Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Not-Altogether-Negative Look at Growing Older OR Happy Birthday to Me

I've always been one of those people who really loved my birthday. By all means, let everyone know. Celebrate with abandon. Getting older doesn't matter because I'm happy. I have a wonderful family, career, life. But something has shifted. I still love my birthday, and I'm hugely grateful for everything that I've learned and that I have, but let's face it. Getting older does matter. I've been thinking about what parts of my life have been affected as I've aged. Here goes:

My Metabolism Matters--Well it seems as if I"m working out harder than ever (keeping in mint that I wasn't athletic as a young person) but my metabolism is as sluggish as walking through mud. There's a woman I work with who eats an apple and a piece of turkey for lunch. She's 70. She looks great. She's still working. But come on? Is that what a slow metabolism reduces us to? Saying hello to smaller meals is something I'm reluctantly embracing.

I Have Wisdom--I have a book called, What I Know Now. It's a series of essay written by famous women to their younger selves. If I wrote a letter to my younger self it would say, "Don't worry about what people think of you. Your family thinks you're terrific," and "Don't waste a moment of time obsessing about being fat." As I look back at pictures of my younger self, I realize that I was relatively normal. Experience has given me the wisdom of acceptance. The wisdom of acceptance creates such peace.

While I Wish They Didn't, Wrinkles Matter--I see now why Nora Ephron wrote the book I Feel Bad About My Neck. I don't have the full turkey wattle, but I do have LOTS of sun damage. And in the age of Botox and fillers, a woman can look the best she can, within reason, with relatively minor procedures. Check yourself, though--see "Wisdom" above. Again, I'm learning to accept every wrinkle as a testament to my life in turns both storied and challenging. But I insist--as soon as I see my family pull out of this economic crisis a little, I'm going back to the dermatologist.

Young Children Matter--Having twins at age 40 definitely puts me in the "older mom" category and having young children in middle age is certainly interesting. I have enough life experience to know that no matter what happens to my children, I will have had some experience or coping mechanism so that I can love them and get through anything that comes our way. Is it too much to ask, however, that they be just the littlest bit less annoying at times? I think about my children rowing older as I do and I see a wide gap. But I'm willing to explore and learn how to make myself interested in things they will be interested in. My children represent all that I wanted for myself. Growing up, it was always my sister who was the babysitter. I really didn't care about kids. I think if I'd have had my kids in my twenties, they would have a lifetime of sessions on the therapists couch. But since wisdom and responsibility come with maturity, my late motherhood is all the more exactly right.

Aging Parents--My aging parents matter just as much as my children. My disabled mother and step father need much more help in their daily functions. My desire to help them comes from a sense of obligation. I owe them for all those years and all those life lessons they gave to me. Giving back to them helps me to be a better parent. I remember what it's all for.

Style and Hiding Flaws Really Matter--Will someone please make some cute, designer jeans for women who don't have a 25-year-old body? Preferably some that aren't so low that the post-pregnancy muffin-top and plumber's crack show. Any while we're on the subject, how about some tops that are as cute as Nanette Lepore but not as pricey?

Accepting Strength and Body Ability--I am remarkably amazed by what I can do physically at 47. I've recently started indoor cycling. I can't believe I can keep up with these people. I am finally learning to accept that my body is a functioning machine that gives me mobility. This is something I do not take for granted. My mother's Multiple Sclerosis has her confined to a wheelchair. She gets so frustrated that she can't take a few steps. I take the stairs. Because I can. Everyday.

My Friendships Matter--If there's nothing else I've learned, as I am fully in the throes of middle age, it's that my friendships are the wellspring of my sanity. I have friends who are mothers, teachers, grandmothers, leaders, athletes, and motivators. Who better to talk you off the ledge when you're feeling overwhelmed then a woman who's on the same path as you or one who has walked the path before you? When I make time for my friendships, I am a better person.

Marriage--I am so blessed to have found the perfect partner. I spent most of my youth lamenting lost loves, crying over unobtainable men, and wondering would it ever happen for me? or would I be willing to settle or be alone? My mother said, very commonly, "you've got to kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince." Cue eye roll and disgusted tsk. I swear if I say this to my daughter at any point in the future, remind me of my erstwhile complaints of my mother's cliche. But, damn, she was right. Practically middle-aged when I married, and certainly over 40 when we had children, God knows I paid my dues. But waiting paid off. I look forward with absolute relish to the future old selves of my husband and me. I can see us sitting on park benches bickering, laughing about it, and smiling as we continue to create delightful memories. I am most excited to have someone to go through this thing with me. Bring it on.

It's nice to know that I feel like I am growing older without kicking and screaming. I may be whimpering a little and every once in a while throwing a little tantrum about it, but overall, I'm ready. Life is a ride alright. Ups, downs, glitches, but mostly, joy.

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