Balancing Life / Reflections of Ourselves

What’s Good about Growing Old?

I didn’t expect to be this happy in my mid-forties.  My teen years I was hopeful and had the world ahead of me.  My twenties I was in a race to accomplish my plan and my goals.  My thirties were plagued with depression and hardship.  On one hand, I had the joy of watching my two children grow into their own little people.  And on the other hand I wondered what I was missing, why wasn’t I happier, why was everything so hard.  I was over-weight, had multiple physical issues including two herniated discs and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  I worked too much and was too stressed.  My husband was distancing himself from me.  It all crashed down at 39.  I thought my life was over.  Broken marriage, broken body, broken job.  But the phoenix has risen in my forties and I am once again feeling as if I’m that teenager with all the hope in the world.

It’s not just that I found the love of my life and married him.  My Harry is definitely a reason for my happiness.  His friendship alone has inspired me beyond any level of confidence, comfort, and peace I’ve ever felt in my entire life.  The romantic love is intoxicating still, after two and half years.  I love him with all my heart and soul.  But I would never have been able to love him as I should had I not done the hard work to get to a very good, healthy, mature place all by myself.

In essence, I had to grow up.  There were many aspects of my old life, before my divorce, where I still acted like a petulant child. Thinking back and watching my own children reach adulthood, I think I had it too easy.  I skated for thirty-nine years.  And when things are easy, you don’t push yourself beyond your comfort zone.  My son is at a precipice at this very moment.  Harry and I are moving to a loft in Long Beach, CA.  I’m in the process of selling my house.  When we move he is going to have to live with his dad.  It’s a big change for him and one he is not looking forward to.  He is being forced to become more financially responsible for himself.  He’s being forced to grow up.  I see that if his dad and I make it easy for him, he will not learn important lessons about being an adult.

I missed some of those lessons too.  Until I was 39 years-old, I was largely, mentally dependent.  It’s not that I couldn’t do things for myself, I just believed I couldn’t.  I relied on my husband who ushered me into adulthood as my sidekick.  He took me to my first restaurants and hotels and widened the world for my then, very sheltered 16 years of life.  He took over when things were hard for me, or when I didn’t want to do them.  He took care of me.  For 23 years.  When I was sick, he sprung into action.  But when he left, I wasn’t sure I could manage on my own because I had always seen the two of us as one unit.  I had never seen myself as independent.  Ever.

That is the gift I got when I lived my improvised life.  My plans changed, I had to roll the waves, I had to make decisions.  I had to trust my own instincts.  If the house was going to function, it was all on me.  If my kids were going to succeed in school, spiritually, socially, and financially it was up to me to teach them and be a good example.  I was a single parent and had them 90% of the time when they were in high school.  It was scary.  The trash, the bills, my health, the parenting decisions…me me me.

I became independent.  I grew up.  I learned that I could make good decisions for me and my kids.  I learned that alone I could be happy, healthy, and secure.  Wow.  I switched jobs and was given the gift in that decision of working from home.  I started exercising and got healthy.  Emotionally…I had a long road ahead of me.

Even when I dated during this period, I had to make some very tough choices that put my needs and the needs of my kids first.  I had to let people go who were toxic.  I suffered heartache and survived…again.   As much as it hurt to be betrayed again, I knew this time it wasn’t going to take me out.  I knew with time I could manage to shed the pain and look back to the lessons learned.

And then and only then…was I ready to invite another person in as a true loving, willing, mutual, partner in my life.  Only after I figured out that I was my own person.  And I could survive alone.

I would never have chosen to go through so much pain to figure that out.  But I realize that it brought me to a place of extremely pure joy.  I’m going to turn 45 in a couple of weeks.  And I’m truly the most content I’ve ever been.

I face surgery on the horizon because my body is not responding well to all the other treatments trying to remove bad cells from my cervix.  A hysterectomy is scary.  I have wrinkles, and hot flashes.  My stomach is thicker than I want it to be.  My hair is sprinkled with grey.  But I wouldn’t trade the journey and go back to my youth without the wisdom these years has brought me.

I am able to love my Harry in a way I’ve never loved anyone before.  I find myself able to step outside a situation and ask myself what is the best way to respond, what is the most loving thing I can do, what is helpful…and then actually do those things.  I no longer simply react like a child.  Because I’m no longer a child.  I grew up.

I’m not perfect.  But I do feel like I’ve got a much more likely chance for long-term joy.  All because I was put through the paces.  Funny how this life thing works.

Please be encouraged if you are in a valley and having to learn those hard lessons.  My advice to you, is do not run from them, but face them and allow yourself to change and grow.  You will be amazed and you will happier once you’ve weathered the storm.

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