19 Reasons to Embrace Middle Age
Welcome to the top of the arc! You’ve travelled a long, meandering path to get to this moment, and, trust me, it offers quite the vantage point of where you’ve come from, and the ever-lessening distance you have yet to go.
While you’re catching your breath, it’s also a good time to consider all that you’ve acquired on your decades-long journey, as well as the baggage that you’ve shed along the steep and twisty parts of the path.
In honor of my October birthday, I’ve come up with 19 blessings to count, qualities that those of us who’ve reached this mid-point probably have in abundance, but forget — in a world obsessed with quantifiable outcomes — are the real value in a life that matters.
- Wisdom — If you don’t have it by now, I honestly don’t know what you’ve been collecting all these years. Pull it out and sprinkle it…sparingly. Other people have their own, so they don’t always need a huge dump of yours.
- Generosity — Your 401K may not be where you had hoped at this point, but you understand money differently than you did in your 20s. You know that occasionally treating a friend to dinner does not deplete the cash in your wallet, but rather gives you something that no bottom line will ever reflect.
- Your Authentic Self — Be it. No apologies necessary. Real is always in vogue.
- Friends of Every Age — Remember when you were in 5th grade, and it felt weird to hang out with 4th or 6th graders? Well, you’re not in elementary school anymore, and you can have friends in convalescent homes as well as ones who still can’t legally order a beer. Your own agelessness comes from holding the world inside your heart, without feeling the boundaries.
- No More Grudges — Honestly, what the point? Either apologize, or don’t. But do let it go.
- Breathing Time — Life feels different without the pressure of your ovaries facing an uncertain expiration date. I have friends who rushed marriage just to have a family; sometimes it worked out; other times, not so much. So forget the “this has to happen by the time I’m 45 thing” and have a dirty martini or two.
- Listening Power — You probably know by now that people appreciate listeners more than talkers. If this surprises you, then you should consider taking the next decade off to be quiet and pay attention.
- Independent Children — As in, it’s Friday night and you don’t have to make hotdogs or flop on the couch in front of Muppet Treasure Island. The world is your oyster, as they say. Go out and have a dozen — bring your teenage kids and their friends.
- Passion — At this point in life you know what you love, right? Improv comedy. Wild mushroom hunting. Modern dance. French cooking. So if you love it, why don’t you just go marry it? Okay, that wasn’t necessary, but this is: if you love it, do it. Really. Just do it.
- Fearlessness — Every year on my late October birthday, I invite friends to swim with me in the very chilly Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. I don’t care who thinks I’m strange. I don’t care what I look like in a bathing suit. I don’t care how cold the water is because, I’ve already died — and survived — a thousand little deaths in this lifetime. Go ahead and try to scare me. At this point, I could handle a zombie apocalypse.
- The Power to Say No — If you never want to attend another baby shower in your life, then I am here high-fiving you. So, by all means, say no, but only if you do so without the affiliated fretting and guilt. Time is precious. Spend yours wisely.
- Date-ability — As I helped a friend set up her Match.com profile a few months ago I kept thinking Wow. Middle-age women are so freakin’ smart and deep and gorgeous. If you want to date, then date. Get over the “I’m too this or not enough that” crap. You may have to kiss a few frogs before you find royalty, but, honestly, that’s how true love has always worked.
- Style — The current season of Project Runway features a few models with real, rather than starved-thin, bodies. Thighs bulge. Flesh waggles. Lumps and bumps are outed with every turn. Watch an episode then cat-walk to your closet and put together an outfit from clothes and jewelry and accessories that make you feel fabulous. Or as my husband tells me when I’m dressing for an evening out: “Honey, you do you.”
- A Sense of the Present — You’ve lost friends, and maybe your parents. Then there’s Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher. Gone. And every time it happens you are reminded that you only have this moment. This one moment. There is no guarantee on the next one.
- Kisses — Here’s one of my favorite lines by the 14th century mystical Persian poet, Hafez: One regret dear world that I am determined not to have, when I am lying on my deathbed is that I did not kiss you enough. Pucker up. There’s a lot of world out there to kiss.
- Desire — I have a sixty-year old friend who is falling in love for the first time in her life. It’s glorious to behold, a reminder that love and lust, like youth, aren’t always wasted on the young. If you don’t feel alive in your loins, then do something to wake them up.
- Your Voice — I hope it’s stronger than in your 20’s. Clearer than in your 30s. I hope it’s loud and wise and loving. Can it tell a dirty joke, speak out against bullshit, whisper at a mother’s grave, break open with pain, and heal a friend’s heart? Use it wisely and well.
- Regrets — You’ve had a few, but, then again, too few too mention.
- Blessings — That’s what we’re counting now.