La La How The Life Goes On

Lordy Lordy Look Who’s Forty

Posted on: April 10, 2012

I just turned 40 the other day. I was asked how it felt. Y’all, without being melodramatic, let me say this:  after my checkered history of almost checking out on various occasions, every birthday feels damn damn damn damn awesome. No one will ever rain on my birthday parade. I don’t require parties, ticker tape parades or greetings on the jumbotron. I just like getting older, year by precious year. Even this year, when Baby Sister shared her RSV and pneumonia with me; I was still happy as Larry even though I felt like I had slept under a car in the rain for a week. All birthdays are good, even if you are older, fatter or not where you pictured yourself when you were 15 and going to become Mrs. Jon Bon Jovi. It’s all good. Of course, I’ve learned a few things along the way (including the fact that nice people will indulge your propensity for authoring hectoring lists of their shortcomings).  🙂

10.  Shut up about your problems.

Scottish Grandma always warned me that people do want to help you, but after the first week or so with no progress they naturally get tired of listening to you gripe. So if you really want help, ask. If you really need to vent,ask. But if you just want to bitch about the same person, situation, perceived injustice or thing that happened to you 20 years ago, recognize that the clock is, quite rightly, ticking even among those who love you.

9.  You are responsible for your own happiness.

I know Oprah says this weekly, but it’s true. You cannot expect your husband, mama, kids, friends, boyfriends, whomever to make you happy. If you are a miserable person, as the cheesy 80s saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.” Besides the fact that all grown ups are responsible for their own feelings, consider the terrible burden it is to place on a loved one, to be THE thing that makes or keeps you happy. It’s a job no one should have or want. Your husband isn’t the funniest guy alive? That’s why funny guy friends were invented. Your sister don’t love you the exact way you need to be loved? That’s why girl friends were invented. Your parents disappointed you in so many ways? That’s why the tiniest violin was invented.

8.  When it comes to your kids, love them and ACCEPT them just the way they are.

Some parents love them the way they are but want them to be “better,” which generally means you want them to be something more in line with your expectations.    I have learned that accepting your kid for who she is–exactly the way she is–makes her better. I agonized over Bambina’s shyness and anxiety for years, pushing her to do things, say things, join things, until I read The Words That Changed It All: “Shyness is not a character flaw.”. It is who my girl is and my constant end runs around her to mold her into…well, me…was damaging her. And so I let go. If she didn’t want to say hi to Great Aunt Flossie she didn’t have to. She could nod and smile instead. If she hated birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese she brought the kid a gift to school and we sent our regrets for the party itself. If she hated being singled out, even for praise, we began to do it quietly. And guess what, chickadees? If you met Bambina now you would never guess she had ever NOT wanted to talk. Why? Because in giving her the freedom to be who she was, we gave her the freedom and confidence to grow into the person she is becoming. Love your kids, but more importantly, accept and celebrate them just the way they are.

7.  Stop caring what random people think of you, especially people you don’t even like.

Obviously I don’t want to embarrass my kids or husband by being a nasty, disheveled bag lady. But beyond hygiene and manners, I simply don’t give a shit what you think of me. I’ve been hugely fat and borderline anorexic. I’ve been enormously self-involved and self-sacrificing. I’ve been tremendously healthy and within hours of dying. I’ve had long feathered Def Leppard hair and been damn near bald. I’ve stared down the barrel of an unfair, youthful death more times than I care to recount. So you’ll pardon me if your opinion about any aspect of my life is simply not on my radar. What is on my radar? Dada Jones, the one-the only. The Jones Girls, without whom I’d gladly die. The Scots and the Jews (and the Scottish Jews) who surround me with their own “special” kinds of love. The friends who have loved me even when I have been less than lovable. These things matter. With no offense intended, and I mean this in the kindest, tenderest way: your opinion of my house, car, shoes, weight or hair doesn’t matter at all, and I can’t believe I spent actual YEARS thinking it did.

6.  Your life is either an example or a warning.

Sometimes mine has been a simultaneous mixture of both. But the choice is always there. Before you do that thing, ask yourself if you would be proud to stand behind it in public. If someone you love saw you do or say that thing, would you genuinely feel like you were setting an example for them? I once knew a guy who had, to put it kindly, challenges in determining appropriate behavior. I finally boiled it down for him: if you die in a fiery crash today and your loved ones go through your things, will their grief be compounded by these choices you have made? If so, don’t be that guy. Just decide today that you are not going to be that guy. All of us can decide the same thing today and every day…and it’s never too late.

5.  Trust your friends to see you vulnerable.

I spent a lot of time pre-transplant playing the role of Monty Python’s Black Knight. Can we help you, Mama? No! It’s a flesh wound! Tis but a scratch! I’ve had worse! I simply could not bring myself to avail myself of the help being offered. Maybe I felt like it was weakness, maybe I felt guilty for troubling people. Who knows? But I look back and cannot believe the stuff I did myself when I should have been all over that lasagna delivery or that ride to Baltimore. Which is to say, I was a moron. Don’t be a moron. 

4.  Keep on the sunny side.

The Jones Girls love to belt out that song in the car because it’s fun and because it’s our entire life philosophy. “The storm in its fury broke today, crushing hopes that we cherished so dear. Storm and clouds will in time pass away, the sun again will shine so bright and clear.” To be fair, I’m pretty sure I was Born This Way. But even for me, some days require a decision about whether you’re going to wallow in the shit or “get on your goddamn bike” as my Dad used to say. Most of the time, I choose the goddamn bike. You should too, because whatever shitstorm is in the mail for you is coming whether you wallow or not. Best to get out in front of it.

3.  Never try to convince someone to love you or stay with you.

Walk the Eff away. Don’t look back. Staying with someone who doesn’t, can’t or won’t love you means you are missing all the ways that the right person is being brought into your life. You deserve love and you should never, ever wait around for another person to bestow it.

2.  Always find farts funny.

The day you stop laughing at farts is the day you become an old one.

1. And finally, distrust all glib lists authored by random bloggers purporting to offer sage advice. Such lists are often self-congratulatory, contradictory, incomplete and 


2 Responses to "Lordy Lordy Look Who’s Forty"

I love you the way you are

I love you more 🙂

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