Confronting My Fear of Turning 40

As I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, the realization that I had just 12 short months before I turn 40 made my hands shake and my stomach clench. While my girlfriends who have passed that landmark laughed at my trepidation, I can’t seem to get the irrational fear out of my head.

Forty is the age my mother was when she had two children out of school and two in the middle of high school. It’s the age for mammograms, fiber supplements, and knowing people who are battling cancer and have had heart attacks — not people who are friends of my parents, but people who are friends of mine.

Forty is the age where I realize that not only am I no longer the youngest person in the office — a role I played through much of my twenties and even early thirties — but I no longer know who the hottest pop singer is, who the reality stars are, and actually do remember the first season of “The Real World.”

Forty means that while I love to dance, I have only been out dancing once in the last year because the music is a little too loud for conversation, the dancers look uncomfortably young, the bartenders call me ma’am, and the DJs no longer wink at me when they play my request. And worse, I’m okay with all that.

Forty means I’m halfway through my adventure in mothering little children. It means I’m more halfway to sending my son to college and teaching my daughter to drive. It’s the realization that a decade will have passed since the birth of my oldest son. Forty is the age my grandmother was when I was born, it’s officially the age I could have been, if I’d started having children early enough, a grandmother.

A grandmother.

In 12 short months, I’ll say good-bye to my thirties — a time of birth and death, a time of happiness, and almost overwhelming grief. My thirties, to be honest, were a bit drama mixed with a sitcom. A dramedy, if you will. Because I’m a woman who loves to be prepared, I’ve come up with a game plan to enter my forties in the best shape (physically and mentally) that I’ve ever been in.

Well, except for that time I was 22 and could lose five pounds in three days just by switching to low-fat ice cream.

Is this a mid-life crisis? I have no desire to buy a sports car or date a man 20 years my junior. Hold on for a moment while I breathe in a paper bag over the realization that someone 20 years younger than me is legal. I’m not planning on running away to Tuscany or coloring my hair purple (though both have their appeal).

Thirty-nine is going to be the age during which I get my house in order. I have paperwork to complete, a body to pamper and strengthen, a potential surgery, decisions to make, and a novel to finish writing. I have a business to get sorted, and children to keep on track. I’ll also decide once and for all if I can pull off distressed jeans with pointy toed shoes. Also, if pointy toed shoes are still in style.

I look at the leftover birthday cake in my freezer and hope my wish for this year comes true — that I’ll be ready to leave my roller coaster thirties behind by the time the big 4-0 rolls around. And if I’m not, then I’ll eat chocolate cake and go dancing in fabulous shoes.