I am 4o years old. I keep forgetting this. No really, I do. Being a wife, a mom, and a stepmom for the first time ever in my 40th year has given me enough reasons to forget this. It all makes me simultaneously old and young. I run around in t-shirts and sweatshirts all day with two long braids, no makeup or skincare products to speak of, hardly getting a shower in every other day (I won’t admit to the actual frequency) and feeling slightly reminiscent of college years. But I have this almost 8-month-old who keeps me giggling and diapering and feeding and playing and singing and dancing all day long which makes me feel like a young mom with lots of questions and learning new tricks daily. But then I also have been chauffeuring teenagers around, and sometimes in a minivan, which makes me feel like, well, like a seasoned mom who gets to talk about things like tattoos and job interviews and the price of gas and car insurance, and try to impart all the wisdom I have gathered – meaning mostly telling them to not do what I did.
And then in the midst of it all, I have this amazing, sweet, caring, hot man who crawls into bed with me at night and laughs at my jokes and tells me he loves me and will love me forever. I don’t need anything else ever at those moments. After all my years of chasing after my identity, I realize that with all these new hats I’m wearing, everything else has to go. And good riddance! Because it occurs to me, I didn’t really need them in the first place.
I know I gave this up when I got married. No, actually, before that – months before when I knew this was the man I wanted and no one would top him, so why bother. But more than that, women as they get older, or even not that much older, start to feel they’ve lost “it” – that sex appeal, that look at me quality that comes with youth mixed with naivety. How many times have I watched the girls go out on the town doing all they can to look good “for their age” or to playfully blush when the handsome bartender cards them – he’s no dummy. Women need the reassurance that they still got it and just want to be appreciated, however superficially, for their beauty and attractiveness. I’d say I was still there through most of my 30s. I pretended to be annoyed that most people thought I was in my 20s, but I fully admit it now that it’s great. And being 40 brought me everything that my 20s and 30s failed to produce – because I was always barking up the wrong trees. I don’t need EVERYONE’s attention and admiration. I don’t need to feel sexy or have some hot strangers make increasingly inappropriate remarks. I’m done with all that for good. I’ve found exactly what I was looking for and will never settle for anything less than him ever again.
If you’re a trendsetter and love being into the next big thing before it even exists, well good for you. Have at it. I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to look fashionable and have people compliment me on how now-now I am. It’s not me. If it means wearing the same pair of flip flops I’ve worn since college, so be it. I’m really not that concerned and when I walk into some place like Marshalls or TJ Maxx and I think, “Why are all these clothes so ugly?” I know I’ve dated myself. And I’m totally ok with that. Keeping up appearances, keeping up with the Joneses or Kardashians or whomever – it’s just a lot of work. And I’m done with all that.
My favorite commercial notwithstanding ( ) I’ve come to the conclusion that they, generally speaking, totally suck. even watching them at the Super Bowl has lost their appeal. I’m tired of being told what to do, what to be interested in, what movies to get excited about, and what cars can drive down the same 3 or 4 winding roads over and over. I don’t need hair like Sarah Jessica Parker and my kid certainly doesn’t need a Barbie Jeep to feel good about life. Now I’m all for information, but even if you’ve never watched an episode of Mad Men you know that the people behind advertising are going less for the informative than for the manipulative. This product will be LIFE changing! It will make everything better! You’ll smile! You’ll laugh! You’ll bounce with glee! Your kids will finally say thanks, mom, without you reminding them to.
My magazine purchases were usually limited to airport travels. I’d be bored or my plane was delayed and I’d inevitably buy too much Diet Coke and one too many magazines. Meaning one. It would have an article on hair, dieting, how the clothes you are wearing are wrong, a quiz to tell you which friends you should dump, some vapid career advice and the same sex advice from last month with different hot models. Um, not that I read every month. Doesn’t matter which mag. Doesn’t matter which issue. I’d spend my time reading something generic and broad enough to touch everyone’s nerve somewhere and banal enough to seem useful but mostly because you’ve heard it before and ignored it the last time too.
I don’t need generic any more. Just like I don’t need a shampoo that will make my hair bounce. I need specifics. I need someone to talk to who knows me, gets me and wants to see things through. For as alike as we all are, we each need something specific and tangible, right here, right now, that no magazine will deliver. Not even O.
6. Body image woes
I’m fat. I’ve been fatter. I’ve been thinner. I’ve been slightly dysfunctional when it comes to eating. I have eaten an entire pizza in one sitting and then not eat for the entire next day. I stopped reading magazines so I won’t know what to do…
But in all seriousness, I’m tired of both the Barbie and the anti-Barbie rhetoric. It’s ok to be a size (insert your size here) except that you will never actually really deeply be ok with it. I’m tired of trying to be ok with it and I want to just BE it.
5. Uncomfortable shoes
I have 8″ platform boots. They aren’t the cushy kind. They kill my feet as if microscopic evil elves come inside them with tiny little pitchforks and swords and stab every inch of my arches and toes while setting them on fire. Why do I have said platforms? They’re fun. I’m not against fun. I also have height issues. (see body image woes above.) I liked being taller than most people’s shoulders. It gave me a new perspective on life. But now I’ve seen it and I had the sore feet and ankles to prove it. I’m not doing the stiletto thing. I want to be able to walk 5 miles and not have toe cramps. Ever again.
I know this whole blog post may sound like whining. I’m putting all that behind me. I don’t need to complain. I don’t know why we complain. It isn’t the same as pointing out something wrong and being sincerely willing to fix it. I say you don’t have the right to voice your opinion unless you are willing to engage in solutions. And whining tends to be the most self-absorbed opinion there is. It’s complaining for the sake of complaining because somehow we think it will… I don’t know… make us feel better? Get it off our chest? Make someone else aware of our grievances and maybe make them whine too? I’m done with that. I’ve learned that conversation is always better than monologue, and that whining brings everyone down.
3. Comparison Games
At every stage of life, we are submitted to comparisons. Whether it’s from infancy when you have to measure up to a formula of normalcy, to getting graded on a curve in college, to looking at houses to buy, to preparing for a wedding, so much is a balancing act of looking at others and doing the best with what you got. And sometimes “what you got” is not a lot. So what? They’ll have theirs, and you’ll have yours, and I’ll have mine. And together we’ll be fine….’cause it takes, different strokes to move the world.
It occurs to me especially now as a mom that it’s easy to get sucked into the comparison game. You want your baby to be as great as any baby that has ever lived. You want to be the greatest mom ever. You want your kid to be on HuffPost Parents or whatever you think is tres cool. Or the flip side where you look at someone else and go, that’s so wrong! I would never do that! Didn’t anyone tell them not to? Maybe I should point out everything they’re doing wrong so that they can be as perfect as we are. But I’ve learned that “perfect” is a moving target and when you are aiming for it, you will almost always find the bull’s eye moved. It can be frustrating to keep one eye on you and the other on everyone else who seems to be doing better than you. Not to mention it makes you cross eyed.
The one thing I keep getting reminded of every year is that some things get better, some things get worse. People try to cope and tell each other nice things – when you first have a baby, it gets better. When you get married, it gets worse. When you are looking for a job, it will get better. When you hate your job, it could be so much worse. I want to stop doing this version of the comparison thing – comparing past, present, and future – and move on to living right now. I want to stop holding other people prisoner to my expectations of them and how I think they should behave or fit nicely into my box labelled with them. I want to stop living for the milestones – if I can just make it to the next holiday, or the next developmental step for baby girl, or if my husband can just find the perfect job – and instead live for the day to day.
From now on, my only expectation is in God. I expect Him to perform miracles. I expect Him to provide our needs. I expect Him to give priceless peace and immeasurable joy and blessing, even in the midst of suffering, hurt, and fear. I expect Him to let sad, tragic things into our lives. I expect Him to be holding us through it. And I expect Him to show me more of this life and its wonders then I would have seen on my own.
I think numbers 2-10 could actually all be summed up with this one. We spend so much of our years hating, or if that’s too strong a word, just wishing we were someone else, or something better. I spent so much time in my adult years so far trying to find my place in the world, finding myself, looking for clues in other people, seeking my identity in other people. In many ways, hating myself through it all. And I let hate seep in through other means. Hating the horrible things in the world, letting anger boil at injustice and, well, other people’s hate. Hate leads to the dark side. Hate can be powerful, a driving force that can rule your heart. You can be consumed with the things you hate and chase them like tornado chasers, just waiting to see the damage the sheer force can do.
I’m ridding myself of hate. I’m letting God dig out the hole of bitterness and anger, the flip side of fear and discontent. He has promised that perfect love casts out fear and is stronger than hate. I’m letting Him replace it all, my identity, my longing for a better life, a better me, with something He made, something so perfect and pure it’s beyond belief – it’s Me in Jesus. It’s the Me He created and meant to make from the start. It’s the Me He fashions and forms, even before time was time, and the Me He chased after and cherishes. And He loves it. I’m learning to love it too.