Some say life begins at 40. I see it a little bit differently.

Your forties, when bad things happen to good people.

Your forties, when it truly is the best of times and the worst of times.

I am in my forties. How is it even possible?

My forties. When I no longer get caught up in the drama and realize that I am in control of my own happiness. When my friendships are flourishing, and I’m rediscovering why I married my husband. When I know what is important and how to get there. When my skin is much thicker, and I’m much more comfortable in it—most days.

My forties, when it all starts to come together yet you know it could fall apart at any second.

With the confidence and control of your forties, there also seems to be a steady stream of bad news. Friends who for the first time are facing their parents’ mortality and must make difficult decisions. News of cancer diagnoses for those you love or sometimes their children. Phone calls about marriages ending or addictions or senseless tragedies. It never seems to end and knows no boundaries.

And while I realize that this sort of news happens at all times throughout your life, it seems to affect me more now, in my forties.

We seem to spend so much of the first half of our lives trying to get to where we want to be, and the second half trying to protect it. Whereas I used to just feel bad for someone going through something tough, now I become consumed with the fact that it could easily have been my marriage, my child, my health affected.

Now that I’m in my forties, I know exactly what my life is about, and how lucky I am to have it. I know how fragile the balance is between taking risks and ensuring the preservation of the life I love—and those in it. I am grateful—every day—as opposed to just when life rears its ugly head of bad news at me.

And yet, sometimes I become paralyzed by fear. Frozen in the fact that at any given second on any given day all I have worked for and been given the past 40-something years can be taken away, and it consumes me. How can I be so lucky? How can I be so deserved when these horrific things are happening to these good people? How can we go on when others cannot?

But thankfully, I have 40-plus years of experience under my belt. Thankfully, I know I can survive what seems un-survivable, overcome what seems impossible. Thankfully, I know what I have, and I no longer take it for granted.

Because I know one day, it will be my turn to get that horrible phone call or upsetting doctor’s message or troubling text, and I will have a choice. I can surrender to my fears or I can draw strength from the life I have built and the people I have chosen to be in it.

And I will live my life helping those who get their bad news, knowing they will be there when I may get mine.

Because in my forties, I know that I have a lot of greatness in front of me.

But I’m in my forties, and I know that nothing lasts forever.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.