Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Forty-Five and Scared


A year ago, I started posting about fashion and beauty and health, because at forty-four I felt myself embracing this decade of my life fearlessly and with confidence, joy and hope. Who better than a forty-something writer to sing of her surprising entrance into freedom and grace, and to cut a swath of positivity through our culture's dense thicket of messaging intimating that for women, this fourth decade signifies the beginning of decline and her first physical endings? I sat here at the computer on a fall day just like today and heard God's encouragement in my heart to change my focus, gentle my voice and tell the simple truth about getting older and feeling good about it. I adored the idea.

I'm in the autumn of my life. It's a glorious season. Arguably the most glorious season of all.

But I have to confess to you that it's not all glory. I have to let you know that amidst all the beauty of autumn, there's also the fear of the coming winter. And that, quite simply, I'm scared.

Days after I officially turned forty-five, I got my first dose of harsh reality. My body, as if it had glanced over my shoulder, spied the date on the calendar and dug through the jammed folders in my desk to find my birth certificate, placed them side by side and did the math, immediately began conducting its normal womanly business in a freakishly random pattern. I'll spare you the details, suffice it to say that this randomness heralds the beginning of an ending all of us women know is coming but for which I haven't spent much (any) time preparing myself. And it's not that I'm sad about the end of having babies. I had no plans to have any more babies. But the hormonal changes that accompany this closing of the tiny-human factory scare me. I just don't feel ready to face this life without plenty of progesterone.

I'm scared of vain things like gray hair and hair loss and getting more wrinkles, age spots and dry skin - dry everything - and of becoming saggy and baggy. I'm scared of more practical-life things like running out of energy before my children do (well, even that much sooner than my kids do, because they can already keep going hours after I'm pooped as it is), losing my mental acuity, becoming (even more) forgetful, or getting sick.

I find myself wondering if Al, who turns fifty next year, or my parents, who have stealthily crept into their seventies, will stay healthy or even stay alive for many more years. My last two grandparents died two years ago. My childhood best friend lost her precious father last year. Losses like these have a way of waking you from your blissfully ignorant slumber. It's horrifically morbid, but suddenly, in my forties, death has become this certainty I have to face. In the coming years, not in some far away land that I'll somehow be better-prepared for than I am now, lies inevitable loss of life and livelihood. And I'm terrified by that.

If I had more faith, if I truly believed, I wouldn't stumble at all in my knowledge that this temporary life compares nothing to the full and eternal life God has promised me. I should rejoice that I'm closer to the day I'll drop the shackles of this aging body and walk in communion with Jesus, in sheer perfection and holy beauty that makes my human face look like a dull mask. I should be dancing for joy to be a day closer to Heaven. Shouldn't I?

But at forty-five, I honestly feel as if I have only begun to live. Only found my precious husband, only started to love and enjoy my two children, and yet the meter just keeps running and running, winding down my hours so quickly. Oh, I rail against that meter. I rail against it and picture myself wildly stuffing found couch-cushion and seat-crack coins into it, buying more time, more youth, more energy to dream more dreams and make them real, to get better and better at being a wife and mother and writer and friend and person.

So the other side of the forty-something joy and freedom coin is that yes, I've begun to truly come into myself and live my own life. But now? The clock is ticking so fast, and have I made the first forty-five years count, or have I squandered them on what hasn't mattered? And if I've done that, how will I go forward, sure not to squander what's left?

How do I set aside the fear of aging and fully embrace the rest of this glorious life, live with equal courage in the wonder and struggle of it, the joy and pain, and make the rest of my life sing, make it soar, bring it honor and dignity?

How do I embrace the joy of autumn and reject paralyzing fear as I gently begin to prepare myself for the coming winter?

This is where I really am, at forty-five.

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  1. I love it when you're real about the Real. Really.

  2. I love this post. I'm only 33, but people in my life started dying right after I turned 30. In the last three years I've lost a grandfather, two grandmothers, a dear father-figure and the baby daughter (and sister and brother--three deaths in one summer) of dear friends. Life seems a lot less sure of itself these days...

  3. And now I'm scared, too. Dear Clock, please so down time!!!

  4. I love this post so much. And I get it. I really do.

  5. I think we are all one day closer to heaven - each and every day. It's all too short and too long, isn't it? I remember my mom back when she turned 50 telling me, that she finally realized life wasn't ending, it was just that season that was ending. The new season is SO full of life, and I know she feels that still at 60+. And I think your 85 year old self is looking back at your 45 year old self and smiling and saying "oh but if she only knew!"

    And also, it just needs to be said, you DO NOT look 45, and the fact that you are remains completely mystifying to me. (you sure that birth certificate is right???)

  6. "How do I set aside the fear of aging and fully embrace the rest of this glorious life, live with equal courage in the wonder and struggle of it, the joy and pain, and make the rest of my life sing, make it soar, bring it honor and dignity?"

    I honestly cannot say that I know any kind of answer for this, but I do know this much: you honor it so well already. I hope for you a new lilt of wind, a freshness that you've already begun to put visual to here in this space, and a fierce determination to soak up the autumn days.

    Your life, it already sings. Perhaps you want to turn up the volume a bit? Everything you write on family life and fashion and just living this glorious life, it energizes me.

    Like LL said, I love when you get real. Keep bringing the Real, beautiful lady. We'll all be here pickin' up what you're layin' down.

  7. Ok, I am freaking out a little now. The other I realized that I am almost 38. Yes, I've always known how old I am, but it really hit me. I can't even believe it's true. I don't feel 37, so how did it happen. I panic a little thinking of the time I squandered and how I can make changes.

    So much to think about. Please keep up these posts, because maybe it will help us as we walk into fall too.

  8. Megan, this is written so beautifully and honestly. Thank you for pulling back the curtain a bit so we can see this side of things. I have no great answers for you. I've felt overly aware of my parents' and grandparents' mortality since my early 20s and overly aware of my own since working for hospice. It's good to have that perspective, until it leads us down fear-filled paths. Keep taking it one day at a time, dear friend. One day, one moment, one womanly change at a time.

  9. My first time here and you wrote the post I'm afraid to write. I just turned 48 and I feel every bit of what you wrote here. I just stopped taking the pill, got on biodentical hormones because of the hair falling out, restless sleep, skin drying up, blah, blah, blah. And I realized I already went through menopause. eek! I think the thing that bothers me the most is the way people are a bit predjudice about age. Over fifty is a different category in the minds of people and I struggle with that. I had a hard time being on Sarah Bessey's over 50 writers list because of it (and because as you know, every single day until then counts darn it, and I'm not over 50 yet thank you very much). My childhood friend's father died over the summer too. Just wanted to thank you for being courageous enough to write about this honestly. It's been nice visiting here.

  10. Beautifully written, Megan. But may I just quietly say something here? I'm sitting in my bedroom, which is where I've done every bit of serious writing and thinking since I was 15 years old!, in this 67 year old body, looking back at the year I turned 45. I was in seminary, had one married daughter, another two in college and would become a grandmother within the next year. And from this point right here? 45 was GLORY. Even with the female cycling that was beginning to go bonkers (and believe me, we do a lousy job of prepping women for that eventuality - I went into therapy at the end of menopause and I'm still there!!). Every year you have is a gift. Every. One. We are not guaranteed any of this. And yes, we will unravel - yes, we will. But in the process, there is so much beauty and grace and laughter and love mixed in the crazy quilt of this life we lead. You will always mourn the loss of youth - at least the physical signs of youth. The experience and depth that come with aging are priceless gifts all their own, however. Somehow, it does balance out. Even when I cry to the heavens about how hard it is to see my mom and my husband's mom really coming undone with dementia, I still celebrate who they were and who they ARE. Even completely undone, they are gifts, reminders that we are human persons, created in the image of a loving, wise God. Hang on, friend. the next 20 will be astoundingly rich - even when they're tough, they will be rich. (my google address is hopelessly outdated and blogger will not let me change it to my current email address. if you should ever wish to talk further about any of this you can email me at dtrautwein AT gmail DOT com.)

  11. Oh I love Diana's comment! :) So reassuring! And I love this "real you" post. I don't know much about anything, but I once studied the psychological stages of adulthood, and EVERYTHING you are expressing at the age of 45 is smack dab in the centre of NORMAL. The feelings, the anxieties themselves are a normal part of "growing up", at the stage you've got to. I like to think you're in that wonderful hazy late summer stage of life, more than autumn just yet (although, as you say, autumn is a fabulous season!). You could live more than another 45 years yet! :)

    Love you! xxxx

  12. Shelly from Redemptions Beauty sent me over here because I've been writing the last few days about aging, too. I had a hysterectomy at 40 and still at 63 (two months shy of 64), I take my hormones (albeit a very low dose) because I'm afraid of what might happen if I don't. I comfort myself with thinking I'm doing something special for my bones. And I color my gray.

    I lost my mom not quite a year ago, and that made the fragility of this life so much more real. But I'm learning to live for the moment.

    Oh, and I went back to school at 45, too. :)

  13. I would say that you're at most in late summer or VERY early autumn, and definitely, it's a beautiful day with the sun shining and your beautiful family is enjoying playing and being together. I hope and pray that as you trust God, you will be able to laugh at the days to come...(from Proverbs 31:25)

  14. I've kept this open all day so I could write a comment worthy.

    I still don't have words.

    I just want to reach through the screen and say YES I GET THIS SO MUCH!

    Grow old with me. The best ... might be behind us, but we'll laugh through every hot flash, gray hair and bittersweet moment.

    (Rage against the Meter should totally be the name of our soft rock band.) (We're not too old to be rockers still, right?)

  15. "Rage Against the Meter" -- HAH! I love that.

    Megan, this was amazing and heart-wrenching and sobering and inspiring.

  16. How do you do it? You're doing it, Megan. Yours is the only blog I read that makes me smile, nod, laugh, cry, and want to hug someone so much. You are doing it, woman.