Replacing the belt on a vacuum cleaner was probably not on my “list of things to do before I turn 40”, but I can now add it to my list of experiences. It feels good breaking open a machine and getting your hands dirty putting it back together again. Puzzle solved – belt replaced; check. What else can I do in the few days before my thirties end?
For the last week or two, it feels like my every third thought has been, “I’m turning 40.” I’m turning 40.
Recently, a dear friend of mine went first. We have shared back to back birthdays (August-September) since we were nine years old. I wrote to her a few weeks ago saying that turning 40 didn’t have to be anything more than a bookmark. After all, my best shrink ever, Sidney (he stormed the beach at Normandy) told me with authority that things only have the meaning we give to them. That’s all.
So what does turning 40 mean to me? If I let it, it can mean an ending of my youth. Oh, so melodramatic. No, seriously, last weekend, I sat in the second row at church staring at the earthenware wine jug on the communion table. Upon noticing the round shape of the pitcher’s belly, my next thought was of my own belly. Perhaps it was my cramping that made the thought ready: the last period of my thirties. Most sensible childless women my age have either deliberately avoided breeding, given up on the idea of having children, or frozen their eggs. I’ve done none of the above. A younger version of myself might have sat there pondering her barren womb, feeling more empty by the minute, but I didn’t.
My thoughts circled around to Sidney’s words, “Things only have the meaning we give to them.” Besides, I have long given up on making this birthday about what I haven’t done before now. I never really had a checklist anyway.
Andy and I are heading into the desert this week. Sedona, mostly. We’ll be at the Grand Canyon on the last day of my 39th year. One seventh of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World; check.
What will I see when I stand at the edge? I won’t know until I get there. But I assure you, that canyon is not empty.