On Pinterest today, I found myself un-following the boards of several people who were posting wedding ideas, or tips for parents of toddlers. Several of my younger friends had style boards containing shorty shorts, tips for bronzing bare legs for summer, and ab-toning exercises.
Time was, if someone came into the workplace with a new baby or there was a family gathering with little folks, I was right in the mix and had to snuggle the baby and play with the little kids, my heart aching with longing.
Now my baby is ten years old and using a hair dryer by herself and applying benzoyl peroxide to a sprinkling of acne on her forehead.
I’m coasting well into middle age and instead of being sad or nervous about it, I am relieved. Other than the occasional hot flash, there’s much to enjoy about being in my mid-forties.
For one, I’m not at any risk whatsoever of being approached to serve as a bridesmaid or maid of honor any more, freeing me from the nightmarish spectre of dyeable shoes and ill fitting dresses I will NEVER be able to wear again.
I’m at a stage in life where the maternal longings of my body have been long sated by the beautiful girl who was given to us, who still occasionally wants to snuggle and who tells me she loves me every day. The only tiny warm body that takes up lap space and relies on me completely is Hazel, our cat.
My untanned skin is no longer an embarrassment to me when I’m surrounded by peers. It reassures me that my sunless years resulted in fewer wrinkles on my face and less crepey skin on my neck and chest. If anything, I feel ten times more beautiful in my forties than I ever did in my thirties, or even my twenties (except for maybe a six month phase at 28 when I was a size six and had no grey hair, but I also didn’t know how to buy a good bra or wear eye shadow).
The worries I had fifteen or twenty years ago are long gone. Of course, I still have stresses about money or time management, but having become a mother, my perspective has changed dramatically. Having lost a parent, I value time with family much more. Having lost friends, I value open communication and relaxed socializing much more. Having lost my youthful bravado and over-confidence, I value hard work and contemplation much more.
I have been privileged to know and love wonderful people in my life. I have accumulated knowledge and hopefully a bit of wisdom along the way. Putting together a meal for my family, helping someone find a home, balancing a checkbook, buying clothes for my daughter, teaching her to make a bed….these are not the amazing and adrenaline-laced activities of a twenty-five-year-old girl. They are the daily in-stride duties of a middle aged woman.
Yesterday I showed nine houses to a newlywed couple. Each one was different, each one fell short of their expectations. ”I’m just not feeling it,” said the wife. One house needed carpet and wallpaper removed. Another was on a busy street. One other didn’t have appealing colors. All these objections could be overcome. I could have lived in any of those houses, knowing that a little imagination, paint, or compromise is what makes a house feel like a home.
After we finished, I went home and, walking into the kitchen from our car port, I was drenched in the warmth of our house. The air was redolent with the scent of microwave popcorn my daughter had made. She and my husband were watching a movie in the living room. I took off my coat and made a chocolate cake, poured a cup of coffee, and sat down with them to read a book and watch the squirrels raid the bird feeder just outside our picture window.
The gift of middle age is to know that life is never perfect, but rather a series of moments of sheer perfection that crop up more frequently than we realize. At twenty, I relentlessly pursued happiness. At almost forty-five? I embrace joy. My only regret is not knowing the difference twenty years ago.