Not Yet 50, but Way Past 40-Something. What is 48 to Me?

Julie 48There is a new trend in the blogging world. Blog posts and even books that mark moments or periods of time like, “This is Childhood,” “This is Adolescence,” and “This is (My) 39.” They make time stand still by describing the real, raw aspects of the designated age or stage. As I inch closer to 50, I find myself stepping back and looking at my life, potentially about half-way over, or half way lived, or have way begun, depending on your vantage point. I have grappled with my feelings about getting older and realize that while I get ready to add a 48th candle to my birthday cake, I feel the need to do what all writers do: analyze and reflect. Forty-eight means something different to everyone, but this is what 48 is to me:

It is NOSTALGIA. The nostalgia of the days when I could pick up my son, now a man/child, and hold him in my arms and tell him that I can make it all better; the days when all four of my children lived in my house with me. It is the nostalgia of my childhood memories, before husband, before children—the prehistoric days when all of the neighborhood kids played kick the can until dark and my parents didn’t know where I was; when phones were attached to walls, and there were no ipods, ipads, internet, social media, or botox; and there were vinyl records, 8-track and cassette tapes, the Grateful Dead, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Charlie’s Angels, and Starsky and Hutch, and my sister and me fighting for the best TV viewing spot on our green couch.

It is COVER-UP. Watching women around me tighten, plump, nip and tuck and wondering if I should too. It is spending too many dollars on “age-defying” products that are marketed to ME because I am the age that society wants to defy. It is knowing that in trying to cover up the wrinkles and the sagging, I am desperately trying to hang onto something that is slipping away, and no matter how much healthy food, water and vitamins I ingest, how much exercise I do, what clothes I wear or how I color and style my hair, the “something” that is inevitably leaving me is called—YOUTH! And there is no stopping its exit.

It is SEARCHING. Searching for the meaning of life. For the meaning of my life. Searching for my roots, for spirituality, for Judaism. It is studying with an Orthodox rabbi and joining a Reform synagogue. It is grappling with my identity, as a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a Jew, a writer, a reader, a yogi, a volunteer, a teacher and a student.

It is DISORIENTING. With four kids at very different life stages: college, high school, junior high and grade school. Disorienting with the reality that I on a given day, I can be managing a play date for one daughter and listening to details about a sorority date party from the other. Disorienting to have just celebrated one son’s Bar Mitzvah and to soon be celebrating my other son’s high school graduation. Disorienting to think that my oldest daughter will graduate college within a month of my youngest daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, and that I could potentially be a grandma at my youngest child’s high school graduation. Disorienting to be planning for my 30-year high school reunion when I can so easily access vivid details (many of them embarrassing) of those powerful high school years, as if they happened yesterday.

It is UNCERTAINTY. Uncertainty about whether I made the right choice to leave my career and stay home with my kids (I am pretty sure I did). Uncertainty about whether I should go back to work. Uncertainty about who would even hire me now. Uncertainty about decisions, big and small, that I made and make for my kids and myself every day. Uncertainty about why bad things happen to good people, why I have lost friends and family members too soon. Uncertainty about the future; about being empty nester; about getting old, as in really old; uncertainty about death and how I will go down—will my mind go first or will my body fail me, or will I die in a plane crash (um, yes, one of my biggest fears in life…)?

It is PERIMENOPAUSE. It is crazy! It is crying and swearing and not remembering why I walked into the living room or where I was driving to, or why I was even mad at my husband this morning. It is exhausted…for no good reason. It is worry and obsessing, and worrying and obsessing some more. It is Prozac and Lexapro and the allure of taking the “happy pill” to calm the crazies, but opting instead for a weekly writing group, meditation, yoga and an available-when-needed therapist.

It is WORK. My work: writing, teaching yoga, and serving the community, which makes very little money but keeps me somewhat sane. My husband’s work that he does too much of to be able to support all of the kids and me so I that I can make sure that everyone in the family has clean underwear, decent meals, and some structure and fun in their lives, which happens most of the time, but definitely not all of the time.

It is LETTING GO. Letting go of what I think I should have been—an author of six successful books, a renowned public relations guru (my occupation before kids), a psychologist (my “I should have been/wish I would have been” career), and trying, trying, trying to accept who I am. It is letting my kids go, off to junior high, high school, off to drive a car, off to college. Letting go of the idea that I can control the outcome of their lives, and maybe even the outcome of my own life.

It is TRANSITION. Transition from being not yet old but not young either; from being a young parent with my oldest child to an older parent with my youngest. Transition of caring for aging parents. Transition of my own aging process, which blurs my thinking, my vision and my hearing, and yet, has prompted me to become more patient, more intentional, more compassionate and more present, with myself and with others. Transition of walking mindfully through my life, instead of running through or from it.

It is GRATITUDE. Gratitude for my blessed life and the amazing people in it. Gratitude that I stuck it out and continue to stick it out with my husband, in spite of many extremely trying times. Gratitude for my health, and for the health of those I love and care about. Gratitude that after years of sleepless nights, changing diapers, taming tantrums, tween angst and teenage drama, and the pain, panic and exhilaration of sending one off to college, I can now offer my voice of experience for newer moms.

It is ACCEPTANCE. Acceptance of childhood scars, anxiety, depression, addiction, fear and loneliness; being able to stare down my demons and tell them to go to hell, and accepting that sometimes they listen and sometimes they don’t; and looking honestly at dysfunction—mine, my family’s, and my friends’, and finding compassion in all of it. Acceptance of my imperfect self that struggles with time management, organization and taking direction from others, but is driven and caring, and loves to give, and loves to love. Acceptance of dreams fulfilled, unfulfilled, and dreams that remain.  Acceptance that life is really, really amazing and fun, and really, really hard and painful.

It is FREEDOM. Freedom to invest more energy in people, work and causes that ground, comfort and inspire me. Freedom to exit relationships that drain me. Freedom to be me, to practice self-care and self-compassion, to trust myself and others, to confidently use my voice, written and spoken, to tell my truth, to be vulnerable, and to encourage others to do the same.

It is THE MOMENT. Slowing down enough to understand that it is this moment that really matters, and believing that we are all exactly where we are supposed to be right now. It is taking time on my yoga mat or in meditation to quiet down the mind chatter and focus on the power of now. It is watching my kids, truly watching them, and listening to them, and seeing them for who they really are, with their struggles, with their attitudes, and with their independent, creative minds and their loving hearts. It is no longer rushing to get to the next phase of their lives or mine, but wanting time to stand still. Really. Just to be able to press pause. For a moment. So I can take it all in and cherish it.

It is LOVE. Love for my husband of 23 years, love for each one of my very unique, and very lovable kids, who have taught me more about life and love in the past 20 years of being a mother than I ever imagined possible. Love for my parents and mother-in-law who have shown me what it means to age gracefully, and that love, giving and receiving, is the most important thing in this life; and for my extended family and friends, both old and new, who continue to enrich my life each day, as each day becomes more and more precious.

It is knowing that every single day is a gift.

This is my 48.

Comments

  1. I love everything about this post, Julie. I look to you for guidance often and this post is the best example why. Thanks for fitting me into your life at a time when it was already very full!! Happy birthday! Love you! 🙂

    • Nina, thank you so much for your thoughtful words, kind heart, level-headed, honest advice and your edits–thank goodness for those! You are the gift that keeps on giving and you have been an amazing addition to my life! Love you!

  2. I turned 47 in October, and I can relate to just about everything you say in this post. What a great summary of what it means to be approaching 50. You really bring out the magic of it, something that is not discussed enough in our society. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Miriam. Happy belated birthday. I appreciate your words and that the fact that you can relate to mine. It helps to know that we are not alone in our “crazies” or the “magic” that we feel at this stage. Wishing you the best as you head toward 48 :)!

  3. Beautiful, Julie! And again, happy birthday!

  4. I love this piece. Just so perfect. Thank you! xox

  5. juliecgardner says:

    I came here after your site was recommended (and shared) by Nina and as a 46-year-old mother who writes/works from home, I can relate to almost everything in this post.

    Your latest candle lights the way with refreshing honesty and introspection.
    So as your newest reader, I wish you peace of mind and safe airplane travels (seriously!).

    Also, I love your name.
    🙂

    • Thank you, Julie! Nice to meet you! I so appreciate your kind words and wishes for safe airline travels (getting on a plane next week) ;). So glad Nina guided you here and I look forward to reading your work as well! Thank you for reaching out!

  6. Julie, Julie, Julie… You have me in tears. Not exactly of sadness but some sad. Mostly tears of gratitude. I am so grateful to have you in my life. I find myself worrying about getting older and thinking of the what ifs. It means so much to me that you can share your vulnerability with people and let others benefit. Tayla just came back from a 3 day field trip that was located 2 1/2 hours away! I was a basket case, thinking she’s growing up too fast. A lot of people tell me I’m over emotional, over sensitive but … I like (for the most part) that I can feel things deeply and to let others in my life see how much people, words, sentiments etc. move me. While I’m not thrilled that time will pass, we both will grow and eventually she’ll leave home- I feel reassured that I will still have the undeniable, unbreakable bond with her that I feel now.

    And not that you needed or asked for it, I’ll validate that yes, you did do the right thing by staying home and being a mom. You can be/are still a writer. The six books are in the works. Slow and steady wins the race…

    At 37 I’m still pretty freaked about approaching 40, hell, I’m still trying to accept that I passed 35! With that in mind, after reading your post I’m almost looking forward to the trip to 48!

    Keep up the good work! See you Friday!
    Melanie

  7. thelatchkeymom says:

    I love this – beautiful. I am of a similar age (and have four kids), and can relate to every word.

  8. Oh this post is so so rich with honesty and beauty and rawness. I’m approaching 40 an feeling some similar sentiments, but I could also see some glimpses of my future self here, my kids are still rather young but I see glimpses of my six year old daughter’s teenage self and it scares me how it will happen in the blink of an eye. The idea of your children all in VERY different stages of life is fascinating and I can totally see how disorienting that must be.

    I could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up by saying how amazing an vibrant you look and sound!

    • I apologize for the typos! My son was crawling all over me as I wrote 🙂

      • Dana, I love it that your son was crawling all over you as you wrote! I do miss those days… occasionally :). Thank you for your thoughtful reply. It does go by fast, but also sometimes very slowly. And thank you for understanding about the age span of my kids being disorienting. It literally throws me off balance sometimes but it is also exciting too! Thank you for your compliments as well. I try to take care of myself as best as I can…one day at a time…and some days are definitely better than others ;). Good luck with your young ones! Enjoy the moments!

  9. I am so glad that I clicked over here. So much of this resonates with me. Though I am a few years behind you, my kids are in similar stages and I am feeling so many of these things right now – the uncertainty, the nostalgia, the moving towards acceptance. Thanks so much for sharing.

Trackbacks

  1. […] and I’m trying to learn from the vulnerability she allows in her work. Her most recent post on turning 48 was a perfect example of what I mean. Lauren Apfel, who writes for Brain, Child regularly and edits […]

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