A reflection of lessons learned so far by Ora Riley, 48 and Sandra Bailey, 42 co-founders of Life Beyond 40.
Find joy in every day. (Ora)
Finding the joy in every day does not mean we ignore our troubles and trials, it simply means that we choose not to be defined by them. I’ve learned that joy is different from happiness in that joy comes from deep within. Joy is meaningful. Joy is life-changing. Joy is healthy. Studies show that experiencing joy on a regular basis can boost our immune systems and help us fight stress. Joy is said to increase our lifespan, so finding joy is the perfect plan.
Know there is still time. (Sandra)
Forty is not the end. You are not too old, and it is not too late. There is no such thing as “over the hill.” Life is a hill—an upward climb to wherever you want to be. Sometimes that climb is steep, and sometimes it’s more manageable. Just know that as long as there is breath in your body and a willingness in your heart, you can start new things at any moment. It may not be the way you thought it would turn out, but being innovative and intentional with your goals is the only hurdle. We never know when the sand in the hourglass of our life will run out, but today there is still time. Go big!
Get clear on your boundaries. (Ora)
Setting boundaries allows us to take charge of our lives beyond 40 by expressing clear expectations on how we wish to be treated. Setting boundaries is a form of self-care and a sign of self-respect. Boundaries protect our mental health and support our overall wellness. In order to set boundaries, you have to know your values and your limits. Most important, you have to know you.
Nurture your friendships. (Sandra)
Turning 40 did not look as expected for me. I am without a spouse, significant other, or children, so I’ve had to lean on my friendships. Hearing my friends’ perspectives of what life is like for them has made me feel less alone in my thoughts and feelings. I’ve learned that friendships are “chosen family.” Making new friends may be more difficult as you get older; however, sometimes they can be that much more valuable. Making time for them, and them for you, makes all of the difference as time takes you further from youth and into middle age.
Live unapologetically. (Ora)
Forty is the time to finally live your life unapologetically without being consumed with what others think about you or the choices you make for yourself or for your family. It’s the time to embrace your truest self including the good, the bad, and even the unfavorable circumstances that have shaped you into the woman you are today. Forty is the time to love yourself unconditionally and live your life on your own terms.
Honor your feelings. (Sandra)
Hormones change, and moods certainly rearrange. Things feel deeper after 40. Emotions seem to be right there at the surface. That tear is lingering in your eye; the rage is boiling in your spirit for the smallest things; that hurt from a partner, family member or friend seems like the ultimate betrayal. You may feel like the most alone, the most annoyed. All of these feelings, although heightened, are issues that will need to be resolved, either through therapy, a medical check on your hormones, a good old fashion confronting-the-issue, or a combination of all three! Either way, you need to sit in those feelings. Write them out, and then determine how you will address each one. You can only do so much in the moment, but use the reflecting period to give yourself grace (no good comes from beating yourself up on how you reacted). Honor your feelings, but then do what is best for you to move through them and on to your emotionally stable life.
Take care of your mental health. (Ora)
Life beyond 40 comes with a multitude of changes to our bodies including the onset of perimenopause which causes our hormones to fluctuate. Perimenopause symptoms can include weight gain, brain fog, and mood swings among other things. These changes can start to take a toll on our self-image, mental health, and well-being if left untreated. When something feels off, trust your gut. Women between the ages of 40 and 59 have the highest rates of depression of any group. Seek professional help when needed; stay in touch with family and friends; and keep an open line of communication with your healthcare providers.
Check on your body. (Sandra)
Everyone knows that 40 is the typical time for self breast exams (and you should definitely do that!), but let’s not forget self body exams and self mental exams. Is that a tickle in my throat? Am I using my left arm more than my right? Is that a crunching sound in my knee when I walk up that step? Life gets busy, but the busy-ness should not get in the way of you checking on those things that tend to need more attention as we get older. Don’t take care of your teeth? There’s only a matter of time you lose them. Don’t go to physical therapy for that knee? Later, you may need a cane. Check in now on those things that cause pain or need to be addressed. It’s critical. That check engine light will definitely start blinking more as you grow older, and you need to be sure that you frequently take your body in for a diagnostic test.
Walk in faith. (Ora)
Life beyond 40 can bring with it some challenging times like the declining health of parents, a loss in your sense of purpose, or the death of loved ones. When we experience these challenges, it’s easy to lose hope, causing our faith to diminish. Having faith is believing, without knowing for certain, that things are going to get better. Walking in faith means that we face life’s challenges under the armor of “I’m going to be okay.” Stay armored with hope and faith.
Enjoy every moment. (Sandra)
You’ll never be this age again. Learn to really enjoy the parts of your life that you never thought possible and the parts that were unexpected treasures. Waking up is an enjoyable thing when you realize that several others did not do that today. That makes every moment worth living. The moments of our past were gone in the blink of an eye. That’s the joy of being alive after 40, we get to do a review of our life up to this point and course-correct as needed for the next chapters. We often don’t take the time in our teens, 20’s and 30’s to be grateful in the moment. So, now is the time to sit back and recognize when times are good, when peace abounds, and when love is felt.
Co-Founder, Life Beyond 40
Newer to the decade of 40, Sandra has dedicated her career to being a problem solver and organizer for a variety of organizations and companies. When not setting a space for women in their 40’s to have complicated conversations about life, love, and normalizing the entire experience, she is traveling the world and brunching with friends.
Sandra believes that dreams can still come true and wisdom has taught us that no conversation is off limits. We need each other; therefore, we should destigmatize hiding the realities of our lives and feelings after 40!
Ora Wiseman Riley
Co-Founder, Life Beyond 40
Ora Riley is a former media professional, turned educator from Southern California. She has spent the last 15 years as a resident on the East Coast where she has been recognized for her communications efforts and outreach work involving youth and disadvantaged groups.
Now, as a content creator, emerging mompreneur, and chronic illness advocate, Ora is dedicated to serving as an inspiration to women navigating new and unexpected chapters of life at age 40 and beyond. Here’s to joy in midlife!