In the last year, a group of very talented bloggers here at The Huffington Post took turns authoring pieces on what the various ages of their children looked like to them. The “This is Childhood” series was one of my favorites. And then Lindsey Mead, over at A Design So Vast embraced the theme as her own upon turning 38. The piece resonated and prompted me to reflect on my own life, and current age. In November, I turned 45. For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t stop writing. So, my friends, here it is:
This is 45.
Forty-five is the eye of life’s storm. The emotional drama of growing up is behind you, the physical perils of aging are still to come. In these years of quiet, it is easier to be grateful… and fearful. You are an expert on more things than you care to be, and you realize that most of your life has been of your own making. Yes, you are dealt cards that are both good and bad, but you are the one who plays them. With that realization comes a feeling of late great responsibility. You come to terms with how many moments, days, months have been squandered. You vow to do better; you know that you won’t.
Forty-five is being grateful for friends and loved ones who are a few months older than you as they can gracefully cross that aging threshold and turn 45 first, paving your way to the next year, each year. It is acknowledging that there is no longer a first mover advantage when it comes to growing older.
Forty-five is when every birthday candle wish is “good health for those I love.”
At 45 you routinely leave the house without makeup; only sometimes do you brush your hair. The number of people for whom you need to look presentable declines precipitously as does the criteria for “presentable.” Your favorite outfit is a pair of velour pajamas and the best part of each day is when you climb into bed.
Forty-five is the very beginning of a peaceful complacency, as all of your energy for bear wrestling, mountain climbing, triathlon training and great American novel writing is re-channeled into staying up past 11 on a school night to catch The Daily Show. You begin to realize that granting yourself permission to just “be” is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt. And, as you look forward to a life of coasting down the hill, just one more mountain beckons…
It is still liking your calves and hating your stomach. No matter how many times you hear that your stretch marks are” badges of honor” and that all bodies are beautiful, you can’t buy in. If a tummy tuck didn’t come with significant pain or risk, you would save your pennies and go under the knife. You wish you were hard-wired to feel differently.
Forty-five is becoming your parents more and more each day, sometimes poignantly and with tremendous pride and other times with mortification, but more and more the former. It is understanding that you can choose which hereditary gifts you accept, and which you reject. Time with your mom and dad feels more precious, and you realize you will never stop needing them.
At 45 your tolerance for mean people hits rock bottom. Life is too short to spend any energy on bullies. They are easier to eliminate from your life, while also easier to understand. You can’t help but pity people who hurt so much they have to make others feel badly, but you are smart enough to do so from a distance.
It is two decades of marriage and learning to appreciate your spouse in more ways every day. The scales have decidedly tipped towards loving all that you have together versus lamenting everything you don’t. The ability to have entire conversations through a single raised eyebrow across the dinner table, without ever opening your mouth is one of the coolest, sexiest things about being together for so long.
Forty-five is full of fleeting moments of bliss and despair as you watch your children grow up into independent young adults, thanking the universe that you raised them well in one breath, and wondering what will become of them in the other. Despite hard evidence that they are actually going to turn out okay, you remain fearful that the really deep-seated neuroses won’t manifest themselves for a few more years.
It is hanging on by your fingernails to the edge of any semblance of youth. You swear to yourself that it wasn’t that long ago that you were a 20-year-old kid — but you don’t necessarily want to be one again. You don’t get Snapchat — and you don’t want to. You still love to dance.
Forty-five is constantly counting your blessings while simultaneous trying to calculate when your luck will run out. You see pain and sadness all around you, and know it’s only a matter of time before it hits your home. You pray for all the hardships to fall on your shoulders, as opposed to those you love.
It is a juke box full of vivid memories — people, places, smells, feelings — that can be called up at a moment’s notice. But you can’t remember the exact year you had that surgery, the first name of that parent of that kid who has been with your kid since second grade, or to schedule your bi-annual dentist appointment. Your brain has reached capacity and to retain any additional information, some things leak out.
At 45, anyone five years younger than you is a “baby”; anyone five years older is an equal. Commiseration is a rounding up exercise.
At 45 you still don’t ever understand it all, but there is an acceptance of how this whole life thing works. You are quicker to say I’m sorry, slower to linger in spaces that feed you, and generally liberated from 80 percent of the shoulda-woulda-couldas that dominated your 30s.
It is sweating less of the small stuff, because the big stuff looms large on the horizon. But it is also loving the small stuff, and expecting less of the big stuff. Quietly folding laundry on a chilly Sunday afternoon as your family happily co-exists in this home you have built together trumps pretty much everything.
This is 45. This is me. Now.