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This isn’t the post I was supposed to write.

I was supposed to tell you a funny story about turning 40. I was supposed to tell you about how I spent my 40th birthday at the BlissDom Conference in Nashville. How I met Jon Acuff, who was completely inspiring.

How Joe Jonas gave a concert just for us and even brought a cake on stage and sang “Happy Birthday” — to someone else (wah wah waaaaah). (And how I inserted my name into the song when I sang it, anyway. So there.)

How I got my picture taken with Rascal Flatts, and Gary Levox put his arm around me and genuinely wished me a Happy Birthday. And how I also got my picture taken with Joe Jonas, who said “Happy Birthday” with his lips but “Oh, yeah, SURE it’s your birthday too, you pathetic cougar” with his eyes.

How I drank a couple blood orange martinis, a couple glasses of wine and one glass of a gross martini concoction made with Swiss Miss hot cocoa (recipe fail!). How I hung out with sweet friends who did their best to make my day special.

How I possibly pilfered a very large poster of The Lorax… (Unless someone from “The Lorax” PR is reading this, and then I most certainly did not.)

That was the post I had planned to write.

But instead, this is the post that came out.

I apologize in advance for any disappointment or general dissatisfaction this may cause you…

About a year ago, I decided I was going to “work on myself” so that I could enter my forties looking good, feeling good (and hopefully, smelling good). I even went so far as to post a time or two about it on my blog. You know, to make me accountable.

Well, we can all see how that worked out…

Blame it on my layoff, blame it on our move or blame it on my favorite scapegoat — my thyroid — it doesn’t really matter. Fact is, I fell off the fit-n-healthy wagon almost before I even got myself hoisted up there.

And contrary to my wishful thinking, my birthday went ahead and came anyway.

I’m usually not one who cares too much about age. I didn’t used to give too much thought to my appearance, either. But now I realize it wasn’t because I’m one of those self-assured women who’s confident in herself no matter what size she’s up to or how many chins she is currently carrying around.

I didn’t give much thought about it before because I didn’t have to. I was relatively young, relatively thin and relatively attractive. I’ve never turned the most heads in a crowd, but I’ve never sent people screaming out of the room either.

Maybe that’s why this big bad birthday has been so hard for me to swallow. Gaining weight has robbed me of my “relatively thin” status, and the extra pounds, as well as the cystic acne flareups that always choose the most opportune times to reappear, don’t make me feel even relatively attractive — and now I am officially kicked out of the “thirty-something” club. Super.

So celebrating my birthday at BlissDom in Nashville seemed like the answer to my birthday blahs. I would rub elbows with inspiring women! I would doll myself up and put on a big smile! I would magically feel younger and prettier! (And a sturdy pair of Spanx would surely make me feel thinner!)

However, it didn’t work quite that way.

I woke up February 24 (after keeping my friend and conference bed-partner awake half the night with my ladylike snores), showered, got dressed, carefully applied makeup and fixed my hair, and I looked in the mirror.

“I look like a lesbian,” I said.

Which is really a crappy thing to say because most lesbians I know look way cuter than I looked, or at least than I felt. What I probably should’ve said is, “I look like Liz Lemon looks when Jack Donaghy tells her she looks like a lesbian.”

Except I didn’t even feel as cute as Lez Liz. At least she has shoulder-length hair, which makes her look a little more feminine even when she wears frumpy shirts and tennis shoes. My hair is currently going through a “phase,” we’ll call it. It’s too short and unfortunately I don’t have that cute pixie face to pull it off. Just picture my face with Kenneth Parcell’s hair. That’s what I felt like.

My self-confidence already waning, it didn’t take much to make me want to crawl back into bed. So seeing about 500 women who are not only smart and successful but also have ka-POW bodies and long, luscious locks didn’t really help matters. Instead of feeling like “one of them,” I felt like the ugly stepsister. The ugly, OLDER stepsister. I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hiss, “Look away, I’m hideous!”

But sometime late afternoon, after I had thrown myself the mother of all pity parties, I began to feel something change inside me. I ducked out of the session I was in a little early and took a walk through the beautiful Gaylord Opryland by myself.

And I realized that over the last few three or four years, one word has been consistently resurfacing within me: humility.

And it just reared its head again.

I thought back to when I first realized this was something I was supposed to be working on, and I remembered how harsh and cold humility seemed.

But now, instead of being an ugly word that I despised, I saw it as something else. Gentler. Softer.

Prettier.

Some of my vanity and misplaced self-pity then began to melt away. And I started to see myself as God sees me.

And I knew then that God wants me to enter my forties humble.

He wants me to enter this next phase of my life with humility so I can take the focus off myself and see through His eyes. Because it’s sure hard to notice anything else when you’re concentrating so hard on yourself.

I don’t think I’m the biggest egotist who ever walked the planet or anything. But the thing is, that doesn’t matter. It’s not a contest. I don’t “win” anything by being less self-absorbed than Snooki or the Kardashians. But I stand to lose every gift God has for me if I take my eyes off Him to stare at myself in the mirror.

That’s not to say that I’m now going to keep packing on the pounds and completely let myself go. That God doesn’t love people who are physically fit or have flawless faces. No, that’s not it at all.

I can still “work on myself.” After all, God created this body just for me. I should still “work on myself.”

I just have to work on myself for the right reasons.

Related posts:

  1. Happy (Belated) Birthday, Baby!
  2. Happy Birthday to the Grandpa of Boogers and Burps
  3. A birthday party match made in heaven
 

10 Responses to The 40th birthday post

  1. Sara Broers says:

    Love your post! I thought of you as they brought that cake out for “someone” else! BTW- I did say your name when we were singing Happy Birthday! Enjoy your 40′s, Girlfriend!
    Sara Broers´s last [type] ..A Little Of This- A Little Of That- It Is Only Laundry

    [Reply]

    Paula Reply:

    @Sara Broers, thanks for singing my name! That was so nice of you! :) Wish we could’ve hung out more at BlissDom, but hey, we’re only a few hours apart. We’ll have to make it a point to get together soon!

    [Reply]

  2. Sarahviz says:

    I love you, friend.
    Sarahviz´s last [type] ..Buzzer Beater

    [Reply]

    Paula Reply:

    @Sarahviz, aww, love you too. Thanks for hanging out late with me. It better not be another two years before we hang out again!

    [Reply]

  3. Susan says:

    Ah, Paula. That was beautiful. We are all just trying to survive. I’m holding out for my new favorite quote (by Conan OBrien nonetheless – because I aim high on the philosophers) If you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen. And you are kind and amazing. The rest will follow. Happy Birthday, my dear friend!

    [Reply]

  4. Jody says:

    I was reading this to Doug today and he commented on how your writing evoked imagery and emotion. Honey, you have such a gift. So glad you let me into your world- no matter how “humble” it is!

    PS Send my pics of my little bunny from Blissdom, ‘K?
    Jody´s last [type] ..Where Would You Spend Your Last Year on Earth?

    [Reply]

  5. Rhonda Tinkham says:

    Beautifully put Paula! Thank you for following the spirit and sharing. :)

    [Reply]

  6. Grandma of Boogers and Burps says:

    Another wonderful post, Dear Paula…and Well, I feel your pain. I always thought that some day I would be a beautiful swan. Didn’t happen! I’ve never had men swoon at my feet (whatever that means). But I’ve looked into the souls of children and listened and learned from them most of my adult life and that has given me a beautiful life. And it surely does help that I know God knows my foibles only too well…and loves me anyway. So if I can make His world a little better place each day then I’m rich…and maybe a beautiful swan also. And I’ve remembered the wonderful advice given to me long ago from a 4th grader, “When you don’t smile, Mrs. Peterson, you look mean!”

    [Reply]

  7. Peggy says:

    Nice post! You always see things in such an awesome way!

    [Reply]

  8. Andi says:

    People love you for what is inside, really truly. We are more worried about our own appearance (even those pretty and skinny girls we hate) than others are. And as I am two years into the 40 club I can tell you that you just have to get more comfortable with yourself, because with luck you still have half a life to live and there are definitely more important things to worry about and focus on. Love you and Happy Birthday!
    Andi´s last [type] ..Travel Tip Thursday – Checking out your room amenities before you need them

    [Reply]

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