The Birthday Post

Photo by Brinks Alo, via Flickr

This is the post I’ve been wanting to write for a couple of years: the post in which I acknowledge the aging process.

But I’m in this weird in-between time when, according to Merriam Webster and everyone who is older than me, I am most certainly NOT middle-aged; I am still a young’un. And yet the opposite is very clear whenever I talk to engaged couples about NFP and realize I have no street cred because I’m too darned old.

And if I step back and shake my head at the ways in which I feel my body changing, people who are older than me make sounds of disgust and set out to educate me about what REAL aging looks like.

It’s kind of annoying, if you want to know the truth.

I’m forty-two today–the meaning of life age. Things are much different than they used to be. I’m beyond pulling out the gray hairs (although I never did that anyway). I can’t sit cross-legged on the floor anymore, at least not for long. It hurts my hips. Two nights ago I laid awake for hours with a low-grade discomfort in my back that I couldn’t alleviate by changing positions. I can’t run around barefoot anymore because my feet hurt due to a mock-plantar fasciitis, and various burning in the foot tendons and tightness in an often-sprained ankle are, though thankfully treatable through massage therapy, still a constant reminder that I’m no longer a young’un, no matter what others may think.

This is not a complaint, but an honest recognition and acknowledgment of the place in my life I’ve reached. Other things are changing, too, things I note with bemusement. My sense of smell is way, way more sensitive than it used to be, for instance. This is both a blessing and a curse, depending. I’ll let you work that one out on your own.

Other side effects of aging are unqualified blessings. Charting cycles for four-plus years without interruption by pregnancy or nursing has clarified much about my body—trends in moods, in weight retention and loss, difficulty or lack thereof in sleeping, the little signs that accompany hormonal shifts and fertility—and I can see them shifting with age. Self-knowledge is a beautiful thing. It makes a girl so comfortable in her own skin.

I embrace the growth in understanding that comes with more years. I’m able to step back and see the way good and bad coexist in various philosophies and perspectives with honesty, without imposing absolutes upon them, and for that reason I’m much, much harder to manipulate. I am capable of greater mental and physical discipline; I’m better able to handle chaos, and I’ve learned how to function in company despite being an introvert. I’m more flexible, and I have gained coping mechanisms and a certain perspective that makes anxiety more an aggravation than a twenty-ton monster these days.

There are often times when I wish I’d had this discipline at a younger age, and times when I feel nostalgic for the simplicity of times when I had fewer responsibilities. But I also know that age and growth in discipline grow together–and you couldn’t pay me enough to be eighteen again. Or twenty-five, for that matter. I am a happier human being now than I was then, more capable of love, more capable of good work, in every sense. And I fully expect that in another twenty years I’ll be happier still, even as my body continues to change in inconvenient, annoying ways.

Bring it on, age.