If the story of my life happens to be 80 pages long- then I’m 10 years past my half-life today.
It’s so strange to look in the mirror and wonder what happened to the young woman that used to look back at me. Lines have emerged- lines that tell the stories nobody knows. I would like it if all my lines to turned upwards- but they don’t.
Is this the same woman who, on a good day, men used to turn to admire? I recently retired a big pile of jeans that don’t fit in the same old way and I face myself with the question, “Am I willing to do what it takes to fight back against the slow atrophy of aging?” Truth is, I’ve never been a very good fighter.
I’m a true survivor, having escaped death and doom time and again… but the talk in my head usually says- “you lose.” It’s been a slow and difficult process to believe and embrace the truth that God created and values me.
Anyway, back to aging body parts. Will this be the battle of my decade- how to fight back against the hands of time? That certainly seems to be the cultural mandate. In fact, if I had a few more bucks… I could just pay to fluff my buns in order to make my old jeans fit. I could uncurl the lines around my mouth and poof my lips. Yuh know, a 50,000 mile service check. The only thing is, the manufacturer didn’t make these recommendations.
The other strange thing about turning 50, is that I realize that some of the dreams I dreamed haphazardly in my 20’s may not come to fruition. Now that I’m almost 50, married, with two, mostly-grown-up kids- I may not be able to live single, in a high-rise, in the inner city, whilst commanding a high salary. I may not ever again pack up and move to another State to take a menial job and live on macaroni. I might not ever become buff like the girl in “Flashdance,” (well, it’s been thirty years since I saw the movie, but that “Maniac” song is still stuck in my head). I might not ever travel as a bohemian journalist to do interviews all over the world. At this late stage, optimistic as I can get, I may never become fully functional when it comes to laundry. I may never have a clean purse for two weeks running. I may never become a coupon master. I may not ever do…. well… anything else really “big.” There’s a little change left in my purse and I better decide how I can make it go the furthest.
As I look at the last quarter or so of my active life- some good questions once again emerge – like, what matters most? With all the competing draws for my attention- what is the highest and best use of this day? Which choices will be high impact in the next chapters of my story? I want to be intentional and wise.
I can hear answers coming from some- “Well, you’ll never stop being a wife and mother,” and, “Soon, you’ll have grandchildren!” Others declare, “Now is the time to clean your purse!” Well, maybe so. Maybe I should clean out my purse- so I don’t have to dig so long to find gum for my grandkids- but, I don’t want my goal to be a “finally” clean purse or a polished car.
It’s true, my family is my greatest joy and my level of commitment to them will be constant… but there will be lots of times when my presence will be unnecessary… and there’s more… more of me and more of the mission.
More of the mission that helps people where they get broken; that spot where something wicked came and some little treasure of a person believed a lie which set them on a path they weren’t intended to follow…
But, I digress… back to gray hair and body parts.
I’ve been told time and again about how fast it goes. I was always grateful that I didn’t begin to have children until I was thirty and had seen a little of life and death. I felt I somehow understood a bit more about the precious and insignificant. Now, as I look back, I’m faced with knowing, once again, that we are never wise enough in this lifetime to see with perfect clarity.
I absorbed the verses that explain that we are but a vapor, or a fading flower. I have done my best to cherish moments and collect the important things of the heart and I’m thankful. I’m immensely grateful for the good and mostly at peace with the bad. I haven’t led a boring life- there’s adventure, intrigue, romance, violence, crushing sadness and utter joy…. but I look cautiously forward now- knowing more keenly than ever- that I don’t have forever.
Interestingly, I’m not afraid of the same things that used to scare me. I’m no longer afraid of forceful women. I’m not afraid of being disliked. I’m not afraid to say no and almost not afraid to fail. I’m not afraid of teenagers who scowl and seem fiercely independent anymore. I’m so far past them now that I look back with a familiarity and move right in to their crabby space, loving them wholeheartedly.
Now, I have different fears. I fear bitterness. I fear that I will misunderstand truth. I fear self-loathing. I fear unbelief. I fear that through any and all of those things, I have the power to hurt others and experience living death. I fear I will not meet my potential by not finally getting- all the way down in my core- without wavering, that God really enjoys, likes, and trusts me; that He looks at me with adoration. If I can really get that relationship right- all the rest will follow. Because of that truth, I can breathe clean air and I can love my husband with a real and wild love.
Yes, well, back to stopping the hands of time.
Now I understand why “the bucket list” became a such a crazy-popular catch-phrase- because it’s not a bad idea to make one. I’m amazed to see young men and women jumping out of airplanes and traveling to Atlantic City because it was on their ‘bucket list.’ It blows me away to talk with those who are asking good, stark questions about the use of their time and the direction of their path at such early ages; but why do I know that somehow, even these brilliant, young folks are going to ask the same tough questions when they reach the half life? They will do similar evaluations, regardless of the check marks on their bucket-lists. They will once again begin to ask, “Have I fulfilled my purpose and have I done it well? What is good- what is beautiful, really- and what am I chasing after?”
Well, I’ve edited out about 10 pages here and I will leave my special birthday post with these final words. Gray hair happens, cellulite isn’t only for couch potatoes, and we don’t have forever, but in these days of evaluation- while I may not have the game plan down… I have had an amazing time thinking about the definitions of goodness, happiness, and legacy. I have enjoyed every living thing from a new perspective and I feel more alive than ever. My goal is to seek God first in all things and know that all the rest will follow, whatever that may look like.
A friend recently told me that since she crossed over the 50-yard line- she doesn’t hold back as much. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is and speak a little encouragement that she might have otherwise kept to herself. She’s not as worried or embarrassed about her imperfections. She also said I’m at the peak of my life in terms of wisdom and creativity.
Yeah, that’s a good word… I’m feeling a little more saucy myself.
Pretty, dang saucy.
I’ll tell you a little secret. My husband is a wild man and he’s been known to go outside in his boxers in the dead of winter to get wood for the woodstove. How would I know that? My neighbor mentioned she thought she saw him outside in his underwear at 4 am.
Now, I get it!
This behavior must be a result of being 51. He crossed over the line and into the second half.
Naa. I’m too young for delusions. He was born that way.
Scary to think he will get even saucier. Now, that I’m a wise and wild 50 year old, I wonder if this means he’ll finally get me to skinny dip?
That would sure get the neighbors talking 🙂
“Therefore we do not lose heart though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18