Things Fall Apart: Let me tell you what 40 feels like

When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves. 

I turned forty during the week. Getting older had never bothered me. Look after yourself, of course, but embarking upon some sort of lifelong denial of the ageing process seems like a fool’s errand. But, if life is not going quite how you imagined it would be, big birthdays can start to feel a bit daunting.

A certain assessment sets in, even if you don’t want it to. Are you where you thought you’d be? Are certain things you assumed were givens now off the table?

Life advice


And then my friend Judith McAdam says to me “bloom where you are planted.” Judith is a healer, a spiritual advisor, a generally wonderful person and the author of The Source.

“Another addition to the team?” the Work Wife asks wryly. Because I am positively Kardashian in my entourage nowadays, collecting people-who-help like others collect stamps.

Related: As a parent, I'm learning to
take things one day at a time

'Bloom where you’re planted' is a far more appealing, far less annoying way of saying have glass half full thinking. There is nothing more irritating than being urged to think positively, to see the bright side. Up there, surely, with being told to relax, a 100% guaranteed method of inducing instant rage.

The same goes for being in a gym class and having the instructor shouting at you to work harder. The stuff of ensuring a red mist.

Related: It's okay to go into hibernation
when things get too much

'Bloom where you are planted' lacks the irritatingly didactic qualities of the above. It is simply saying, look about you, see what is already there, dig in. Appreciate it (but in a non-hectoring way). In a relaxed, non-striving way, settle in.


Look at the friends you have, or the work you love, or the family who will celebrate with you. Things that are already in your life.

Bloom where you are planted.

So much to celebrate

Instead of looking for what is not there, look at what is. The daughter who opens her eyes and without even being fully awake remembers first thing, and shouts, “Happy Birthday Mommy”. Who later that day, takes your face in her hands and says gently, “it can be your birthday until the weekend”.

The family who stayed up until you came home from dinner with your best friend so as to decorate the house when you had gone to bed.

Said best friend, with whom you almost share a birthday, and now enjoy an annual birthday dinner.

Related: I'm learning new ways to
manage my stress


The friend who suggests an outdoor swim on the morning of the birthday, and who when you balk, because you like to talk about doing this a lot, but are ultimately a total wimp about the cold, says she will do it anyway, to celebrate you.

The new friend you went out with last week, and the old ones you’re going for dinner with this weekend. The best school friend, known since you were both twelve,  who is travelling home, actually flying, to celebrate with you next week.

When all this is planted in your life, why would you let a milestone birthday make you feel anything other than lucky?

This is 40

If this article was an inspirational quote on Instagram, it would probably be saying something about being grateful. It would probably have to make a mention of being hashtag blessed.

“Is this the best birthday ever?” my four-year-old asks repeatedly on the day, in that manner typical of her age, a sort of assured confidence that it is, and it is because she is making it so. It’s similar to how she announces to all and sundry “I’m actually really good at tennis;” behaviour which kicked off before the tennis lessons had in fact begun. Bottle that confidence, I want to tell her.

And she would be right. It was the best birthday ever, in a way.


How does forty feel?  Solid. And satisfying, actually.

Photo by Lorene Farrugia on Unsplash 

More like this:

  • If your marriage is ending and your world has fallen apart, this letter's for you... here.
  • I’ve cracked the code to weekends as a single parent... here.
  • I pushed through the fear and came out stronger... here.

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