‘6 mid-life lessons I’ve learned in the years after I turned 40’

Nov 06, 2021
"There are countless lessons I have learned over the years, but especially since I turned 40," writes Louise. Source: Stock Photo/Getty Images

There are countless lessons I have learned over the years, but especially since I turned 40. Now that I’m 60, I have been looking back on my life and pondering how I have matured.

Some might create a long list of the things they’ve learned over the years, but there are six things I’ve learned about life after 40 that are worth sharing.

Contradictions

Life is full of contradictions. It is predictable and unpredictable at the very same time.

Some days bring challenges, some joy, but you get through the day, the sun comes up in the morning, and things carry on. I never worry too much about the dark days, as the bright days will often follow, however unlikely it seems at the time.

Silver linings can exist, and we get to know the ebbs and flows as we age.

Happiness

Happiness is about the small things in life for me. Not the big achievements that are fleeting.

It’s about maintaining a regularity, and a pace through life. And for me a routine.

It comes back to balance, if I let one element get out of kilter by not doing enough, or doing too much, then I feel unhappy or disappointed in myself. We cannot always control this, because our family members may be unwell, our jobs might be in jeopardy, and we might have health scares that we did not anticipate.

Yet, with patience and effort and hope and luck, it is possible to get through.

It’s an adage, that we cannot be in total control of our lives, but we can be in control, of how we react to what life throws at us. Easier said than done, but a life lesson that as we age, we understand has value.

Perfection

Do not strive to be perfect. Perfection is the enemy of action.

Often, I have thought about writing an award winning TV show, painting a masterpiece, losing lots of weight to be a perfect healthy size, and that sometimes makes it difficult get started. The best way forward is to take little steps to get to where you want to go … and then sometimes some of it happens.

Know you are moving in the right direction, not just standing still, or even going backwards. Something is better than nothing.

Family

Children are a source of joy and consternation in our lives.

I’m not lucky enough to have grandchildren yet, but I know from what my friends tell me, they tend to be a source of huge joy (and sometimes hard work!). I wonder if this is because — as my parents used to say to me — we can hand them back?!

I have no regrets having children, but had another life been offered up to me where children were not part of it, I am sure it would have been equally happy because families come in all shapes and sizes.

Really all that matters, is not whether you have gone through the process of giving birth yourself, it is that you are part of a wider community. Your chosen family. This has shown me to be good for the soul … and our longevity.

Love of the Earth

The general zeitgeist feels different in the last 20 years. Although, I remember well, during my childhood, days where we picked up litter during field trips.

Climate change and care for the planet isn’t anything new. People have been aware of these issues for decades.

It doesn’t take much to understand that the major industrial revolutions that moved society forward in the past, also had a price to pay. A scar to the earth, which we are now having to redress to make sure our grandchildren still have this beautiful world to live and grow up in, just as we did.

We know we have to create the improvements that allow us to transition our traditional technologies to have their proper place in a safer world. There is some pain in this, but that is something we have to face. We owe it to our planet. We owe it to our children.

Ageing

At 40, I didn’t worry much about getting older. I might have bought an expensive pot of face cream as a treat occasionally, but happily baked on the beach for longer than was sensible. And coconut oil was sometimes in the beach bag…

I’d exercise regularly, not worrying about the benefits for older age, just enjoying the happy endorphins it brought and the opportunity to enjoy a meal out, a glass of wine at home, knowing I was (in my mind) earning it. Now I try a bit harder, use factor 50 every day, to prevent skin cancer and perhaps less wrinkles.

I will save general anaesthetic for hip surgery not a perkier smile!

I still go to the gym, and still justify my efforts to allow fun with friends!

What about the future? Life is messy, glorious and I look forward to a lot more of it. Hopefully I’ll be looking back at age 80 to see what I learned from my 60s. After all, they say life starts at 60!

There are indeed an overwhelmingly long list of things I have learned since 40 (or been forced to learn!), but a lot of them came down to the above. Having said that I could add, look after your teeth, keep reading glasses in every room, and as Winnie the Pooh says “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference”.

What life lessons have you learned?

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