Taking Stock at Forty

Blog-birthday-kids-wetWhen you’re a kid, certain ages stick out as milestones. Ten, and thirteen, and then of course every single one of the teen years, up to twenty. Twenty-one is a big deal because of the alcohol thing. Twenty-five. Thirty.

But I have to say I never looked beyond that. Forty, obviously, was middle age.

The trouble is, if I vocalize a sentiment like that now, half my blog readership and half the people in my choir will chuckle and pat me on the head and tell me what a young’un I am.

You would think by the time you reach forty, you would be safe from that, but, as my husband’s grandmother would have said, her hands conducting her words, “What’cha gonna do?”

One way or another, the second half of my life is opening up, and it seems appropriate to pause and take stock. Because things are changing.

The veins in my hands and arms are visible through the skin.  I haven’t tried to count the strands of gray, but certain days when I put my hair up, I think I’m developing a Rogue streak. The crease between my eyebrows and the lines when I raise them never quite go away these days. I’ve started wearing a hat when I go outside in a rather belated attempt to keep them from becoming permanent.

My joints aren’t as pliable as they used to be, and the tendon/muscle problems that have accompanied me ever since my sophomore year of college continue to influence all my activities. I have to be on guard for inflammation in the lower arms and the backs of my hands, especially. My hips ache after I hold certain postures for a while. Like “criss-cross applesauce.” Sometimes the joints in my fingers ache for no identifiable reason. And it seems harder to climb up in the matrix at Bonkers with the kids. Climbing around the City Museum a few weeks ago caused knee pain that still hasn’t completely cleared.

All this seems a little surreal to me. These days I really appreciate how young my parents are. My mother was only 43 when she moved me to college.

43 doesn’t seem very far away, and I still have a toddler.

But I don’t grudge aging, really. Thanks to Jazzercise and LoseIt.com (credit goes to Kelley and Janelle, respectively), I weigh barely more than I did when I was eighteen, which is pretty incredible if you think about it, and I’m stronger than I ever have been in my life.

Plus, there are good changes that come with age–if you seek them out, anyway. I’m far from considering myself wise, but I know I am a better person than I was just a few years ago. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s maturity or motherhood that gets the credit, but my spiritual life is changing for the better. I am seeking deliberate, intentional ways to turn my focus away from me, my desires, my preferences–because let’s face it, I am a very, very self-centered person–and to learn to be self-gift. I’m not always successful. Frequently, as a matter of fact. Yet I can feel the effort making me into a better person, a better image of who I was made to be.

I just pray for the grace to age as gracefully as some of those I’ve been privileged to know.