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Welcome to My Forties: Writing You From the Other Side


It happened.

I turned forty.

And I’m not writing in all-caps (though the day is still early).  I haven’t changed my font to a lurid pink.  And while the week is young, I don’t think I’ll rename the Roundup “The Encircling.”

We spent the weekend at the beach.  We didn’t go to our usual beach.  Instead, we traveled to Rehoboth where I went as a kid.

One time when I was little, my father took my sister and I to the beach while my mother stayed home with my baby brother.  He took us to Funland, an amusement park on the boardwalk, and I wanted to do the teacup ride.  But seconds after the ride started, I realized that it didn’t feel like the one at Disney World.  It was moving too quickly, in tight, nausea-inducing circles, and I started to scream.  My dad got the operator to stop the ride, and then he jumped onto the floor before the ride had completely stopped to scoop me out of the teacup.  My father made me feel so safe, knowing that he was always just a few feet away, able to convince a ride operator to stop the teacups for his daughter.

I felt pretty scared about turning forty.  I wanted to be somewhere I had once felt safe.

We sat on the beach and read books.  The Wolvog lovingly recited his favourite hexadecimal codes as we stared at the water as if he was reading poetry.  We ate French fries and waved away seagulls.  At night we went to that boardwalk amusement park after dinner.  The ChickieNob and I rode the haunted mansion ride and screamed.  The kids and I squeezed ourselves into one cramped car of the ferris wheel.  And we ended the trip by riding the merry-go-round.


I have a personal policy of never walking by a merry-go-round, and I have a bit of a talent of sniffing out random merry-go-rounds.  I even found one tucked into a random courtyard by walking down an alleyway in Rome.  There was a merry-go-round outside my art school, and I rode it almost every day because I figured I may not remember the etching techniques that my instructor was trying to teach me, but I would always remember riding the merry-go-round.  And I do.  So we finished the night with a last ride on the merry-go-round, and I watched the amusement park and beach blur around me, as if I were spin art splattering all these memories from so many beach vacations on a figurative canvas that I could hang up to remember the first half of my life.

We drove home at night, eating fudge in the car and singing along to Les Misérables, so I could be here to step into middle aged.

So now I am forty.  Now I am middle aged.  I’m trying to be okay with that.



1 jodifur { 06.02.14 at 7:57 am }

Happy Birthday Melissa. I’ve heard from friends that 40 is pretty great. I think you are going to rock this.

2 Catwoman73 { 06.02.14 at 8:09 am }

Happy birthday Mel! It’s not so bad. Personally, I believe these years will be the happiest of our lives. 🙂

3 Tiara { 06.02.14 at 8:38 am }

A very happy birthday, Mel!!! Enjoy your 40s. There’s no knowing if they’ll be better or worse than your 30s…I’ll put my money on better. Have a wonderful day!

4 a.m.s. { 06.02.14 at 9:04 am }

I’ve been here for a couple of years now and, honestly? I can tell you I frequently have to do the math to remind myself that I’m in my 40s. Think of it as 30+. I still feel like I”m in my 30s; I still think like I’m in my 30s; People still assume I’m in my 30s because apparently even though I see the wrinkles around my eyes and the shiny silver threads mixed in with the brown no one else seems to. Keep riding merry-go-rounds. That’s one of the keys to staying 30+. Eat ice cream for dinner every once in awhile. Sing loudly and dance to embarass your kids. The mindset is everything. Fill every day with so much that you can chalk the inevitable aches and pains up to a full life rather than a date on the calendar and laugh so much that the wrinkles aren’t from a loss of collagen but from a surfeit of happiness.

Happy birthday, dear friend! Miss Olivia Moonpie and I will toast you with our mid-morning snack of French doughnuts!

5 Ana { 06.02.14 at 9:06 am }

Happy Birthday Mel! I’m glad you had such a lovely weekend, and would also bet that your 40s are fabulous—simply because you are too fabulous yourself to not have a wonderful decade!

6 a { 06.02.14 at 9:25 am }

Happy Birthday! Glad you survived the transition… Your 40s will be awesome!

7 Sara { 06.02.14 at 9:31 am }

Happy Birthday! I am sure your 40’s will be amazing!

8 Linda { 06.02.14 at 10:15 am }

Happy Happy Birthday, Mel! The 40s are fine. It’s the anticipation that’s the worst. Glad you had a fun weekend!

9 Pepper { 06.02.14 at 11:11 am }

Happy birthday! Your weekend sounds like the perfect way to end your 30s and usher in your 40s. Hope the rest of your day is lovely and filled with good things.

10 deathstar { 06.02.14 at 11:18 am }

You’re not middle aged – that would make me a decade past middle aged which is what? Ready for chair yoga? When I was 40, I still felt like 30, life still felt full of possibility, of glamour, of things just waiting to be started for real – so please be there. You’re a writer, you’re published, you have two highy intelligent children, you’ve met the President, hang out at the White House, you’ve stopped apologizing for your strange food choices – that’s not bad! You’re wonderful, you’re beautiful, you’re compassionate, you have people who love you and some of them even know you! You are blessed! And now you can start the real work of being a woman – pretend it’s exciting, fake it if you have to. I promise, it gets better. 40 was great and I have fond memories of 40 so enjoy it for me! Mwah!

11 Sharon { 06.02.14 at 11:32 am }

Love that photo of you! Happy Birthday!

The 40s are great. 🙂

12 Juanita { 06.02.14 at 11:39 am }

Happy Birthday Mel! Enjoy the naughty 40ties.

13 It Is What It Is { 06.02.14 at 1:33 pm }

It is OK not to want to embrace turning 40 (or 50 or 60). I have LOVED my forties (so much so that I’ve stayed here 8 years and have another two to go) and look forward to my 50s. There is something about being one with oneself, but taking the collective wisdom of preceding decades and melding it into oneself, that I find freeing and joyful. The part I don’t like, is the inching toward the end as I love living this life that I have and don’t want it to ever end. So, being closer to the end than to the beginning is hard for me.


(PS, please find something else to do. I am woefully behind on my blog reading and have 11 posts of yours to read and it is stressing me out!)

14 Peg { 06.02.14 at 1:45 pm }

Happy happy birthday! Sounds like you celebrated just the right way. Don’t worry, my forties have been no big deal other than feeling a little bit wiser and not taking myself so seriously.

15 Sarah { 06.02.14 at 2:12 pm }

Happy happy birthday, my friend. You wear 40 well!

16 andy { 06.02.14 at 3:20 pm }

Happy, Happy Birthday!!!!

17 Katherine A { 06.02.14 at 3:21 pm }

Happy birthday! I’m glad it was a wonderful weekend and I hope for many, many amazing things in your new decade!

18 Queenie { 06.02.14 at 3:38 pm }

Happy Birthday. Your first 4 decades have brought so many amazing things into this world. I can’t wait to see what the next 4 bring.

19 Serenity { 06.02.14 at 3:51 pm }

I love how you celebrated turning 40; and I hope today is a good first day into your next decade. xoxo

20 Amel { 06.02.14 at 4:12 pm }

Happy birthday, Mel! You look gorgeous! Thank you for having inspired me in many ways and for having connected me with so many inspiring women out there.

21 Geochick { 06.02.14 at 4:27 pm }

Awesome way to meet 40! I wonder if I had similar unconscious reasons for choosing the location where we celebrated my 40th. Just me S and Baby X went to Glenwood Springs, CO where I have lots of fun memories of lazy summer days spent swimming in the hot springs pool. Somehow it made it a little better.

LOVE the merry-go-round pic!

22 Blanche { 06.02.14 at 4:28 pm }

Happy happy birthday! I wish I had something inspirational and wonderful to say, but all I can say is thank you for using your 30’s to create and expand Stirrup Queens into the amazing resource it became.

23 KeAnne { 06.02.14 at 4:29 pm }

Happy Birthday and I definitely don’t think you are middle aged 🙂 Plus, you share a birthday w/ D who is having his own milestone birthday today: 5! If you ever come to Raleigh, I’ll take you to Pullen Park to ride its awesome carousel.

24 Laurel Regan { 06.02.14 at 7:03 pm }

Happy Birthday to you, and welcome to a fabulous decade. You will love it. 🙂

25 Amanda { 06.02.14 at 7:13 pm }

Happy, happy birthday! May your 40s be your best decade yet!

26 Mina { 06.02.14 at 7:53 pm }

Happy birthday, dear Mel! Loads of love and luck!

27 Claire { 06.02.14 at 8:22 pm }

Isobel was afraid of the carousel at Lincoln Park Zoo when we took her aged 2.5. I hope she will have done of your bravery someday. You are an amazing woman! Always learning, always curious, always bringing people together. That you have quirks and are human in so many ways is frankly a relief to me because otherwise you would be perfect and I would find it hard to relate to you. Your birthday sounds like a total blast! Congratulations! !

28 HereWeGoAJen { 06.02.14 at 8:27 pm }

Happy birthday, birthday triplet!

29 Another Dreamer { 06.02.14 at 9:16 pm }

Happy birthday!

30 Pam/wordgirl { 06.02.14 at 9:41 pm }

Welcome to 40 baby !

It ain’t all bad. 😉

I am a few years into it here but all in all it’s good. I feel more secure more at peace with who I am — in my life choices. It is a shock don’t give me wrong, but I think you’ll be surprised at how much you like being on this side.



And ps. A b-day poem:
by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

31 Dora { 06.02.14 at 10:04 pm }

Happy birthday, Mel! Sounds like a lovely celebration. Next time you’re in NY, let’s do the Bryant Park carousel. It’s our favorite. My treat. 🙂

32 Barb { 06.02.14 at 10:20 pm }

Happy birthday sweet Mel! I’m 3.5 yrs away right now and starting to feel it, so I get ya. 🙂

33 Erin { 06.02.14 at 10:30 pm }

Happy Birthday, Mel! Welcome to 40. I’ve been on this side a little over 6 months, and the view is pretty good (once I got over the idea of the number). Glad you spent your weekend doing things you love, and I hope you spend the year ahead doing a lot of the same.

Love the story of your dad rescuing you. And I’m glad you didn’t go pink!

34 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.02.14 at 10:46 pm }

Beautiful pic of a beautiful youngish wise woman 🙂


35 JB { 06.03.14 at 8:41 am }

Happy (belated) birthday 🙂 love the picture of you; it seems to embody happiness, even though that may not have been how you were feeling at the time. I love your writing in this post. Beautifully written.

36 Brianna { 06.03.14 at 4:04 pm }

Happy belated birthday! My sister turns 44 in a few months. I always, and still do, think she’s the coolest, regardless of her age.

37 Betty m { 06.04.14 at 4:43 pm }

Happy birthday!

38 Battynurse { 06.04.14 at 9:37 pm }

Happy belated birthday!

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