I didn’t understand what he was saying initially – and then my mind registered what he meant: he means me, I am 40; it’s not safe for me.
Then I started thinking cheeky sod – assuming I’m over 40, how dare he. God, I must look really old today. Yeah, those lines round my eyes were pretty bad this morning. Then I remembered – as my doctor, he would have my date of birth in front of him. I managed to convince myself that it was this and not the wrinkles that led to his advice.
But it still didn’t feel right; I am still in shock about the fact that I am 40. When I remember my age, or it comes up in conversation, it’s almost like I have found out for the first time again.
I’m not ready, I want to scream. I’m not ready to be a grown up. I’m not ready to be middle-aged. I AM NOT READY.
I went off to pick up my prescription. ‘Mrs Cripps’ the pharmacist called. Again, it took a while to realise this was me; being called ‘Mrs’ always throws me too. It doesn’t happen very often in my day-to-day life – I am invariably called Karen – but when it does, I seem to experience the same kind of shock as I do when I remember I am 40. Now don’t get me wrong, I love everything about being married – but being called ‘Mrs’ makes me feel ancient.
When I look round my friends, I just can’t get used to the idea that we have all grown up; that this group of friends I used to fall out of clubs with at 3 am now have families, and mortgages, and DIY projects; and now we’re more likely to fall out of a restaurant at lunch time.
And 40 doesn’t feel like I thought it would: when I was younger, I thought I would know everything by this age; that life would make sense by now; that I would be good at life .
Of course, I now realise that this is not the case. We are all still learning – and making mistakes – whatever age we are. I am mildly disappointed by this; I like the idea that you learn the ropes of life for several years and then get rewarded at a certain age (at 40, perhaps…) with just living and enjoying life.
I am guessing I will never be ready to be 40 – or 50, or 60, or 70; that it will always be a shock; that I will never feel like a proper, fully fledged adult; and part of me will always feel like a girl who doesn’t know what she is doing; and that time will always feel like it has whizzed past at the pace of a formula one car.
But I also know I will be privileged to see these birthdays (and to have already seen 40). The lady who writes my favourite Blog (and is the best writer I know), is in her early 30s and has recently been diagnosed with incurable cancer. Hearing this news a few weeks ago broke my heart; I feel like I know Lisa, even though I have never met her (the blogging world feels like that). I have watched as she has come to terms with this news, and I have been in awe at her determination to make the most of what life she does have. And, of course, it makes me appreciate my life, with all its challenges; I am very sure she wishes she was dealing with something as ordinary as being 40.
There is also something liberating about understanding that there are no answers, there is no secret to life (whatever personal development Gurus would try to have us believe). My Nanna – who is 86 – has not yet discovered the meaning of life. But I tell you what she does do, she enjoys and savours every single day: in-between popping off to her exercise class, planning interior design projects for their new home, shopping for new outfits (because whatever age you are, you want to look fabulous), she is one busy lady. And that’s all any of us can do isn’t it: make the most of the time we do have.
My Nanna has always said to me ‘you never feel any different Karen, it’s just the outside that lets you down’. And whilst I may never be ready for these changes to take place, I hope that as I watch my outside lose its fight with gravity and youth, I will remember that I am lucky to be let down in this way.