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Saturday, November 11, 2017

a light in the heart.

So I've got this milestone birthday right around the corner.  I'm not going to say how old I'm turning but it rhymes with forty. 

I should qualify this post by admitting I suck at birthdays.  I am awful with dates and I don't have a birthday calendar so I never remember anyone else's.  I'm the kind of grown woman whose mother has to call her to say "Today is your grandfather's birthday.  Just thought you might like to give him a call" (thanks Mom!).  To make matters worse I'm not so into Facebook lately so I'm not even sending the social media based well wishes these days.  That Facebook never forgets a birthday.

I've found a major perk of having small children is they are always willing to make a home made card for the birthday I nearly forgot.  When kids make the card it's charming and feels more intentional and less like you forgot to stop at Target for a real card.  Construction paper for the win.

The only thing I can say about my tendency to not properly acknowledge birthdays is that the same rule applies to my own.  They come and go.  I don't take the day off from work.  I have zero expectations that anything outside the ordinary is going to happen and when it does I'm always surprised and grateful.  

But this one.  This one is different.  This birthday feels like something.  

I'm going to be straight up with you and say that something about this milestone is shining a light on the physical aspects of aging that are making themselves at home on my body.  I have noticed the following truths about my physical self in the last year especially:

  • I'm on the every 4-5 week plan at the salon these days to fight back the gray hair I refuse to see one centimeter of.
  • My fingernails are getting  inexplicable "ridges" in them.
  • There is this perma-exhausted area under my eyes that I have to cover with concealer if I don't want to look like I've been sleeping in an alley for the last month.
  • My hands on the steering wheel look just like my mothers did when I was growing up. 
  • I have a couple age spots.
  • I get out of bed a little slower than I used to and I'm starting to wonder why.  At first I thought maybe I was just putting on a "Mom is tired because you woke her too early" show for the kids but now I'm starting to think it's for real.
  • I have to exercise hard five times a week or my body reverts back to veal status.
  • I find myself rubbing the "elevens" in between my eyes.  Do I think if I really commit I can rub them right off or something?
  • I have laugh lines that look like I've been laughing...lots.

When these changes started happening I noticed, and I cared.  I could lie and say I didn't but I did.  Because despite knowing better, there are times we women still feel like so much of our value resides in our physical self.  We are conditioned to believe that beauty is where our power lives and our value diminishes as it fades.  

But our value doesn't diminish.  It grows.  And our beauty doesn't fade, it changes.

By forty we have learned to do something far more important than just be beautiful.  We have learned to create beauty.  We can do magical things we couldn't do when we were younger.  

We can:

  • Create living spaces that comfort and inspire.
  • Treat food (growing it/preparing it/serving it) like art.
  • Appreciate fresh air and outdoor activities as though they are church.
  • Value risk, adventure and uncertainty (mid-life tattoo or nose piercing anyone?)
  • Digest political/national/world news in a healthy way (mostly).
  • Grow and raise beautiful little humans.
  • Pee outside confidently and without hesitation.
  • Own our bad habits and change them if we feel like it.
  • Be the kind of friend that genuinely wants to see her girlfriends happy and successful.
  • Give our time and money and talent away to causes we value.
  • Love harder than we ever imagined we could.

We can do all those things and more.  So this year, for this "something" of a birthday I am going to give myself this gift...

Every time I look at my thighs in disbelief, or use the magnifying side of the mirror to get a way-too-close look at the tiny lines around my eyes I am going to stop, take a breath, and close my eyes.  

And instead of focusing on whatever unimportant nonsense has me tricked into thinking I shouldn't leave the house I am going to remember that I am alive and I am healthy.  That my body is strong.  That so far I have only become happier and more brave with every passing year.  That the date on my driver's license doesn't determine my worth...I do. 

That is my birthday wish for all women, no matter what number you may be turning next.  My wish for us is another year of learning and loving and knowing that beauty is not in the face, but rather a light in the heart.