Why turning 40 isn't so bad (except when it is..)

ALERT: super indulgent writing ahead

It’s no secret that I have no love for turning 40 this year.

I had been dreading the ageing for a couple of years but compiled with anxiety, depression, struggling with family life (and loving it too – don’t you love a contradiction), and desperately wanting my dream creative life but not quite ever getting there – I felt like even if all these struggles were finally finished with me it would be too late after 40. So I planned to make my 40th year rather amazing because life after it was going to suck.

My birthday falls on the 30th May so I was setting May up to be joyful.

First, I booked in with my pal Gemma to have a facial and my first ever manicure.

A glorious time was spent in Brighton with my saviour (a dramatic title I know but I don’t know how I could have survived parenthood without her) El. We got to have pretentious chats about art – our favourite thing.

I went to the hairdressers and had my hair completely bleached and dyed turquoise.

Then, I received amazing gifts from my colleagues at the preschool I work at despite only working with them for one morning a week!

I enjoyed a tremendous pub celebration and lots of friends and family came to celebrate and commiserate. As it is, a great deal of those people are over 40 and I couldn’t tell whether their faces were pitiful or cynical.

I also did my first ever proper public speaking – a talk on the exhibition I ran last year for the local arts group. Oh this was a very double edged sword. I felt immensely proud at having faced some demons (getting up in front of actual people and talking about myself. Woah!) but I felt pretty rough after due to the stress of the build up.

Of course that wasn’t the only pesky contradiction…along with all the nice things, I had to have a tooth out (I don’t mind the dentists but I do freak out a bit at the idea of pain), one of our cats was hit by a car and killed and I also started suffering with a really uncomfortable and sore dry mouth (for no apparent reason).

That’s more like it – I turn 40 and along come the endless stream of blood tests to diagnose some sort of auto-immune condition (don’t know which one yet though – feels like I’ve almost won a really crappy lottery) and a possible B12 deficiency. Since June though that’s as far as any diagnosis has gone. So health worries? Check.

Oh and to make sure that sticks, my hubsand Paul had to go into hospital suffering with heart palpitations, high blood pressure and acidic blood. So we’re clear – our lifestyle has to change – woo frickin’ hoo.

But back to the fun times – I’ve just returned from my two (yes two!) birthday trips. A week and a half of child-free me time. I can’t tell you how lucky and happy that made me. I missed my kids of course – but it wasn't until I had my beautiful babies that I realised what a selfishly creative and solitary person I actually want to be).

Two days in Paris with my first ever friend Weeza (we met at nursery school) was full of art (the beauty of Montmartre, its artists and cemetery AND the Musee d’Orsay) and walking and drinking and food and jazz (never been to a proper old jazz club before).

It was a perfectly Parisian and luxurious two days.

In between that and my next trip was the marvellous Herofest. A local music festival held at my favourite teenage haunt. Watching friends rocking out in their indie/metal/ska/punk bands, plus a very happy husband, was delicious.

Then a trip to Yorkshire for 5 whole days with my super hubsand to go whale watching. Whitby is the best place in the UK to see whales – and we did. It was simply amazing. As a super special bonus, Whitby also features in my all time favourite story – Dracula. Bring on the stunning ruins of the abbey and graveyard, the beautiful goths roaming the streets, black ice cream and a dandy new copy of said story.

On the way home, it would have been rude not to visit Bretton Hall (part of Leeds Uni) which sits nestled in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I spent 3 years studying my degree there. Art wanderings round the park made me happy but the hall (no longer a college) being fenced off to be turned into a hotel made me sad. The local town, Wakefield, hasn’t changed much. The loss of so many students has taken money away from the town so hopefully the new Hepworth Gallery might help bring it back. Yep, another art gallery to visit. I’ve appreciated more art in the last 2 weeks than in the last 10 years put together. Much to the detriment of Paul’s feet.

Which brings me to the best thing about going away with Paul – spending time with Paul. It’s the first time it’ been just us two for more than 2 days in 10 years. Wonderful, helpful and important.

I have seemingly spent a lot of time revisiting people and places and things from my entire life. My life has weirdly flashed before me over the last few months. Despite the aging and health issues, I’m in a good place to go forward and get shit done.

I feel like I should say some stuff about life being about balance. About only being able to truly appreciate the positive things when you experience the negative… but really, wouldn’t we all just like to tip the scales and fall off the edge with the good things?

Thanks for reading.

Sam x

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