In 2018, I turned 40. For my birthday, I hiked myself to the top of Courthouse Peak. I paddled Silver Jack Reservoir. I took myself out to dinner and then I camped in my truck near Yankee Boy Basin. The next day, I joined several friends for an adventurous hike to the Opus Hut. We ended up lost, scrambled down a scree slope and collapsed at the hut with wine and birthday celebrations.
I just knew that 40 was going to be freaking fantastic.
I am now on the cusp of turning 43. I can attest that every year of my 40s, not just the first one, has been freaking fantastic. My 40s have been full of adventure and career changes and leaps of faith. Mostly though, as cheesy as this sounds, my 40s have been full of gratitude.
From 2014, when I discovered my husband’s affair until 2017, when I finally met the other woman, there were a lot of tears. There were many, many days spent hiding deep in the covers of my bed. For a year or so, I felt like I had fallen into a desperate, bottomless hole and there was no way out. I spent hundreds of hours sobbing and screaming in therapy, searching for some kind of rational explanation for why my husband hated me so much that he lied to everyone about so many things.
It turned out, there was no rational explanation. It just was.
I did not wake up one day and think to myself, “oh hey self. I have news for you today. Not everything that happens to you happens for a reason.” Instead, it took an obscene amount of crying, some really terrible depression and anxiety, and an incredible amount of support from my therapist and my friends and family for me to come to a slow and gradual acceptance that sometimes you just get dealt a really shitty and exceptionally painful hand.
In my 40s, things began to shift. I was grateful to survive. I was grateful to leave a toxic partner behind. I was grateful to regain my sense of self and to find parts of myself that I had forgotten existed. In the past three years, I started my own company. I reveled in sleeping alone in my own king-sized bed. I planned and executed a lot of adventures, some solo. I dated several men, most of whom were emotionally needy and/or broke.
At some point, after dating one too many men who weren’t right for me, I sat down and made a list of qualities I wanted in a future partner. I wrote down obvious things such as “financially stable” (surprisingly difficult to find in over-40 single men in mountain towns) but also small things like “avid mountain biker but not super competitive” and “kisses me on the back of my neck.” At the bottom of the list, I wrote, Not required but nice to have: “a six-pack” because hey. That seemed like a nice idea.
The list served to guide my dating life but it also served as a reminder to myself: I am just as happy alone as I can be with someone else. If I do let someone else in my life, I can hold on to my values and my sense of self. I can still take my solo trips and insist on spending hours in my king-sized bed watching Netflix. I can take myself out to dinner or say nope, I’m not doing that today because I’m busy riding my bike.
And I can feel good about all of that.
In 2020, I met someone who checked all of the boxes on my list. As I write this piece, he is moving into my house, along with his 3 children. I have 2 of my own so we now have 5. FIVE children. Back in 2014, I would never have seen this one coming.
Back in 2014, I didn’t see a lot of things coming. Now, I feel grateful that all of those things DID come. They were expensive and heart-breaking but those events were incredibly effective teachers. My wise friend, Carlie, told me that nothing is a waste of time if you can evolve from it.
In seven years, I discovered that I thrive on my own, that we accept the love we deserve and that damn. There is so freaking much to be grateful for.
Eryn lives in Carbondale, Colorado with her partner and their combined 5 kids. When she’s not staring at a computer for job as a Customer Success Specialist, you can find her skiing, mountain biking, and rafting, both with kids and without. You can find her on Instagram @bonedalebetty.