted that when I was 40, I would finally be fit, organised, well dressed, calm, and at peace with myself. Because, let’s face it, 40 is quite old, and with age comes wisdom and maturity, surely.
Obviously, it didn’t quite happen like that. I didn’t change overnight into this perfect version of myself just because I was approaching 40. On my birthday I didn’t suddenly develop amazing self-control and determination to avoid wine, exercise more, or to stop shouting at my kids when I was irritated.
What happened was that I realised that I am me. I know it sounds obvious, but I think I have always believed that the me that exercised 3 times a week, had 8 hours sleep a night, was permanently serene and calm and was in control of her household was the real me, and I just had to find a way to let her out. In reality, she is just an ideal that I beat myself up with by constantly comparing myself to her. I’m never going to be her. If I’m honest, for the most part I’m not going to change a huge amount over the next 10 years. I’ll probably always drink a little bit more than my doctor would be happy with, my tummy is always going to be a little bit bigger than I would like. I am probably always going to have too many ideas and not enough time. I’ll probably always put my family life-balance before my personal business ambitions and I’ll probably always have a To Do list as long as the road I live on. But because I’m a very ‘everything in moderation’ kind of person my flaws and bad habits are not too extreme (I hope) so I can live with them. They make me me.
So being 40 has made me finally realise that it is ok to be me – as I am. I know myself enough to accept that I’m not always going to feel like this, I will have moments, days, even weeks where I will sink into a hole of wishing I was ‘Perfect Me’, but I also know that I’ll come out of that hole with a renewed sense of acceptance and understanding that life is all about being vulnerable, accepting our flaws and carrying on regardless.