this is 41

The other day my good friend Rose posted a link to a blog post titled, “This is 45,” written by Emily Mendell. A great deal of it hit home with me, despite my being a few years short. I’ll be 42 this year, I just realized, and Dave confirmed. My inability to keep track of my age makes him laugh, but it makes me happy, too, because the numbers have stopped mattering.

You begin to realize that granting yourself permission to just “be” is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt.

That’s true. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve spent all of my life trying to be something: smarter, thinner, prettier, more successful, richer, better liked. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those pursuits. I worked hard at them. Right now, though, I’m learning that it’s a lot harder to stop trying to be something I can’t. There are some aspects of my health that I can’t control, and I have to let myself be what I am. And in general, I have to love myself the way I am, even if it isn’t as good as I want to be. It helps to have a very wonderful man who says he loves me just the way I am; it really does. There are times I still struggle. I second-guess decisions I made years ago, I berate myself for bad choices. I agonize over decisions already made. But as Ms. Mendell says, there’s also a certain acceptance I have now, that this is the way life is, and that it’s okay.

I hope it’s also helped me to be more accepting of the world around me. If there’s one thing I know I’ve said more in my forties than I did in any other decade, it’s, “I don’t understand why you’re choosing to do that, but I accept it.” Friends, family, people we know — we can have opinions about what they do, of course, we can’t help it, if we care about them at all. But we can’t make their decisions for them, right or wrong. I hope that I’ve learned to simply accept that with or without my approval, people will choose to spend their lives a certain way. I won’t always agree, but I can respect their decision.

Acceptance doesn’t mean being a doormat, though.

At 45 your tolerance for mean people hits rock bottom. Life is too short to spend any energy on bullies. They are easier to eliminate from your life, while also easier to understand. You can’t help but pity people who hurt so much they have to make others feel badly, but you are smart enough to do so from a distance.

It’s true that I can understand, now, why someone is hurtful more so than I would have as a younger person. I know how hard the world is, and I know there a lot of people walking around in pain every day, inside and out. Sometimes I can see just how they got the way they are, and sometimes I can feel sympathy, or pity, but all the understanding in the world isn’t a good enough reason to stay around a person, a situation, that is toxic to me. And when I realize someone can’t seem to help but hurt anyone around them, I finally know enough to stay away.

It’s like the part of the Serenity Prayer that everyone knows says: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” The prayer goes on to talk about a pathway to peace and learning to be reasonably happy in this life, and that’s what I think being 41, or 45, is about — finding your way there.

Quietly folding laundry on a chilly Sunday afternoon as your family happily co-exists in this home you have built together trumps pretty much everything.

Now, that sounds exactly right. Those moments are well worth whatever it took for me to get here, new gray hairs, tiny wrinkles, forty-two candles and all.

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(please read Ms. Mendell’s original blog post, as I have only quoted several of the truisms she provided and the full piece is well worth your time.)

home sweet home

I very much love my new home. For one thing, it has Dave in it.  🙂 Of course, I missed my old home a lot when I moved; it was a good place to live — I lived there thirteen years, and had the best neighbors anyone in the world could ask for (our new home, btw, comes complete with a downstairs neighbor who apparently has super-hearing… it’s not at all as cool as living near a superhero should be). But I’m very happy here. I like it because it’s ours, I like it because we made it our home together. And a few other things, specifically:

IMG_19061. The closet.

I mean, it’s enormous. You could fit a Manhattan apartment in there. There are lots of shelves (including one for our stuffed animal residents) and then we got these great cloth bins as shower presents, and those keep the Wildebeest from kicking everything over.

I’ve never loved a closet before but sometimes I just want to hang out in mine and revel in all the spaciousness. You could take a nap in there if you wanted to, or sublet to a small family, or conceal a passage to Narnia somewhere. Which might explain where Freddie disappears to sometimes.

IMG_19112. Laundry.

I grew up with laundry in the basement, and that’s where it was in my old house — all thirteen years of climbing two flights of stairs each way just to do a single load of laundry. Add in a back injury and it’s nothing but torture. And the shame of it all is, I like doing laundry, in general. I like getting everything nice and clean and folded and put away. But not when it involved mountain climbing. Here, we’ve got this great little laundry closet off the kitchen, and it’s easy as anything to do. Add in the laundry sorter we got and it’s downright nifty. George likes to ride it from the closet to the laundry, though that might have something to do with the many twist ties he’s already managed to stash under the dryer.


IMG_00193. When it snows, it’s someone else’s problem.

Mind you, it’s not like there’s generally much to worry about — I have a hard time not giggling over anyone calling this little bit of snow a blizzard. I’ve driven through white-outs where you can’t see the tail lights of the car ahead of you at times, and dug out my driveway and sidewalk with snowbanks so high it looked like the ice planet Hoth. It’s nowhere near as much, in comparison, out there today — but it could have been. It could have been ten feet of snow, instead of maybe about ten inches, and it wouldn’t have mattered, now that there are nice people who come and plow and shovel it all away. I can just enjoy the nice wintry view instead.

IMG_19124. And, most of all, Freddie has laid claim to new territory.

I worried about my Freddie adjusting to his new home. George, as predicted, has become a mighty hunter, intent on exploring his new jungle and taking out prey. But Fred seemed to take it harder. At first he often seemed kind of lost, not able to find his way around. But I think he’s got his bearings now. The back of the living sofa, in front of his fireplace, and here at the end of the bed, on his pillow, he appears to be right at home again — we all are.

 

worry

I wasn’t always an anxious person. I thought more about past mistakes than anything else, fretted over decisions I’d already made. I was huge on regret. But then things changed, and now I confess I sometimes get anxious if I don’t have something to worry about.

Explaining anxiety to someone who doesn’t have it, or doesn’t live with it, is hard to do. I don’t know that I’m really up to trying. All I will say is, in my case, it never even helps when I tell myself, or when someone else tells me, that I’m worrying for no reason, or that everything’s okay. But it’s not for no reason if it turns out there *is* something wrong, you know, so the only thing that usually calms me down is finding a way to be sure — to rule out danger. It’s not very easy to do that, though, and it never lasts for long. Something can go wrong any time. You can get up for work one day and an hour later your life is changed. You can be standing in your living room and seconds later you can be gone, with no warning. It can all go away that quickly, and there’s no way to reach back in time and stop it from happening, no matter how much it seems like you should be able to. Sometimes there’s no reason to worry. Most of the time, really. I know that. But I didn’t see it coming last time, after all. This time, maybe if I’m watching carefully enough, it won’t be able to happen at all.