If you’re a guy, you may not relate to this entry, but it may save your marriage and every other female friendship you ever have.

If you’re a woman and you’re over 40, you’ll “get” it. Others of you can’t even imagine 40, so as you read this you may get flashes of your grandmother talking to you. Others of you are in your 30s, and 40 is approaching on the horizon like a burning cross.

I don’t feel 40. Actually I’m almost 47 so the half-century mark is glowing even more clearly in sight. But I don’t feel 40. Yes, the old bod doesn’t heal quite as fast as it used to. I definitely need more sleep (no more mid-night movies for me). And my short-term memory cells are dying off at an alarming rate. But I don’t feel 40.

In fact, my forties have been a time of awakening for me. I don’t mean to sound maudlin, but its true. The epiphany came out of the blue. Or maybe it crept on me and whacked me over the head.

But it was this–I have lived my entire life for everybody else. First to please my parents, then to please my friends, then my boss, and then my husband. Most everything I’ve done has been in service to others or some great institution. This is not to say I am a saint. Pleasing myself has never taken sloppy-seconds to anyone or anything for long. In fact, any honest parent will tell you that you don’t know how incredibly selfish you are until you have kids.

But I’d never done anything really big just for me, something important, something…grand.

And then I hit 40. Well, actually for me it was 43, but then what’s a thousand days here or there?

I’d started writing a science fiction novel when I was 19. I’d started and stopped it countless times over the years. So many things got in the way–college, work, church activities, dating, marriage, kids. I continued writing in other genres, but the novel–that was my Everest. So after my husband achieved one of his major dreams (opening his own fitness studio), I decided it was my turn.

And one year later–after much unwashed laundry, unclean bathrooms, microwave meals, too little sleep, and a great deal of sacrifice on the part of my family–I finished my novel.

The heavens sang.

The angels wept.

My family got to eat home-cooked meals again.

So now I can die. Well, not really, that comes after publication. But the point is, I did it. I really did it. And nobody can take it away from me. Granted, nobody but another novelist can know the indescribable feeling of accomplishment that comes with bringing life from the blank page. (Heck, the gestation and birth of my three children should have been so easy.) Only another novelist can know the joy of typing those last words on the bottom of the last page–THE END.

And while I’m so busy catching up with all the things I led slide for that year that I don’t have TIME for any friends much less other novelists, nobody can take away the wonder and pride that I feel from completing such a daunting task.

So if 40 is just around the bend, and you’ve spend the last two score in dutiful service to loved ones–or to a boss whose tires you’ve considered slashing–prepare for your epiphany. It’s a wild ride!

If you’ve had your own 40s epiphany, I’d love to hear about it.