Friday, May 10, 2013

Welcoming 40

I finished my 30s this week. I am so excited to move on to my 40s. A new decade that brings with it so many lessons from the past ones. Of course, my biggest goal was to finish my RN before I turned 40, and I did that. I had other goals, like a weight loss goal which I almost made it to and then completely overturned, but oh well.

I have never feared aging. I've been excited to turn 40 for a long time. Most of the women I've admired throughout my life (including when I was a teenager) have been over 40. I welcome the inner peace, the wisdom, the ability to accept myself more.

A few days before my birthday, a package arrived in the mail from my sister Abby. I had long been requesting the oil painting of me as a baby that my mother painted and that used to hang over the piano at my grandmother's house in New Jersey. I knew it had long since been taken down and stored in the attic, but I wanted to see it again, and have it in my possession. Abby traveled from her home in upstate New York to spend Thanksgiving with my grandmother last year and she was able to rescue the painting for me. She took it home with her, repainted the frame, and mailed it to me for my birthday present. (Along with several boxes of my favorite Tastykakes!)

What a flood of emotion swept through me to see that painting again. There I am as a little baby, nearly 40 years ago. I thought about my mother, loving her role to care for me, and yet still trying to be true to herself and her creative talents and longings by blending her two passions for motherhood and art with oil paints and a canvas. I thought about all the times I visited my grandmother and sat at her piano and played, the baby me smiling down. And now, here I am, a 40 year old woman, having raised one child, with several more on her heels. Life is different now. My thoughts are different now. I am different now.

This is not a very good picture, but Aiden took it of me on my last day being 39. I love my age. I am so proud of what I've been through, and what I've accomplished. I have learned many, many things, and most of them the hard way. My 30s were about recovery, resilience, and survival, in various ways. I am stronger for having passed through them. But I want to leave them behind, except for the treasures gained during those trials. A closer picture would reveal the lines that have begun to etch themselves around my eyes. I have earned those lines. From laughing and crying. Way too much crying. (I hope to do a lot less crying in my 40s, for sure.) But as motherhood left its mark on my body, so too does emotion, and living, weathering me. I hope they soften the edges of my eyes, the windows to my soul.

What have I learned in my 30s? I've been thinking about that a lot, and though this is not an exhaustive list, I have learned that:

1. I can do hard things.
2. I can forgive hard things. But I don't have to keep enduring them.
3. I am an adequate mother, even when my children make poor choices and struggle.
4. What I see before me in any given situation is not what will be forever.
5. Prayer works.
6. I don't know all the answers. But I know some very important ones that are constant.
7. Whatever I can do at that time can be enough. There will be another season.
8. My opinions are open to change. And can sometimes be kept private! (imagine!)
9. People generally are doing the best they can. And that fills me with compassion for everyone.
10. Life has not gone according to my plan. But I'm still okay.

Maybe I'm more than okay. Bring on the 40s!

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