I’ve been in my 40s for a few years now, long enough to reflect on all the gifts life gives in this new decade which used to sound so old. Now that I have arrived here I realize, of course, I am still oh so young and 16-year-old me is still alive and kicking right behind my wrinkles and reading glasses and slightly saggy neck.

In no particular order, here’s a sampling of the awesomeness life has given me now that I have reached my 40s.

Life gave me so much laughter, the carefree kind that comes not from laughing at other people but instead from finding the joy in the beauty and absurdity and chaos of the world. This gift is even more fun when received in your 40s because it may require you strike a cross-legged pose lest your bladder betray you and that pose is also hilarious.

Life gave me the gift of embracing myself just as I am without having to change a thing, the gift of settling into my own skin is so freeing. Especially since at the same time my skin seems to be giving up on looking youthful and glowing, it just wants to literally hang.

Life gave me the ability to fall asleep anywhere, no matter how early or how good the show is I’m watching, mouth open and not a care in the world. This also came with the gift of being up a few hours in the middle of each night thinking through all the problems of the world to make up for falling asleep so early. I’m hoping this is a break even, but the fact that my body now runs on a half a pot of coffee a day let’s me know that I’m on the losing end of the sleep battle. But coffee is joy so the half a pot goes in the win column.

Life gave me more grey hairs and also the gift of not being able to see them without my glasses. Total score here, most days I can just give myself a nod and tell myself I look just as young as ever. That is until one of my kids decides to use their young eyes to point out there’s a little grey up on the roots. Thanks kids . . . so helpful. (And why do they not use that amazing sight to find that one shoe they can’t find in the morning??)

Life gave me perspective to see beyond myself and understand that different is not only OK it’s beautiful. We’re all as God made us and what truth there is in this gift. After years of trying to fit into others’ clothes and opinions it is just a joy to be so happy with the knowledge that I’m just supposed to be me. In the 40s there is little time for convincing others we have found the right way to be, we’re too busy learning from each other. It’s an amazing gift.

Life gave me 10 extra pounds, so I figure that’s like getting some actual bonus me. I admit I’ve tried to return this gift but darn it if I’m not having a hard time. No longer can I stop eating bread 10 minutes and run two miles and find my jeans nice and loose. That’s a gift you get in your teens and it wears out around this time and life does not gift you with a new one. So, I use my gift of acceptance here, realizing I’m supposed to embrace these extra pounds as a gift to those around me because now there’s more of me to love.

Life gave me the ability to forgive those that hurt me because of the gift of understanding the truth that usually people’s actions have very little to do with me. I can forgive and offer empathy when I know this to be true. I am super grateful for this gift and it feels like freedom.

Life gave me people who have now known me for years. The value of a friend that helped you tease your bangs up in the 90’s now sharing in the joy of your child’s 12th birthday just cannot be beat. Those people who knew you when you were still figuring yourself out, celebrating who you turned out to be is a gift I couldn’t have imagined in my teens and I am so happy to have received it.

So here’s to our 40s my friends, the years where we feel just nowhere near as old as we thought our parents were at this age. The years where we are free to be ourselves and live our lives in a way we couldn’t have seen coming in our twenties. And the years where we realize we are so grateful for the gifts that come with this age that we wouldn’t exchange a single one, not even for wrinkle free skin or eyes that can read a menu unassisted. It’s all too beautiful to be just as we are.

In the 40s there is little time for convincing others we have found the right way to be, we’re too busy learning from each other. It’s an amazing gift.

Amy Betters-Midtvedt

Amy Betters-Midtvedt is a writer, educator, mom of 5 crazy kids, wife to a patient husband, and lover of Jesus. She writes along with her friend and former teaching partner Erin over at Hiding in the Closet With Coffee. Our mission is to help parents find sanity and joy, and we know sometimes joy is found hiding out in the closet with coffee, or hiding out on Facebook — come and join us both! You can read more about us here. You can also find us hiding out over at InstagramPinterest, and Twitter.