The Art of Turning 40

Your skin may have lost its glow, but you can still dance until your knees ache

Nicole Peeler
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readJun 13, 2019


Illustration: Julien Posture

On the morning you turn 40, wake up filled with gratitude. You’ve made it four decades on this beautiful earth, and you have so much to be thankful for.

If you’re not exactly sure what you should be thankful for, check your “gratitude” planner, which you recently purchased after reading that article in the newspaper. The one that explains how writing down what you’re grateful for will help you not drown yourself in the toilet after reading any given morning’s headlines, because everything is on fire and the world seems run entirely by people who want to watch it burn.

Be grateful you read that article, which not only taught you how important gratitude is and inspired you to buy your specialty planner, but also suggested you begin mindfulness meditation. Which you are totally going to start after your birthday. It’s in your planner.

For now, get up and put on your gym clothes. This is a privilege! You’re turning 40, and you’re healthy enough to exercise. Pencil this into your list of things to be grateful for today.

Go downstairs and make a smoothie. Mentally tabulate the calories so you can enter them into the weight loss app you downloaded years ago. Then remember you deleted that app after you read a book about intuitive eating. Remind yourself that life shouldn’t be about dieting, but about health, even as you covertly plan what you can eat for the rest of the day, so as not to go over the calories you now feel ashamed about counting.

Tell yourself to stop feeling ashamed.

Feel ashamed that you can’t stop feeling ashamed.

Answer your phone when it rings. It will be your parents. Your father’s terrible back problems remind you once again to feel grateful and that exercise really is about health. Listen as your mother tells you that, since retiring at 75, she’s been walking six miles a day and is now a size four.

“Happy birthday,” she says. “I’m a size four.”

Imagine beating your mother to death with your phone.

Tell your parents you love them and are grateful for them because you do and you are, even…