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On Turning 40…

I turn 40 tomorrow, so to celebrate, I spent about 26 hours writing a post that was titled “The 40 Things You Don’t Know About Me,” mostly because I love a good self-reflection marathon and treat self-indulgence like a sport. I thought it would be “fun” and “easy” but it was probably the most daunting, and then eye-opening thing I’ve written in a long while, where I realized some real patterns that I hadn’t seen before, and could trace where they came from. It was like watching the Emily Henderson bio-pic as an outsider and as the 40 years went by, I found it, well, first, rather entertaining, with plot twists that I can now see were unexpected, at the same time I can now see how it all makes sense. Your patterns don’t just come from nowhere; your triggers aren’t random. Your childhood and teenage years really affect who you are in a way that is kinda terrifying as a parent myself to confront.

I’m not ready to publish it in its current form. I think it’s more of a series of essays—it was already 22 pages which no one wants to read. Also, not having the gene for embarrassment and rarely shame makes it hard for me to remember that there are many others in my life who value their privacy. BORING.

I will say this: I knew this would happen, you hear about it all the time, but turning 40 does mean giving less f*cks. It means that I make more choices for me and my family. There is so much more ownership of your experiences and you start being like “thank god that terrible thing happened, because I am now ______ because of it.” I feel the need to prove nothing to anybody and I have become so clear with my limitations, boundaries and expectations from everyone. Almost in a cold way which I would like to improve on.

Going forward, I want to focus on my relationships with those in my life who I’m so strongly connected to, on putting even more inspiration and positivity into the world, on working on all my vulnerabilities and exposing them even more. I’ve hustled so hard, all through my 20s and 30s, I’m honestly exhausted, so guess what? IT’S TIME TO ENJOY IT.

There might be some big moves this year, some pivots and shifts that will be shocking but not necessarily surprising. It’s all REALLY GOOD STUFF, I promise.

I’ve got to go. I’m up at the mountain house with my family and some friends, playing a mean game of Uno with a 3 and 5 year old, sipping a glass of champagne.

Have a lovely weekend. xx

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Marika Baxter
4 years ago

Happy Birthday! I reach the same landmark in a few months and am feeling much the same about life. You’re not alone and thank you for sharing. Vulnerability to live out our truth and loving ourselves unconditionally is where it’s at for me too!!!

4 years ago

Love it! Your perspective is great. Have a fabulous birthday.

4 years ago

I turn 40 in 3 weeks, and wish I had your perspective… I get more freaked-out as each week gets closer to my birthday. Why is 40 so emotionally charged?!?! Wishing you a wonderful birthday!

4 years ago

I turn 36 in four months and can relate to so much of what you’ve said here (f*cks given, the ruthless boundary and expectation setting). I struggle with the physical effects of getting older (working on getting over that) but there is a lot of power and strength in age. That I’m excited about. Happy birthday, Emily!

4 years ago

Happy birthday Dear!!!!

4 years ago

Happy Birthday! I can’t wait to read it when you’re ready to post it.


4 years ago

Wishing you a lovely Birthday weekend, Emily! Thanks for what you put out into the world, for all of us to enjoy, feel inspired and most especially – to feel a connection to a wonderful community. <3

4 years ago

I thought 39 was a lot harder than 40 – by the time the big one rolled around it was much less traumatic LOL. Also, I was newly single and freaking out that I was basically becoming an expired milk carton — needless to say I now have a baby who was born when I was 42 so there’s always time for big life changes at our age!!

Lisa C
4 years ago
Reply to  Kelly

Oh I love this! I’m newly single and turning 40 too. How wonderful for you!

4 years ago

Happy, happy, happy Birthday tooo yooou, Emily!
It sounds as though you’ve arrived at a really good place, in your authentic self. I’m excited for you. To know yourself, your real self, is a true blessing.
Many, many people never actually ‘know ‘ who they really are. Ever.
You’ve done the very hard yards to discover Y O U, by 40.
Your 85 year old self will look back at this milestone and smile fondly.
🙂 ♡ xxx

4 years ago

Happy birthday. May all the candles flicker and go quiet, may your wish be granted.

4 years ago

Awwww Happy Birthday from one fellow Virgo to another! (Cheers) oh how I wish we were stilling sitting in your mountain house…as I am turning 43 and felt like the senior citizen at your reader event I must say turning 40 was less traumatic than turning 30. (For me). And I know understand why “old” people say what they mean because not giving two f*cks is real. Ha! I feel like turning 40 is def an eye opener and I reflected a lot and still do. That’s what’s so special about our 40’s. It’s the time to be YOU without any apologies and wake up and SEE what’s really important to us! So here’s to turning 40 and keeping it real for real!

4 years ago

Love how you are feeling!! I am 48 and feeling great!! Happy Birthday, enjoy every minute of slowing down your time to enjoy your family!!

4 years ago

I hope you have a very Happy Birthday tomorrow! I myself just turned 40 in June. Yay for 1979 babies!

Julie P
4 years ago

Happy Birthday Emily! Uno with preschoolers is the BEST.

You are such an inspiration – as a woman, as an entrepreneur, as a style icon, and as a mother. You go girl. Thanks for sharing so much with all of us. And here’s to another great year!

4 years ago

Happy birthday! Sounds like the v best celebration possible. Uno + champagne is the best combo ever!

4 years ago
Reply to  Anon

I loved your personality when you first appeared on an HGTV design competition show, years back. And I still do. Your energy and spirit make the world a better place. Know that in your soul.

Nancy Nimmo
4 years ago

I too do not have the embarrassment gene, and am short on shame! Is that a coincidence? Hahaha
Champagne is the drink of choice!!!!! Have a great big happy happy time…
The best is yet to come…I’m 70.

4 years ago

Happy Birthday, Emily. Enjoy the weekend with family and friends.

Andrea Taylor
4 years ago

Happy Birthday. Just enjoy what you have…that’s . my advice. And also, laugh a lot. FYI, the ad that popped up above your post was for always extra absorbing pads and then there was another one on the side for Poise pads…I thought that was kinda funny since you were talking about turning 40…just wait. You’ll see why those ads are appropriate…especially when you turn 50. In our minds, the ads should be for cute shoes and flirty dresses….but the web sends us poise and extra. You have to laugh. Happy Birthday. I hope there’s cake.

4 years ago

Happy Birthday! Yes, those round birthdays give us all pause to reflect on our lives….so far you’ve done pretty well and you’ve chosen well in your career, your spouse, and you’ve got adorable children. Enjoy them while they’re still little. All the best wishes to you!

4 years ago

It sounds like the start of an incredible book!

4 years ago

Happy Birthday Emily!! I am looking forward to seeing what the year brings for you!

4 years ago

Happy Birthday Emily! Not only is all your work brilliantly beautiful ?, so is your spirit!! God bless you this new decade of life! May He give you the wisdom to invest your gifts, resources, time, and connections in all the right places that really matter and may you continue to be impactful in such a genuine and positive way! I never comment on blogs, but really wanted to bless you on your bday bc I am every day blessed by your posts and what you share with the world. Hugs & cheers!

4 years ago

Happy Birthday! It’s a privilege and an accomplishment to reach any birthday, in my opinion. You have accomplished so much in the past year. Not to mention your adorable family. So, make 40 fun! And remember, you are only a day older than yesterday.

4 years ago

Happy Birthday!!! I’m 62 and I enjoy your wisdom and perspective always! Your post made me reminisce about my 40th birthday. My sister got married on my birthday, the 4th of July, and she had an Uncle Sam on stilts show up in the middle of her reception. Everyone sang happy birthday to me and our aunt who turned 80 the same day!! and she passed out birthday cake decorated like the American flag.

4 years ago

joyeux anniversaire, Emily, que du bonheur et joie de vivre

photo naturelle : beau sourire avec vos enfants attendrissants,

merveilleuse décade pour profiter de vos maisons et de vos talents,

nous attendons vos réflexions, ( mais le jubilé , c’est 50ans) …encore 10 ans pour un grand bilan.

une mamie frenchie de…73 bientôt : jour de Noel
70 ans ont été affligeants…mais , on reste jeune, jeune toujours, esprit toujours vif
on s’ émerveille de mille choses.. comme du blog d’ Emily

Lisa C
4 years ago

It’s funny how when you’re 20, the idea of turning 40 is terrifying. But at 39 and 11/12ths (where I am also) you truly just dont give a hoot! It is extraordinarily liberating to reach the point of just accepting your flaws, relishing your strengths, and loving yourself just as you are. Happy 40th birthday to you, and me, and all the other 1979 gals here!

Leigh Hammond
4 years ago

Happy Birthday Emily!

Roberta Davis
4 years ago

Happy Birthday!

4 years ago

Em, you feel like a kindred spirit in your Virgo-ness with me. I turn 37 Monday and am inspired by your reflection and choice of celebration — doing much the same here at our beach house but with a 2 and 4 year old and one due in a month. A little champagne is good for everybody right?!

Can’t wait to see what a slower 40 looks like for you AND as a life coach, look forward to reading your reflective essays. Happy birthday!

Xo Sara

Natalie Lacy Lange
4 years ago

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Cheers to your best year yet, Emily!

4 years ago

I’m 45. Best. Decade. EVERRR! Happy Birthday!

4 years ago

Dear Emily,
Hope you have a lovely and very happy birthday!? 40 is still so very young!

4 years ago

Happy birthday to the most wonderful daughter-in-law in the world. Thank you for marrying Brian and giving us two amazing grandchildren. I Iove you to the moon and back!

4 years ago

Happy birthday! And yes yes yes to being more judicious with your f***s. Enjoy!

Mel McDaniel
4 years ago

Enjoy it! You have helped so many others to enjoy life in beauty and style – it’s YOUR TURN. You are loved by me (a complete stranger) who has followed you forever but this is my first comment and I hope it’s not too weird. I’m 42 – and really, after the shock of “how did it even happen” it’s really very good.

4 years ago

Happy Birthday!! Mine is on Monday so we share (hopefully) some of the same Virgo-esque tendencies. Enjoy your 40’s…it goes so fast from this point on!!

Julie S
4 years ago

You’re one of the best, lady.
I turned 36 this summer and began to look SO FORWARD to 40 because I realized as a stay at home mom/homeschooler who is the primary caregiver, that’s about when my currently 3 and 6 year olds will be grown enough to allow me a measure of independence that I haven’t had for a good long while. Like I can head to the store without having to set up hubby or someone to be responsible for their feeding and potty breaks, can probably have enough time and autonomy to take riding lessons again or (gasp) be in a play again.

Happy birthday, Emily! And many happy returns.

4 years ago

A very big Happy Birthday! In our family, our toast is always as follows (and you are very welcome to adopt any part that suits:)

“To the family you are given, to the family you choose & to getting better with age.”

Katie Chapple
4 years ago

Another birthday twin! I turned 43 on the 1st, with a 6 and 8 year old, and I’m feeling every year is better than the last.

4 years ago

Hey, Emily! I just saw that we share September 1 as the “Here I am” day! Happy Birthday! I’m praying it’s your best year ever – more than you could ask or imagine!❤️
With a bday hug,

4 years ago

Ill be turning 60 in October and plan to do a lot more ‘giving less f*cks’.
you are inspirational !

ajay jha
4 years ago

nice and very amazing friendservice

4 years ago

Enjoy your 40’s. I think it may have been my favorite decade! (From a reader in her mid-50’s)