I’ve been thinking about this post for quite a while now. I could’ve never imagined, however, the circumstances I would be writing it under.
This is Me.
I had a defining moment last year that made my age become an insecurity that literally overtook my mind over the last nine months. Prior to that, it wasn’t like I was jumping up and down to turn 40 by any means, but I wasn’t obsessed with it, either. I thought I looked ok for my age and the decade in my 30s as far as feeling good about myself from an outward perspective was probably the best in my life. To clarify – I’ve never been 100% comfortable in my own skin. I have tried. Goodness I have tried. I had an eating disorder dating back to my 10-year-old self – in only third grade. While I have had this under control for about 16 years (when I had my daughter, I drew a hard line in the sand so an eating disorder would never interfere with being a mom), the constant thoughts and obsessions about my outward appearance have never gone away. Not for a single day.
I was at Fareway, a local grocery store. I had some beer in my cart. I went to check out and did not get carded. Now, it’s not like I always get carded because I don’t. It is probably about 30-40% of the time. I never paid much attention or ever had anxiety when it came to purchasing alcohol. This time, however, I noticed a very prominent sign that said, “We card under 40.” Those words…U-N-D-E-R F-O-R-T-Y…are what changed my mindset. I could get on board with the fact that I didn’t look under 21, but suddenly, I put myself in a different bucket. Anxiety still creeps in when my husband asks me to buy beer. I avoid it so I can avoid the anxiety I now feel about not getting carded because I must look like I am 50. When I do have to buy it, I just tell myself not to think about it and to assume I won’t get carded. I still have a little pain when I don’t. When I do, I just tell myself they are trying to make me feel good. Or are just extremely cautious and even card a 70-year-old.
This moment caused a whole lot of spiraling and some extreme/obsessive thoughts – which isn’t uncommon for someone with a history of an eating disorder. I’ve been better at keeping these thoughts under control at certain times over others. Mainly it depends on how I am feeling about myself. If I’ve been active and making good diet choices and am a certain number on the scale, I tend to relax a bit. With my age has also come sllllooowwwwing of my metabolism. At times I feel like I don’t eat too much at all and still can’t get the number on the scale to move. Or I give myself too many cheat meals in between not eating, which defeats anything I am trying to do, and ultimately, and obviously, I feel absolutely horrible about myself. And even secretly ashamed.
Everyone that is really close to me knows that I started to dread March 17, 2020 at exactly 11:55 PM. Dooms day I called it. This wasn’t like me. I spent 39 years LOVING my birthday – I mean I was born on St. Patrick’s Day – who wouldn’t love their birthday? However, this year all I wanted was for it to come and go and I definitely didn’t want anyone to make a big deal of it. I wanted nothing to do with over the hill decorations, big 4-0 balloons, a black sash, a surprise party or any gathering outside of my immediate family. I wanted to pretend that I wasn’t leaving my 30s. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t more thankful to be 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 or even 39 when I was…and just how in the hell did all of those years already go by in my life?!?!? It seemed like I blinked and it was all over.
Over the last nine months I focused solely on my physical appearance. Did my skin start to look old overnight? I picked apart everything about myself. I noticed every wrinkle that all of a sudden were just popping off my face. I had age spots that I think before I just considered freckles, because I’ve always had freckles. Now they are age spots – which some really are. I just didn’t notice. I started wearing different (the expense stuff) and definitely more make-up. My chin looked old. I could see my pores all across my face. My cheeks looked saggy. Underneath my eyes started to look puffy to me every day. Since turning 30 or so I started to take care of my skin because in my thirties I got teenage acne that I didn’t have in my teens. I had no choice. But I told myself that I hadn’t done enough pro-actively to help my skin. Obviously after noticing all of that! And then there was my neck. I’ve done double chin exercises since I can remember. I thought those were supposed to make your skin firm through the years. Yet my entire neck looks like it’s sagging and my side double chin is off the charts. A turkey neck before 40? How can this be? How did I not see it to do something about it before it got so bad?
I started examining everything. Do my hands make me look old? Are my legs not as toned? My hair has always been very fine. It must be thinning now. I definitely need to stop tanning. I’ll wear sunscreen on my face. I’ll buy a monthly spray tan package. Good thing I have eyelash extensions. That’s all I have going for me! And I don’t have a gray hair, yet. The day that happens – watch out! Honestly, typing this all out I am aware of how ridiculous these thoughts and questions sound. That’s the thing, though. I KNOW they are. I know I am so much more than my outward appearance. I couldn’t consistently get past any thought that was rational. I am still struggling with that, if I am being most honest.
Probably the worst thing about the last nine months is my thinking that if my looks go, I am not loveable anymore. Who cares if I am kind or sometimes funny or insightful or a giver or a good listener or faithful. That stuff doesn’t matter if I am noticeably OLD. I wasn’t ready to not be young anymore. I didn’t know that going through this psychologically was actually a thing. I can usually take control and get through just about anything life throws at me. Not this. And then there’s God. I’m sure just shaking His head over and over at his child, me, trying to knock down the door to my heart and begging for my attention back. I had idols of this world I was trying to find joy in. I was trying to just take control and look better by spending money on all sorts of fake things to slow down looking old. God just wants me to know that I only have strength in Him and can ONLY find Joy in Him. But I wasn’t. At all. So ashamed.
It caused me to be more insecure than I have ever been before in my life – even when I was going through a severe eating disorder or weighed the most ever when I was pregnant. Why would my husband want to be with me, I asked myself. He should’ve chosen someone 5-10 years younger and many LBs skinnier than me, not someone two years older than him. I wondered if he was secretly thinking the same thing and if he looked at those young girls and wished he had them instead of me. I have said for years and years that insecurity is so unattractive. Confidence is sexy. Insecurity IS NOT. And here I was spiraling out of control with my own UGLY insecurity. It’s like I forgot all of the things I bring to the table as a person.
I also had stress in the midst of all of this. My teenage daughter going through really, really tough times. Really tough. Things I never thought I would have to get through or navigate. I question my abilities as a mother daily. I consistently feel guilty that I don’t do enough. Or not enough of the right things. Or I’m not consistent enough. I don’t do tough love well. At all. And I don’t give the other two enough of my attention because of all of this. Additionally, I was at a newish job (especially considering I had been at my last one for almost 11 years) and trying to find my way, make my mark, show my value. We were getting married. We were building a new house. We were blending two families into one. We started trying to conceive (don’t even get me started with my thoughts on being way too old for that, which is of course why it’s not working…) It was quite the year. For the most part I stayed silent about my struggle – at least all of the details I just shared.
This is 40.
And then, just like that, it was March 17, 2020. Last night at 11:55 PM I was officially 40. The secret is out, thanks to Facebook. On the way back from a work trip a few weeks ago, I finally watched the movie “This is 40” on the plane. I never watched it before because “I’m not 40 yet.” Since it was so close to dooms day, I gave in and watched it. It was funny and there were definitely a lot of things I can relate to. Of course, I was noticing everything about the actress. Surely, she aged so much better than I have.
I knew that I either wasn’t going to make it to my 40th birthday or that God was going to show me something so profound that I would be forced to have a paradigm shift. And wow. Did he do that. Starting a week ago, things with COVID-19 were changing daily and were getting very real. Fast forward to yesterday and our community was all but shutting down. We couldn’t go out to dinner. We couldn’t go to the bar for a green beer. We couldn’t hang out with more than 10 people. Even if someone was planning some huge over the hill surprise party that I would’ve hated before all of this, it wasn’t possible. We have family on spring break in different countries and we are worried about them getting home. We are worried about our parents getting sick. Our hearts go out to everyone that is impacted with this horrible, invisible virus. We are worried about our country and our economy and do not know what is to come. For any of us.
This is It.
So. I knew I was going to make myself write a blog post about turning 40. I had no idea how it was going to shape up and if I was ever going to be able to truly draw another line in the sand of my life and say “enough” to myself, to my mind. The insecurities that have developed in me over the last year have been too strong and too raging for me to really think I could beat them. It’s going to be a battle. I am going to have setbacks. I am going to need help. Let me write that again. I am going to need help. That’s not an easy thing for me to admit, say, or write. But, I owe it to so many people. I owe it to my husband. I owe it to myself. I owe it to God. I am more than a face. Or a body. I am a loving person with a soul that cares so much. I love to laugh until my stomach hurts. I love to be with my family and friends. I love to make a difference. I love to read and write. I love to listen and offer advice. How can I think all of that means nothing because I don’t like how I look? Because I am insecure of being old? I love God and trust in Him. He’s never let me down. He’s always picked me up when I’ve tried so hard for too long to be strong on my own. All of that is worthy of so much more love than if it didn’t look like I was 40. Or 50. Or 90. Because the reality is that none of us are immune to aging. Or to death. There’s so much more than earthly things. I got trapped. And I am ready, finally, to be un-trapped. To begin to love myself for so much more than my appearance. To show others my joy from the inside that just radiates externally no matter how old I am. Or how much I weigh. Here’s to 40. Here’s to teaching my kids this lesson with my own actions now before they live it for themselves. Here’s to making a difference for others over spending money on fake hair. This is it.
FYI I balled all over this last night. Still posting. I hope the raw, honest truth is inspiring and helps someone else’s heart.