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Contemplating The Over Under of Approaching 40

This week, Tom Magliozzi, beloved half of the Click & Clack the Tappet Brothers and co-host of Car Talk died. He was 77. When I saw the news come across my Facebook feed, the first thing I thought was, “I want to have a life like he did- doing what he loved, laughing all the way to the end.” My second thought was “Shenanigans, if his lifespan was my yardstick, I’d be over halfway through.”

Turning 40 feels like getting to step on the gas and damn the consequences.

Turning 40 feels like getting to step on the gas and damn the consequences!

I am turning 40 early next year and in general, I’m excited about it. Actually, I am more than that- I am PUMPED. Hitting 40 feels like finally being grown up. It has this sense of coming into the fullness of who you are. Its approach definitely has a whiff of Fried Green Tomatoes about it and for the record, I DO carry a lot of insurance on my car.

Furthermore, I have this sneaking suspicion that next year, my big 4-0 is going to awesome. I’m not sure how or in what way it’s going to manifest itself, but I can feel the epic coming. I’ve got that tingly, anticipatory sensation- I imagine it’s how a dog feels ahead of an earthquake, as long as it’s the type of dog that likes earthquakes. I am also basing my excitement for this upcoming decade on the “track record” of my life (if you will). It’s been a very steady positive trajectory.

  • Childhood– I was an awkward, nerdy, know-it-all kid without a lot of friends but I don’t think I was terribly aware of that fact except in hindsight.
  • Teens– Gah. Who remembers their teen years with fondness? Seriously? Sure, there were bright spots- rowing, cross-country, being my high school’s mascot, that time my neighbor let me borrow his candy-apple red Corvette on Halloween.
    Driving my neighbor's 1981 t-top Corvette may have been the highlight of my teen years.

    Driving my neighbor’s 1981 t-top Corvette may have been the highlight of my teen years.

    Can I just stop here and say I was 16 and dressed as a 60’s-era go-go dancer with a green wool mini dress and knee high white boots?! Holy hell. I wish I had a better way to end the story- I went solo to a party I was only slightly invited to, found no one to hang out with and ended up driving home, safe & sound. Note to my kids: That whole neighbor-lends-you-his-hot-car-thing is never, ever going to happen to you at 16 or probably ever, for that matter..

  • Twenties– This is where life begins to get good- really, really good. I started to get who I was- leaving behind the younger, less self-assured self. I met my husband, married, joined the Peace Corps, lived in Kenya. Hell to the yes, the twenties were so much better than the teens.
  • Thirties– First off, how are they already coming to an end?! I feel like they just started! But they have been amazing! I became a mom, had a fantastic time & career at Microsoft, took the exciting leap away from Microsoft, started this blog, and now I work for PATH. I am feeling happier and more confident that I ever have before.

So, all that’s to say, if the past is any kind of indicator of future results- not only will the 40’s be good, but I guess the 50’s are going to blow my mind.

Another thing I have been thinking about as 40 approaches is exactly what year, what day, will be my midway point? Being both a realist and an optimist (yes, I feel like I am BOTH- so you can just roll with it), I assume that somewhere in my forties I will hit “the halfway point” between life and death. Halfway between smiling, laughing, thinking, and that long dirt nap.

The average life expectancy of a woman in the US is 81 years old (that’s the realist talking). I consider myself healthier and happier than average, so round that up a few years (that’s the optimist talking) and I find myself gravitating towards 86. It’s a nice number, cleanly divisible by two, still older than my dad, so- I figured I wouldn’t need to confront the idea of “halfway” until my mid-forties.

But today, the news of Tom’s death brought me up a little short. What if my estimate is high? What if I don’t even hit 80? What if I have passed halfway already?

(Take a breath)

(In through your nose, out through you mouth)

(Okay, maybe a couple more to steady the nerves)

Yeah- I don’t really like THAT idea at all. I mean, I love the age that I ended up having children at, it feels like the Goldilocks “just right” age for becoming a mom, but if I start doing a little mathy-poo based on it…

Let’s see, I had the twins at 32. If they have kids around the same age, I’ll be pushing 65 when I start my run as a grandma. Hmm… still okay, but that only gives me about 20 years and that may mean that I won’t get to see a grandchild walk down the aisle to accept a college diploma, to say nothing of a wedding aisle.

(Remember your breathing)

(Head between your knees if you get light-headed)

Noooooooooo. I am not feeling Zen about this at all. The first 40 (or 39.8 at the moment) have gone so fast! And they have been so fun! So good! There is still so, so much to see and do! I am just finally getting the hang of it, for heaven’s sake.

So, what’s the big takeaway from this navel-gazing? It’s time to get crack-a-lackin’! Whatever exciting, important, noble, notable, adventurous, memorable, silly, significant, magnificent things I want to do, they best start lining up, because there is not a day to waste. (This is probably making my husband shake his head- he already thinks I am a Tasmanian Devil of activity, but I think he kinda loves it too.)

So, what’s the big takeaway from this navel-gazing? It’s time to get crack-a-lackin’! Whatever exciting, important, noble, notable, adventurous, memorable, silly, significant, magnificent things I want to do, they best start lining up, because there is not a day to waste.

Tim Robbins famously said as Andy Dufresne to Morgan Freeman’s “Red” in Stephen King’s brilliant The Shawshank Redemption, “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.” My question is- if you have hit halfway, are you actually working on the second part of that statement whether you want to or not?

I know I am not the only one thinking about this (heck, it’s the basis for a lot of organized religion) and I am sure some of you have your own little ways of coping with this realization- regardless of the decade you are in. A trick I have employed for years as a runner is to imagine that after the halfway mark in a run, I am just picking up the steps I have already laid down. Easy as that. It makes the second half of a run feel so much lighter to just mentally scoop them back up.

When running, it is a comforting thought to know that there are a finite numbers of steps ahead of you. I can’t say the same of sunrises. It may be a worthy and worthwhile goal to see if you can find some kind of comfort in knowing that there are a finite number of days ahead of you. I know I am not there yet or that I will ever get there, but it’s something to think about- probably while on one of those long runs.

In the meantime, I’m definitely going with the over on this bet.

Thanks for reading and spending a few of your (finite) moments reading this blog. I’d love for you to share your thoughts here and share this blog with your friends.

In just 5 minutes, an EMT reminds us what really matters

In this brief insightful TED talk, a veteran EMT, Matthew O’Reilly,

It just takes 5 minutes to learn something profound

It just takes 5 minutes to learn something profound

reminds us what really matters at the end of our days- whether you die of old age surrounded by loved ones, or your death is a sudden event and your last moments are spent under the watchful gaze of a stranger. Almost universally, a few simple themes come up in those final moments- Forgiveness, Remembrance, Meaning.

And so, this talk presents us with an opportunity. Will you hold up the mirror this talk gives you? It might feel a little scary at first- what if you don’t like the answers? Well, if you are reading this- it’s unlikely you are experiencing your final moments (as great as this blog is), so you have time to change the answers, if you find them wanting.

According to Mr. O’Reilly (and many others), the questions or reflections that your imminent demise surface are:

1. Forgiveness. Whether named a regret or a sin, is there something you are doing or have done that you will seek amends for? The particularly poignant example that he shares is almost apocryphal, “I wish I had spend more time with my children and grandchildren.” So, what are you doing (or not doing) that you might regret?

2. Remembrance. Will anyone (whether an EMT, a Dr., family, or friends) remember me? We want to continue to exist in someone’s world, hopefully as a cherished memory.

3. Meaning. Philosophers and religions have sought to answer (or create answers) to this profound question for thousands of years. But I think in our final moments, our conception of “meaning” is far more intimate- Did I spend my time well? Did I make a difference in someone’s life?

Watch and read everything she does! I love me some Brene!

Watch and read everything she does! I love me some Brene!

What these questions tell me is something that the amazing Brene Brown (reigning champion of TED talks and a personal inspiration) has so eloquently illuminated- humans crave connection. We are fundamentally wired to desire meaningful connections with others.

So, let’s use this talk to look in that mirror and ask those questions. Maybe do it once or twice a year. Maybe before you say “I do” or take that next job. Are you making decisions and living your life in a way that will give you satisfying answers when it is your final time to ask these questions of yourself.

The answers may be different for everyone- but asking these questions and particularly discussing them with your loved ones and friends will undoubtedly give us what we ultimately crave- DEEP, MEANINGFUL CONNECTION with people we care about.

These insights also make me think of things that have never been said. No one has ever said, “I wish I had less empathy for others,” or “I wish I hadn’t wasted time being kind to others.” Time spent devoted to others, even in the smallest gestures or moments, is time well spent.

Mr. O’Reilly begins his talk with an incredibly comforting observation- people are peaceful in their last moments. Acceptance comes easily, which is a profoundly freeing idea. Even if it’s hard to imagine now, it’s reassuring to know that your final moments will be moments of peace and acceptance.

As always, thanks so much for reading and sharing! I love your feedback, comments, and appreciate you spending these few minutes with me!

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