This past year, I turned an age that rhymes with “borty” and I am not ashamed. At all. Some women (and men) struggle with revealing or looking their age and I want wear a t-shirt that shouts: “I earned it, man! See this somewhat squishy belly? It grew four children! See these malleable arms? They held babies for countless hours just bobbing and swaying. The laugh lines are self-explanatory.”
I earned them–each one of them—and I am not ashamed of my strong and middle-aged body. Sadly, it takes a lot of work to look this bad.
I really loved my thirties. I finally started feeling comfortable in my skin. I also learned several lessons that are probably only things you can learn for yourself from trial, error and sheer grace but perhaps for someone they might be helpful:
Follow your bliss. I’m not proud of it but when I had three children in diapers and my husband was working long hours and in school, I lost myself for a bit. I didn’t even have time to pick my nose, never mind consider that I needed something (at least one thing) just for me.
I let hobbies, interests and any filling-my-cup habits die for a bit. It was an incredibly challenging time in my life and I would do it again in a heartbeat, but this time I think I would trade babysitting with a friend more often, treat myself to a new book or take ten minutes to stare at a wall in silence. I worried that if I made time for me, I would have less time for my children, which is entirely false.
Realize that there are two types of people in the world: people who care and people who don’t. Conjure up any topic and everyone will fall into being incredibly passionate or just plain “meh” about it. My cousin calls it the 11th commandment and everybody has one.
Some people care about the environment intensely and some do not. Some women love having styled kids and a styled home and the rest do not. One isn’t better than the other; it’s just a different way to see the world and we desperately need all these passionate people around us who care about different things.
Remember that just because you care more about an issue (politics, education, health care, classical music, sports) doesn’t make you a better person, it just makes you, you.
I don’t wipe away my tears anymore. I just let them sit there and soak in (natural moisturizer, y’all) or let them drip off my chin. I’m not ashamed, embarrassed or worry if it’s a sign of weakness. I tell my tears, “Girls, (because, of course they are) come on out. Don’t be shy.”
If I am sad or upset, I wring every bit out of the experience knowing that it won’t be here long and I want to make sure I truly feel it so I don’t have any need to look back. I stay there long enough to learn what I need to learn, feel what I need to feel and grow in the way God needs me to grow. Only then do I wipe them away, wipe the dust off my bum and walk forward.
Lastly, I’ve learned to lean into other people’s pain. It is a natural human reaction to want to spare ourselves the anguish of watching others suffer. Oftentimes we regress to teenage awkwardness and stand there not knowing what do to with our hands. What do I say? What do I do? What if I say the wrong thing? And so we do nothing.
I read once that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, so I encourage you to step forward and just say these simple words, I’m sorry.
Don’t say that it will be OK because you don’t know that. Don’t promise that it won’t last long because that is just pandering to your own comfort level and limited vision. Don’t wax philosophical and say it must be for some greater reason—just sit there next to them and make it clear that they are not alone.
So, when I hear of someone dealing with life-altering changes I lean into them and in my words and actions say, I see you. I see you struggling. You’re not invisible and I’m going to walk with you on this uncertain path. We’re going to do this together, you and I. I know you’re not going to have the energy to keep me informed so if you’re OK with it, I’m going to check in with you every so often just to let you know that I’m still here.
Now that I’m staunchly based in my middle-aged years, I don’t chase a perfectly orderly life anymore and I certainly don’t applaud those who are determined to portray one.
I’ve learned to give myself and others around me a healthy and over-generous dose of grace and good intent. I remind myself that laughter and tears shared with others both have a perceptible ability to connect two imperfect souls who are simply doing their best and that (along with my emerging crow’s feet) are nothing to be ashamed about.
(photo cred: pexels.com)