Life should be celebrated. And that includes birthdays.

This past week, I reached an age I’ve been dreading.

No, it’s not 50. But I’ve spent months avoiding thinking about this birthday, so there was quite a bit of angst in the days leading up.

I made good use of my pensive reflectiveness and wrote some thoughts about getting older.

I jotted them down on scraps of paper, spoke them into my voice recorder as I drove, wrote them in my journal, voxed (Voxer is an awesome smartphone app) them to my sister and even got so far as to write a few drafts of thoughts here.

Some thoughts were complaints, really. About catching my reflection in the mirror and not recognizing myself. About memory and the lack of it. About sleep and aches and wrinkles.

Some thoughts were mournful and full of regrets and should haves. I questioned all my life choices, my mothering, my relationships, my work…

My mother was the one who put my lament to words. I like to call and thank her on my birthday, you know, on account of all the work she did to bring me into the world. It’s as much a celebration for her as it is for me.

Neither one of us enjoys math, so I just tell her right out how old I am now so she doesn’t have to do any calculating. “Ah,” she says. “You’re closer to XX than XX now.”

Precisely…

People who are better with words than numbers just round things up or down…

and that is why I have been feeling so sorry for myself. We’re past rounding down now.

I know every one of you who has passed the 50 year line is saying, “Forty-something? You’re still a baby!” Which is exactly what I want you to say. It makes me feel better. Please keep saying it.

And math is also responsible for this new habit I have of noting whose parent I could be. NCAA basketball player? I could be his mom! The guy giving the presentation at work? I could be his mom! The new PE teacher? I could be her mom! But wait, you don’t do math, you say.  Well, it’s easy. I just laid awake one night and divided my age in half (which every second grader could do with my age), realized that’s how old I was when I got married, used that number as a convenient dividing line, and now anyone who is younger than that is officially my offspring. It’s not exact.

Story problems…

My sons are actually good at math and are not into rounding down, especially if it involves skipping past another rounding point. They are into exact. Some years ago now, when they were in the habit of  asking how old are you? how old is dad? how old is grandma? how old is that guy?, I told them I was 32.

The boy who was in second grade at the time was immediately suspicious. He said, I thought you were 38 last year and refused to comply with my request to default to “32” moving forward.  He was right. Good memory, that one.

They have learned, however, so this year when they asked and I said, “As far as you’re concerned I’m 39,” they didn’t object. If they did any math, they did it in their heads — and kept the answer to themselves.

But then as my birthday approached, heartbreak and pain and loss touched people around me and across the world, and I snapped out of my mourning for myself. Mourning is for loss and I have gained. I am blessed, so very, very blessed to have lived this many years. And life should always be celebrated.

The processing the passing of time is necessary for growth. Reflecting on the bad and good, remembering God’s grace, mercy and His deep love.

“Teach us to number our days,” said Moses, “that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) 

The problem is we get stuck counting — I get stuck there — counting yesteryear’s messes and failures. I let them weigh on me and press doubt into my calling. I let them silence me.

This year, rather than resist time, I will try to embrace it. I will keep asking God for a heart of wisdom and keep leaning on my sisters and mothers and grandmothers ahead of me.  I’ll own my years, because I have always believed that experience — both good and bad — has value and the wisdom that comes with age has inestimable worth. I will not stop believing that now, even if it scares me.

And I will number my days.

They are 16,790.

I’ll let you do the math…

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when you fall asleep writing a title and hit publish on accident

One day, my memory will be even worse. And I will be the lady with the cats and the books and the unruly garden, living on spinach dip and tortilla chips and feeding Dave TV dinners.

So, I started recording myself.

Yep.

Because I have thoughts. Many of them. And I can’t write them down legibly fast enough.

I have an app on my phone called “Tape a Talk” which is far better for everyone than the old write and drive. Oh yes, with my eyes on the road . . . and yes, sometimes I couldn’t read it. Thoughts always come to me when I am driving.

Maybe because I used to do so much of it — driving. Hours and hours. For years. But for some beautiful, unselfish reason, my husband does most of the driving now.  He manages to get one to practice on one end of town, take the other two to work out with him on the other end of town, and go back to pick the other one up. Drives them to the bus. Picks them up from football games . . .

I know. I am utterly spoiled.

Anyway, I’m listening to one of my recordings, (which is a whole lot like listening to my sister’s voice messages — our voices are practically twins) and — now remember, I am only talking to myself. There is NO one to interrupt my thoughts — I’m chatting away on the recording and suddenly, for no conceivable reason:

loooooooonggg pause

“There was something I was just now thinking of . . .”

“ummm . . .”

“I can’t remember what it is.”

<<end recording>>

This is a conversation with myself. Out loud. Recorded. 

And there you have it: I get distracted even when I am talking to myself.

But the conversation I had with myself was a good one. I was talking about our kids, and I got a little wistful thinking about how much I loved them from the day they were born, and how love grew as they did, and how now I love them more than I could imagine.

Really.

And when I got home, I browsed the photos on my computer and realized our youngest grew up overnight in spite of my watchful eye.

And tonight, on his tip-toes he was taller than me, and my husband said “no” when I wanted him to look, and I suddenly realized why he drives them everywhere . . .

* * * * *

One day, my memory will be even worse. And I will be the lady with the cats and the books and the unruly garden, living on spinach dip and tortilla chips and feeding Dave TV dinners. And our kids will drive me around when they come home, and I will talk to myself . . .

(I’m guessing that will happen in about six years. Or around Christmas.)

And I was reminded of this verse — children are a gift — and I found it attached to the other one that has been nagging at my mind and I realize maybe my memory is not so very bad after all.

Maybe it just needs a little sleep.

 

* * * * *

It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Children are a gift from the LORD;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!

Psalm 127:2-5

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middle age, metabolism, and Monday

I figure I’m right in the middle of the August of life, which is still summer, if you know what I mean.

Someone used “middle age” to define my season the other day, and I have to say I was a little offended.

Although — to be fair — if I’m blessed to live for 90 years, and I’m 45, I guess technically you really can’t get any more middle than that.

It’s not so much denial as perhaps my failure to adjust to the change of seasons. I figure I’m right in the middle of the August of life, which is still summer, if you know what I mean.

Well, maybe I’m more like August 22nd in a perpetual last-week-before-school-starts frenzy of doing all the things, buying all the things, trying not to feel to awfully bad about all the things on your summer list you didn’t get to, and rushing to Office Max at the last minute hoping you get to the college-ruled composition books before all they have left is One Direction. And in front of me is September, when the Pacific Northwest weather’s suddenly rainy, then warmer, then cooler, then cold mornings and intensely hot 3 p.m.’s and you’re sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game in Seattle in October getting a sunburn . . . (don’t read too much into that).

So, half way through my 45th year, I suppose I should accept that I’m staring down autumn pretty hard.  And I think I’m finally okay with it. Except the lack of metabolism.

No. This is serious. I’m in a season where merely looking at sugar is the new actually consuming sugar.

I’ve got fat now where I used to be super smug that I didn’t. Watch out, young braggarts. Even after four babies I had a flat stomach. Had, being the operative word here.

And there really is only one solution to this problem. (Well, of course there are others, and I know them and need to do them, but do please hear me out here . . .)

Mom jeans.

That’s right. For the first time since the 90’s,  I bought a pair of pants that hits me at my natural waistline. Surprisingly, they’re far more comfortable than the hipsters I’ve worn forever, and they seem to have the side benefit of reducing the muffin top. Who knew?

Also, I could actually wear the size I still am in my head, which was quite pleasant because that never happens with low-rise jeans. And hey, if I don’t tuck my shirt in, no one will ever know . . .

Unless, hypothetically, in your rush to get out the door to work you accidentally leave one of the forty-six stickers of marketing brilliance on the jeans and walk through the office with a shiny Ultrastretch plastered across your bum.

It could happen . . .

And also . . . I just realized why I fit into the size I thought I should. Wow. Really — just now.

But seriously, last week was hard. I had to go buy clothes, and I would so much rather buy that cute little red-fluted crockery dish than try on thirty-six dresses that are decidedly NOT “all about that bass.”

It was so traumatic, I yearned to stop in Trader Joe’s and buy dark chocolate covered anything to make me feel better.

And then it hit me. Duh. That that’s part of the reason I’m feeling crappy about the shape I’m in. I can’t eat like I used to. And that is so sad. Partly because it’s just a bummer and partly because I have a houseful of men who can pretty much eat whatever they want and run it off.

I resisted Trader Joe’s. (cue applause)

I have to face the reality that at my age (yes, I said it) and with my metabolism it’s going to take long-term commitment and discipline. The for-the-rest-of-my-life kind.  Cuz if I told you how many calories a person my age and my height and tiny bone structure needs, you would cry for me. Or you would say, Oh Honey, learn to love running.  

I guess I say all this because the need for discipline is hidden around every corner of my life right now. And I see value in the daily and the mundane — as much as my flibbertigibbet spirit resists it.

So here’s my simple prayer for a new week:

God, help me to accept that my body is not what it once was, and please help me take good care of it now. Help me embrace a season of discipline without becoming obsessed. And please help me resist the free M & M’s  at work, you know how much of a temptation they are on Mondays. Amen.

Happy Monday!

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P.S. What’s your favorite thing about your current season of life and what’s the thing you could really just do without? Write it here in the comments. I would love to know!

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