Am I There Yet?

“I’m older than I once was, younger than I’ll be that’s not unusual.” So says Paul Simon and it’s a simple truth at every moment of our lives. I live in an area where we have pushed the notion of being young well into middle age and so my sense of time and aging has skewed even while I operate on a different schedule of sorts.

In just over three months my daughter will go off to college which means that in some ways my time raising her is just about over, I’m forty years old so that seems to make some sense on paper. I was chatting with someone the other day and mentioned that my son is going into high school next year and she was shocked that I had a child that old. I thought she was going to pass out when I said his older sister was off to college in the fall. I was 23 when my daughter was born, married with a college degree and two thirds of the way through graduate school so it didn’t seem too young or irresponsible to have a child. My husband and I thought having children young would be easier in some ways that we wanted, and it was. It was also harder in ways we didn’t anticipate because we didn’t know but I think that is true whenever you have a child or make a huge life decision. Anyway, so far so good and before I am forty-five both children will be out of the proverbial nest.

Forty feels big and grown-up to me when I say the number but I am not sure exactly what it feels like inside. The truth is I still often feel like I am just starting out, just learning my way and building skills that will help me as I move into the grown-up years. But I think I am in the grown-up years, there is no destination on the horizon, the destination is here.

I feel forty in my right knee when the pressure of the air changes. Some years ago I put my knee-cap out of the comfy home in which it is supposed to live and as it turns out that is a bad idea, both short and long-term. Anyway, I am aware of that now and the doctor says that is “because of my age.” Yet I have many contemporaries just having children and starting their families and so I feel like I am among a cohort too young to experience the body responding ‘because of my age.” When I gather with my book group, women all young and vigorous and ambitious and beautiful we talk about our illnesses and aches in addition to the book, perhaps that is an indication of the body getting on in years, but it always feels too soon for us to be doing this. Certainly I don’t remember noticing the body complaints in the same way ten years ago.

But I’m also just forty and feel better physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually than I ever have. I like me better than I used to. I appreciate so much more of my life and am genuinely happy to be here on this planet for this experience. I watch as my mother-in-law travels the globe fearlessly in her mid-sixties, going places and doing things that are awe inspiring, that I look forward to doing as I continue to grow up. I am willing to learn new things and try new things and give myself another chance in ways that I never thought I would. It is wonderful and scary, exciting and sad all at the same time, looking back and looking forward and realizing that I am right here, today.

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