It’s my birthday today – that’s 40 years to the day (and 6pm to the hour) since a brand new shiny, slithery 7lbs of future wedding blogger emerged, bottom first, into the world. I arrived by breech birth and my poor mum had no idea. And she’d had no anaesthetic (this kind of suffering should result in an instant sainthood, surely?).
Something rather unexpected happened this week – I went from feeling really apprehensive about referring to my impending new age, to fully embracing and wanting to celebrate the number proudly. The truth is, I can’t deny that approaching my 40th hasn’t induced a mild sense of trepidation; ‘what if my readers don’t feel ‘connected’ to me any more?’. ‘What if I’ll feel ‘old’ all of a sudden?’. ‘What if people start judging me on my age?’.
Photographs taken by my dear friend Naomi Kenton
I guess I can’t be blamed – the media will have us convinced that ageism is something that women especially need to be concerned about – be it within the context of our career development or romantic relationships. Add the biological clock factor into the mix, and come 40 – late 30’s even, we’re being bombarded with cultural messages suggesting we’re over the hill with our best years behind us. It’s depressing! But only if you let it be 😉
With all the personal and professional plans bubbling away in my head, and knowing that I have yet, hopefully, to achieve many other significant life milestones, such as becoming a grandmother and seeing my own children celebrate getting older, I’ve realised more than ever this week that the negative messages around age should all be taken with a rather large pinch of salt.
As it turns out, the last few days have swept away any niggling anxieties I had about turning 40 and in so doing, established a new sense of apathy for ‘age concern’. Bravo me! I’ve come to realise that the age you are is nothing but a measure of time passed since you were birthed into the world. But whilst being 40 does not define who I am, I am unbelievably thankful and relieved to have reached this significant life anniversary with my full health behind me. I’m really pretty bloody lucky.
I’m so grateful that I live in a part of the world where being 40 represents the very early onset of ‘middle age’, not ‘likely to die soon from a hideous disease caused by lack of basic medical equipment and sanitary supplies’ age. I am relieved to be 40 today and to not have been subjected to child labour or denied an education or to have been forced into marriage. I am grateful that I am 40 today and that I have my freedom and ability to exercise my basic human rights, and that I have access to clean running water, a roof over my head and warm bed to sleep in at night.
I am ecstatic that at 40, I’ve been able to birth two beautiful, healthy children and marry the love of my life and I could not be more content that at 40, I feel healthier, fitter (OK, always room for improvement!), sexier and more comfortable in my own skin than I have at any other stage or age in my life. Makes 21 and 30 feel like child’s play.
Me, and some of the most brilliant, supportive and inspirational women I know
(at my party this week!)
This week, a surprise birthday party was had – the result of weeks of secret planning by some best friends. It was an elegant evening of great food and great company at a very posh hotel in London and in one of their very top suites, no less. I was spoiled rotten and made to feel incredibly special by these sweet, kind, wonderful woman. Knowing that I don’t drink (I’ve been teetotal for 14 months as a result of changes towards a healthier lifestyle), my friends purposefully arranged a relaxed and glamorous evening with lots of thoughtful touches like delicious mocktails, personalised cakes, biscuits, sweet treats and a venue that offered an olfactory experience like no other (the Rosewood Hotel has it’s own ‘Director of Scent’ – everywhere you are, it smells utterly divine!). I felt overwhelmed but so happy, and loved seeing my friends each proudly revel in the success of their clandestine party-planning skills.
The adorable Kate halfpenny below, who organised my surprise party
I realise it’s a cliche, but I truly do feel blessed to be able to call such an inspiring and supportive group of women my friends. It feels like now I’m 40, I’ve had time to figure out who the good guys are – the friends that will be by my side no matter what and I really want to nurture and nourish these friendships for the rest of my life.
My lovely friends having fun at my party
As I sit and reflect on having reached this birthday milestone today, I realise that the definition of who I am has nothing to do with my age, and everything to do with all the amazing individuals in my life who have shaped and guided, inspired and challenged, supported, enlightened and loved me – weaknesses, mistakes, vulnerabilities and all. I might not drink champagne any more, but today I will be raising a glass of pink lemonade to all these people in my life today – past and present.
Darling Kate and Kate, Naomi, Laura, Tamryn, Emma, Ruth, Elizabeth, Charley and Issidora – I am full of gratitude to each of you for making me feel so special this week. You are all wonderful women who influence and motivate me all of the time to be a better human being and friend. I will cherish the memories we made on Thursday evening, particularly the ones involving some very posh toilets *wink wink* 🙂 I’m sorry too that some of my lovely friends couldn’t make it on the evening – you were much missed and I love you too.
Today, it’s all about my family, catching up on the phone with loving relations and spending time with those closest to my heart – my dear husband Philip and our two little girls Eska and Leanora. Philip and I away for much of October, so we’ll be popping out for a little lunch but then at my own request, we’ll be hanging out for the rest of the day on the sofa together, watching movies, playing games and just appreciating each others company. I couldn’t honestly thing of anything more perfect to do on my 40th birthday – but sit back, soak up the day and remind myself peacefully how very lucky and very happy I am right now.
Me on the right with the beautiful Tamryn, who writes for Love My Dress
40, I really love you, and I’m proud to wear your badge today.
Have a lovely day everyone, especially if it’s your birthday today too (hello Ian!), and do have an extra slice of Sunday cake on me 🙂
Love Annabel xx