Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm 46 and feeling fine

Happy Birthday to me. I turned 46 years old today. There's something monumental about crossing over to the 50 side of my 40s. More monumental than hitting 40, I think. That was sort of anti-climactic, if you ask me. However, since I turned 40, I've been biding my time, waiting for the moment when the wisdom of middle age would take hold and I would finally feel comfortable in my own skin, something that hasn't always come easy to me. Well, I'm here to tell you, the time has arrived! As I told Dennis the other day, I feel as though I have reached a crescendo in my life. In the immortal words of the Seinfeld episode on senior drivers, "I'm old, and I'm coming back." In other words, I'm doing what I want to do regardless of what everyone else thinks or wants.

I don't mean that in a selfish or mean sense. I mean that in a wise and softened sense. I mean that, finally, at the age of 46, I am letting go of some of the unnecessary stuff and worrying more about the important stuff -- like God and my family. Nothing drove this point home more than last weekend's camping trip at Auriesville. This would not have happened a few years ago, maybe not even one year ago. My fears of camping would have gotten the best of me and I would have missed out on the experience with Noah. Now I am embracing my inner camper, and I think that has to do with getting older. The thought of being outside in God's creation is starting to hold a lot more weight than the dread of having to use latrines or public restrooms and sleeping on the cold ground. Suddenly schlepping through the mountains or fields without a shower for two days, covered in grime, hair shoved into a baseball cap so as not to scare the wildlife, seems absolutely perfect.

I'm feeling this new laid back side of my mature self in my work as well. I can feel my writing shifting. I recently resigned from my position as Contributing Editor at Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. After 15 years with OSV, I told my editor that I no longer felt called to write about the business of the Church but rather about the truths of the faith. That's the best way I can describe it. Still, that was a leap of faith. I will need to find new kinds of writing to fill the void, but I know it will come. It always has -- every time I've stepped off the proverbial ledge and trusted that I wouldn't hit the ground.

This is where I am now, and I find that I'm very happy here. Back when I turned 30, when Dennis and I were just co-workers and friends at Catholic New York, I remember telling him that my 30s were going to be "my decade." And, in a sense, they were. I married Dennis, had two of my three children, moved to Texas, bought a house, wrote my first book, and built my fledgling free-lance business into something livable. Not a bad decade. I didn't think my 40s could top that. I thought it would be all down hill from there, but then along came Chiara and another book and more work and a beautiful region of the country to call home, and all the wonderful, crazy things that go along with being a wife and a parent.

Lately -- and, again, a lot of this may have to do with all my retreat time and with my renewed and deeper hunger for more of God in my life -- I realize that I should be enjoying my 40s, especially since I have been blessed with good health and a strong body and an even stronger will to do the things I set out to do. Life is good, as the popular T-shirts and coffee mugs say. And so it is.


Dennis said...

Transpose the numbers, and the headline could have been "When I'm 64." Happy Birthday!

Jean L. said...

Absolutely fabulous post, Mary. In our family we have a favorite phrase..."Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow." It started as a joke - my mother would say it (or actually, more to the point, sing it, LOUDLY!) when something was driving her nuts. She still does that, in a more tongue-in-cheek manner, but now we use it whenever it's appropriate. So, to you, and your birthday, and your wonderful sense of spirit and self...Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!!