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On turning 40, coming out & savoring life on the periphery

Today I turned 40.

I’ve heard women say time and again that after 40 you just stop caring what other people think of you and live your life.

The thing is, I’ve always had a pretty wide and visible streak of ‘who gives a fuck’ when it comes to other people’s opinions of my life and how I live it.  Which has made me curious to find out what that would become when I turned 40.

Now that day is here.

I’m not flustered by the number. Having my son turn 22 and my oldest daughter turn 19 this year…that flustered me. But 40? Nah.

What I am is finished.

I’m finished with the struggle to fit into a world I have never fit into. Ever.

I should probably back up a little and explain what about my life actually sits on the periphery….in what ways am I just shy of normal.


I was a teenage mom and a mother of two before I was old enough to legally drink.

When you’re visibly pregnant at 20 and dropping your son off at preschool the other mothers whisper, but they don’t try be your friends. I’m sure it didn’t help that I looked quite a bit younger than I was. Still, potential friends were either my age and unable to understand the responsibilities of motherhood or they were moms that were unwilling to be seen cavorting with the girl the other moms loved to whisper about.

Then, I became a mom again in my late 30s….to twins. Again I missed the appropriate age window of the other moms. I won’t even go into the endless and awful “better you than me” comments about having twins!

But not having a whole gaggle of mom friends wasn’t so bad. I’m quite happily not interested in scrapbooking or home decorating or comparative parenting or play dates or…oh gawd please no….mommy & me classes. Yes, I know, it’s heresy. I’m a heretic.

But there’s more.

My Work

Let’s start with the fact that I’m self-employed, which makes me an odd duck in grand scheme of people who earn a living. I’m also a work-at-home mom, which makes me an odd duck even in the world of the self-employed. Oh…and I’m a homeschooling work-at-home mom. But more on that in a bit.

To top it off, I’m a web worker …which just means that the majority of my client interaction and income earning is done over the internet.  Judging from the reactions I get at local networking events and family gatherings, this apparently is akin to voodoo or time travel.

And still there’s more.

My views on pretty much everything

I am an unschooling, libertarian, atheist.  There I said it.  Though if you’ve known me for more than five minutes, none of this is a secret.  I tend to have a hard time biting my tongue about some things.

This all stems organically from a profound respect for individualism and personal accountability.  I’ll spare you the soapbox about how our educational, political and religious systems are all rooted in some form of indoctrination. And how, in my not-so-humble opinion, indoctrination is the antithesis to individuality, creativity and innovation.

I said no soapbox, so I’ll stop there.  If you want to know more about my views, all you have to do is ask or friend me on Facebook.  I’m an open book and I can vamp about them for hours…okay, you’re right, days.

I would never expect everyone to see the world exactly the way I do. Mostly because that would be insufferably boring.  I am more than happy to share my opinions and am always fascinated by the conversations that take place when I do.

The point is that my point of view on pretty much everything tends to put me on the outskirts again.

I’m out of the bubble with other parents. With traditional homeschooling parents. I’m even on the outskirts with what seems to be the majority of other unschooling parents in that I’m not a vegan or into attachment parenting and in thinking it’s incredibly important that my girls have manners.

Then there’s the political and spiritual outskirts. Did you know most atheists are liberal? Did you know most libertarians are not atheists? And did I mention I live in East Tennessee which is quite possibly one of the most traditionally conservative corners of our fine country? So, yeah. Outskirts.

And still there’s more.

The closet I’m busting out of…right now

There’s one more thing about my life that is not like the others.  One more thing that informs how I live, how I parent, the choices I make, how I spend my time….everything.

It informs everything about me, but does not define me. Not anymore than any one of the things I mentioned above could possibly define me.

I don’t talk about it because it’s awkward.

But not talking about it is also awkward.

You see, I live with chronic pain. Every day. Chronic, persistent pain.

It’s one thing I don’t talk about often. Not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because other people typically don’t know how to respond.  Sympathy and pity are standard reactions. Most people with chronic illnesses don’t want that. We just want the people we care about to be aware.

I have a connective tissue disorder known as Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type III.  It causes my body to produce defective collagen. In Type III EDS, this mostly affects my joints and my skin. In other types of EDS, the organs and vascular systems can be affected…which is much more severe.

For me, in any given day, I typically have at least five or six joints that are subluxated or dislocated. I am most affected in my ribs, hands and knees.

The pain and way-too-easy, accidental dislocations keep me from being as physically active as I would love to be.  I even had to quit playing roller derby because of this disorder.  Oh, wait…roller derby…that’s kinda on the outskirts of normal too, isn’t it? Huh.

All of this lack of activity has led to weight gain…which seems to have plateaued at this point, so that’s cool. The disorder also means that my energy reserves are depleted ridiculously fast. Fast as in walking from the parking lot into the store leaves me little to no reserves for actual shopping.

Having an invisible illness opens the door to all kinds of head trash.

Wondering if people are going to assume I’m so ‘curvy’ because I like my nutella a little too much?  (which I do)

Will they think I’m lazy because I don’t play with my girls at the playground?

Will I miss out on all of the bonding at the retreat because I didn’t go on the hike in the evening? Will they think I’m anti-social for not going? (which I totally can be)

If I ask my lunch companion to please drop me off at the door will she think I’m some kind of pampered diva?

The head trash never stops. Ever.

I don’t expect it to stop because I magically turned 40 today…even though I may have been secretly hoping.

I’m just finished with it.

The 40 year struggle to find my place in this world, has taught me one thing: I can’t change who I am…not that I’d want to…but even if I did, I couldn’t.

This is me.  I can’t stop being me anymore than I can stop being short.

I can stop expecting people to just know and understand what’s going on in my head, in my heart, in my body.

I’m going to take a queue from my openness about my dissenting views on pretty much everything, and teach myself to be open about my illness as well.

It’s time to push myself into the light. All of me. Even the jiggly bits that I don’t necessarily want other people to see.

No, especially the jiggly bits. Because that’s the stuff that makes us real.

Those are the things that connect us. Edge-walker to edge-walker.

Hmm, that’s odd: We’re a lot alike you and me.

What’s that you say? You want to give me a birthday present?

Awww, I’d love that!

I’d love to know you a little bit better.

Share your tales from the periphery.  When have you been on the outside looking in? How does it feel to hide an immutable part of yourself from the world? How have you (or will you) overcome that?

Leave a comment or write a blog post of your own and link back to this post.

There will be no more hiding in the wings.

XOXO ~ Larah

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14 Responses to On turning 40, coming out & savoring life on the periphery

  1. Mary C. Weaver, CSCS November 20, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Larah, just wanted to say that I’m so sorry to hear about your chronic pain!

  2. Rhiannon November 20, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    You are the kind of person you never want to lose track of once you are lucky enough to become friends with, because you are SO AMAZINGLY yourself. I always feel braver, smarter, and more capable when I’m around you.

    I love you, Larah!! 🙂

  3. Jenn R. November 20, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    Happy Birthday! Fuck yeah!

  4. Birdy Diamond November 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    *hugs!* I hear you! 🙂 :>

    Let me ponder & get back to you – although, you too, probably know a great deal of it from our contact over the last while. 🙂 :>

  5. Sonia Quinones November 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Oh Larah, your post moved me to tears. There are things I’m afraid to share but know that I will have to feel easier within my heart. So thank you for being so wonderful about sharing yourself. I’m grateful to be getting to know you.

    I turned 45 this year, which utterly stunned me. And yet I also say welcome to 40. It really is a wonderful decade.

  6. Treya November 21, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    I love you. Thanks for being so damn honest and accountable.

  7. Rachel Rodgers November 21, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Loved this! Thank you so much for sharing. In talking about how different we all are, it makes us realize we’re all kinda alike in our secret differentness.

    And I can relate to you in that I am a flaming-on-fire liberal living in an uber conservative part of the country. Oh, and I’m brown and there are very few other brown people here – except for my husband and daughter. But I still have found people I really like and really relate to even though we’re different colors of skin and political parties. So much for differentness. 😉

    Thank you again for sharing!

  8. Tabatha Trexler November 21, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Thoroughly enjoyed this piece and all others you post.

    I am so glad you are here because I have always felt out of place myself. Thinking outside the box is just a wonderful thing but can sometimes feel like a burden when I can’t find others that can relate. At times I feel isolated from the general population that has its rules and regulations for life. After turning 40 myself I found it is not important what other people think as long as I am living truthfully for me and treating others, regardless of their views, with respect by allowing them to have their views without passing judgement.

    You do not look 40 – just fabulous! 😀

  9. Deanna November 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    I’ll play. Where have I been on the outside looking in? I don;t want children. There. I said it out loud on the interwebz for anyone with an internet connection to see. I don’t want kids. I don’t relate to ticking biological clocks or the drives that push women to fertility treatments.

    My friends have suggested that I’d want kids if I met the right man. I don’t buy it. I do not wish to reproduce. Except for a small handful, I don’t really like kids.

    Thanks for opening the closet door and thanks for being you!

  10. Kim Noeth November 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Once again you stirred me.. I can totally relate with turning 40 and not being of the mindset that now “you don’t care what people think” but instead “you are finished trying to conform to a particular mold that society and others try to force you into”. I am finally beginning to understand “me” and how “me” works. I took your advice and wrote a response to this on my website:

  11. Julie McAllister December 5, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    I’m a self-employed, unschooling, choose-no-politics, mom of a special needs child, PSYCHIC living in ultra-conservative Texas. There, you’re no longer alone! We’ve got each other. 😉 You inspire me!

  12. Courtney January 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    I absolutely love all of this. It’s inspiring. I am trying every day to make peace with my invisible illness (or even accept its reality), get used to being the odd duck even at homeschooling events (because hubs teaches, not me ) and other outside looking in stances I’ve chosen/can’t live without/accept as a natural part of me – thank you for being out there and fighting the good fight and reminding others to do it too.

  13. Kitty Kilian March 21, 2013 at 3:11 am #

    I am so sorry to hear about your physical issues. Pain is such a total good for nothing gamespoiler.

    On the fitting in side: politically you just belong in Europe 😉 I once heard an old American lady in a BBC radio documentary on Socialism in the States and she said: It was hard being all alone all of the time. I felt so bad for her.

    On fitting in socially: I know a lot of people with mental health issues and the stigmas they run into – selfstigma being the worst one. Being able to look at everyone and oneself without preconceived notions is the hardest yet the best thing you can do for everyone.

    I myself have a mild case of Tourettes and adhd. The adhd, as I now know, makes me totally suitable for the online work I do. I am quick, active, hands on, practical, creative. The Tourettes have always bothered me because I was ashamed of my eye-twisting and the fact that I always move. But writing a blog and setting up an online business at 52 have both (finally!) taught me that my tics are inconsequential. No one really cares. So at long last I have stopped caring too.

    It is funny, but that is what blogging and teaching have brought me.


  1. Tales from the Periphery - November 21, 2012

    […] I have never met her personally but she is one of my many favorite virtual friends. Her name is Larah Ritchie and she just turned 40. Upon doing so she wrote a blog entitled  “On turning 40, coming out […]

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