When I was younger I used to wonder what life would be like when I was 20 and then 30 and then 40. Although not as often because life is just a little too chaotic, I still sometimes daydream about what life will be like 10 years from now and 20 years from now. I think once you have children, and your life is no longer about just you, it’s almost hard to imagine too far forward because so much of your life is wrapped up in who and where they are going to be. So I just imagine things like one day I’ll live in the Cosmopolitan and I’ll be able to walk somewhere after work to have sushi and a glass of wine and I’ll never again think about lawn service options or how to remove goldfish crumbs from the tiny crevices around my seatbelt buckles.
Younger me was so very wrong about forty-something life that I’m guessing I will adopt children at 60 and restart the process of battling with little humans about why we must bathe regularly. Not only did younger me not imagine having children, she did not understand that aging is more about growing in understanding and empathy than it is about wrinkles and falling asleep in a recliner. She also did not realize that as you age, your vision and definition of what constitutes an old person is updated – when you’re 25, 50 seems old but when you’re 46, 50 seems not old at all.
But the biggest things young and silly me didn’t expect are probably these three truths:
- Life is significantly better when you’re past the selfish years of youth.
- You don’t really even begin living until you can just embrace who you are and relinquish your cares about how you look and what others think.
- Absolutely every feeling pales in comparison to the ones you experience in a moment of realization that prayers were answered.
Forty-six. That’s how young I am now. That’s how old I am now. That’s my current age.
I’m a week away from owning my own home. Just me. All by myself. Only money I earn paying the mortgage each month. Only my name on the title and deed. For a long time it’s just been me making the mortgage, but behind the scenes two names were on all the paperwork. No more. And IT. FEELS. AWESOME.
I may look tired some mornings, but I am likely feeling invigorated. I regularly fall asleep in the middle of Anderson Cooper, but then wake up in the middle of the night and sit down to research or read or write. It’s solely my job to set goals, to get myself motivated, and to put in the effort. Only I am responsible for goals and dreams accomplished, or goals and dreams daily back-burnered for another day. So it’s OK if I look tired, because I am getting stuff done.
I no longer think twice about how I look in a bathing suit. I have scars. I’m not a tan person. If my thighs or arms look like I had donuts after dinner, it’s probably because I did – because I long ago realized that Kate Moss was wrong and warm Krispy Kremes taste better than skinny feels. This body grew and fed little people. It’s survived some serious trauma. It doesn’t need to change in any way, or look like it’s 25. It’s not 25 any more. Our bodies should tell the stories of our experience, not of our insecurities. And I will play with my girls on the beach because it’s fun and because I need to show them that the only thing that matters about their bodies is what their bodies can help them accomplish while they’re on this earth.
I have sand in my car and drive it around for weeks that way. I have stuff sitting on counters, without a real place to go, until finally the counter becomes the home for the stuff. I host last-minute sleepovers and the kids are all OK even though bedroom floors have baskets of clothes sitting on them and we eat takeout and cereal.
Basically, I am a recovering OCD-er.
Many of the things I used to consider important are now not important at all, while things never even in my frame of reference at 25 are of the utmost importance now. I am keenly aware of the relative small amount of time that makes up the childhood years of the two young ladies who call me Mommy. I have so little time, really, to provide them with a home and a foundation that’s peaceful and happy and grounding and safe and fun. This is actually their time, not mine. So perhaps the biggest difference in what I imagined and what is actually forty-six is that my days are not about doing and watching and experiencing and accomplishing things that are about me. What makes me happy is so much simpler than I ever imagined – it’s simply hearing them laugh and seeing them happy.