So here I am on the other side. I had feared, no....dreaded this number for about the last four years, I guess. It had come to represent so much for me. It wasn't quite a mid-life crisis I had, but when I asked my older friends, it seems it is not uncommon to have a look at where you are in life as you approach turning forty. I suppose I just started looking a little earlier than most.
I think if I'm honest with myself, I had built forty up to be a doorway. One side of the door had opportunities and the other didn't. And if you haven't picked up on the subtle subtext, I was fretting about aging as a woman, and about the fact that getting older meant that the possibility of having a child was diminishing. And that's ultimately what made me take a huge leap of faith almost one year ago. It didn't matter what age I was, in my old relationship I wanted something different to my partner. And it took me 13 years to figure that out. Better late than never.
But the view from 36, 37 & 38 were all painful. All I could see was the door closing. And an immense feeling of being trapped and boxed in. I was suffocating in that relationship, and turning all the pain in on myself. As that's what I do. So from those ages I saw 40 approaching and honestly thought I'd be curled up in a ball sobbing as the calendar turned over to 22nd May 2010. I could in no way have imagined how different it would be.
May 22nd began with me waking up next to the man who had one week earlier asked me to marry him. We're still beaming with the joy of it all. We got up leisurely, went into the city and visited the shop Little Cupcakes. We strolled down to the Yarra on a gloriously sunny morning and sat and ate our treats enjoying the sights. Text messages kept beeping from friends wishing me a happy birthday. Peter and I then went to visit one of our favourite places - the Outre Gallery. And unbeknown to me, Peter had ordered a framed print for my present. Such a surprise, but I cannot believe I now have my very own Angelique Houtkampt. Huge hugs and kisses ensue.
We get home in time to chill out before we head out for dinner. I'd invited about 20 friends to come along to a pub I spent many, many nights of my 20s and 30s in. The Empress has that grungy, comfortable feel and because it was so cold, an open fire was roaring in the dining room. One by one my friends arrived, and trying to juggle hostess duties and catch up with everyone proved tough. You never get a chance to talk to everyone properly. And then I gathered everyone around and announced the news, that Peter and I were getting married. Shrieks, cheers, hugs and kisses. You couldn't hope for a better response. And our friend Daniel made a small toast to us both, which was funny and touching. By the end of the evening I was exhausted.
I woke up the next morning, and as I looked in the bathroom mirror I noticed something. No, not the grey hairs or wrinkles - they started a while ago. I looked at my face and I could see the older me. She was calm and contented and happy. Peter said that when he turned 40 the year before, it was amazing as all the anxiety and pretension fell away. You become more comfortable within yourself. And as I looked in the mirror, that's what I saw. Me. Forty. Older and stronger and more experienced. Happier, joyous and beaming. I am living the life I feel comfortable in, I know that life is on the path it should be.
The door wasn't closing, but it still felt like walking through to somewhere else. A place with opportunities and possibilities and joy.