How old are you? In body? In soul? Yeah ... the answer can sneak up and surprise us, can't it? Jennifer Grant muses over the unexpected presence of aging in our days.
What's A Woman To Do?
By Jennifer Grant
Last month, I went on a hike at Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan with my friend Andrea and our husbands. When Andrea and I first met, I was 14; now I'm 49. For the math-challenged among us-I am one of you-that's 35 years. Thirty-five. How is it possible that Andrea and I have been friends for that long? But there we were, on an April afternoon, our husbands standing nearby taking pictures with their cell phones of what Good Morning America recently called "the most beautiful place in America."
Walking back down the path to the parking lot, I said something I never thought I'd say to my friend. Something, I'd certainly not have said when we were both in college, listening Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" or John Cougar-yeah it was just "Cougar" then-singing his little ditty 'bout Jack and Diane. "I'm so grateful that I can do this. You know, that my legs work," I said. "That I can hike like this." Then we joked about being "thankful for our health."
The thing about being old-er is that you never see it coming. Some part of your brain knows that other people age. People older than you, clearly, are ... well ... older than you. You spend your adolescence and twenties keeping quiet and smiling politely when older friends bemoan achy joints or refer to celebrities you've never heard of. (Frankie Valli? Kim Novak? Barbara LaMarr?) In your thirties you might find yourself too busy raising little kids or building your career (or both) to reflect on the passage of time.
But then it happens; the realization that you're solidly in midlife seems to arrive all at once. You don't have time to get used to the idea. You look in the mirror and - suddenly - there's a chin hair. There are broken blood vessels. Wrinkles. Age spots. Anyone remember the ads for Porcelana, the fade cream? I do - my brother Drew and I used to make fun of them, incessantly. (I think they came on during The Partridge Family.) "They call these age spots," the woman in the commercial said. "I call them ugly! What's a woman to do?"
"What's-a-woman-to-do?" Drew and I would ask, laughing until we were in tears, our tween and teen selves draped over the olive green couch in our family room.
Yeah, so ... what is a woman to do?
Well, I could refer you to the Scriptures and remind you that a gray head is a "crown of glory" (Proverbs 16:31). Or to Job 12:12, which tells us that, "with long life is understanding." But I'm not sure that these verses will give you comfort as you make your own particular landing into midlife. What I can tell you, from my own experience anyway, is that it's in midlife when we often realize how resilient we are. It's when we toss off false hopes, pretentions, and desires that we always had a hunch didn't really belong in our lives in the first place.
So, although it sneaks up on us, this season of midlife-surprised as we might be when we recognize that we're really here-is a rich one. We know ourselves better. We know who our true friends are. And, it's in this time when we enjoy the priceless gift of looking back over the decades and getting a glimpse of the fact that God has been right here with us, all along.
Jennifer Grant is an author and speaker living in the Chicago suburbs. The mother of four, her first picture book for children, Maybe God Is Like That Too, was published in February. She has written five works of non-fiction. Her latest is a memoir called When Did Everybody Else Get So Old? Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife, which released earlier this month. Learn more at jennifergrant.com or on Twitter @jennifercgrant.