And why it does and doesn’t matter…
Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem once responded to a reporter who kindly remarked that she did not look 40, “This is what 40 looks like.” Now, whatever your thoughts and opinions about Ms. Steinem may be, her response to that reporter has always resonated with me. As a woman who has always felt judged by my appearance (not by age as much as by shape and size) I love it when appearance-based stereotypes get shattered. But this post isn’t really about physical appearances as much as what my life looks like today, as I turn The Big 5-0.
In the spirit of full disclosure I will admit to being a little freaked-out by the prospect of turning 50. It’s a milestone different from any other birthday that happens to have a zero at the end of it. A woman turning 50 often finds herself subject to the slings and arrows of menopause and all the changes associated with the end of the childbearing years. And I am so there. I am relieved that my new GYN actually listened to my concerns during our initial visit and started me on treatment that I hope will help me feel better soon.
I went today and renewed my drivers’ license, and I was pleasantly surprised by how similar my photo today looked when compared to the one from my last license 10 years ago. Aside from a marked decrease in weight, I don’t look too different, or too much older. That was a big relief!
The biggest surprise about this birthday is how much more content and comfortable I am in my life and in my own skin than I’ve probably ever been before. I remember other birthdays with zeroes on them, and the various kinds of angst I was experiencing with each of them. My life is in a better place now. God has blessed me with a husband who still loves me after all these years, makes me laugh, warms my heart, has been a wonderful dog dad, and makes me feel safe.
I have several longtime friendships like that as well. Those relationships are priceless. My friend Mary K. and I spent the weekend between our birthdays together. Her birthday is May 15 and was also a milestone. We first met at a Methodist youth assembly when we were 13 or 14 years old. Living in different states, we were pen-pals for decades but didn’t actually see each other again until 2009 when, after about a decade of being out of touch, we reconnected via Facebook.
Over the years we have shared everything from braces and boyfriend stories to college, marriage, the births of her children to the deaths of our parents. This friendship and a few other cherished ones like it sustain me, nourish my soul and, again, make me feel safe. Above is the picture from our initial reunion in 2009, and below is from our most recent get-together this past weekend. It just dawned on me that she is wearing the same top in both pictures, and I am wearing yellow in both. (My sweater from 2009 would swallow me now since weight loss surgery!)
The losses of so many loved ones have all affected me in different ways, but that old adage, “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” is one I believe in. Yes, the deaths hurt terribly…but I am so incredibly grateful that I have known and loved these precious family members and friends. My life without them would be unimaginable. And they’re not gone forever. They’re just in a place where I can’t see them right now, except when they visit in dreams. The relationships with living family members are all works in progress, just as they’ve always been. I’m grateful for the ones still here who make me feel safe, valued and loved.
So I guess my life turning 50 is looking pretty good after all. God has been so faithful and brought me through more sadness, disasters and changes than I ever could have imagined experiencing by the time I turned 50. He has also brought me more wonderful surprises, happiness and joy than I could ever hope to deserve. So, what does 50 look like?
Sometimes it looks hazy and crazy.
Mostly, though, it just looks…Blessed.