No, really. I do. It almost sounds cliche (or maybe it's closer than "almost") to say this, but dang, I feel pretty good. Despite the fact that I'm 40 days away from turning 40, I can say that the revelations I've had in the past decade are what have made me appreciate being exactly where I am in life.
I was having lunch with a girlfriend the other day and we were lamenting the fact that both of our tween daughters are asking about wearing makeup. I distinctly recall seventh grade as the "magic" year for me - I started shaving my legs, had my first period, and was allowed to wear deep blue eyeshadow and Debbie Gibson-brand mascara to school. All of those things sound horrific to me now. Each and every damn one of them. But back then, I was thrilled. And Eve, entering sixth grade this year, is convinced that she ought to be able to start wearing a little makeup as well. She did make a fairly keen observation, though.
"When I am allowed to wear makeup, who is going to teach me how to put it on the right way? You don't know how to wear it, do you?"
I could have considered that an insult. But she's right. Somewhere around the age of 19 or 20, I realized that I was trading sleep for makeup application time. Working two jobs and going to college full-time meant that sleep was at a premium. One of my jobs started at 4:30am and required me to care for the animals who had stayed the night at the local veterinary clinic - administering their medications, taking the dogs out to pee and stretch their legs, and cleaning the kennels before the office opened for the day. Those guys certainly couldn't care less if I had mascara on. Generally, I finished just in time for my 8:00 class, so makeup lost the battle there.
I did retain the habit of wearing a little mascara and some blush for special occasions, but by the time my wedding day rolled around, I had to go out and specifically purchase makeup for the day since the stuff I had had been rattling around in a drawer for several years.
There have been times throughout the years where I have felt bad about myself, especially as I became more sedentary upon entering the workforce and again after having the girls. I have a closet with clothing that ranges in size from 6 to 12 and I am acutely aware of which of those clothes fit me comfortably. The difference now is that I won't force myself to wear the smaller ones because of the number on the waistband. I am much more forgiving of myself and much less tolerant of tight, uncomfortable clothes. I prefer to spend my days feeling good.
I am also much less likely to beat myself up mentally. I started jogging in June, determined to add some cardio fitness to my yoga regime so that I can keep up with the girls better. While I generally don't like running, I find that it is much more enjoyable if I don't treat myself like a newbie at boot camp. If I miss a day or two, I don't berate myself. Instead, I remember all of the previous days where I ran and tell myself that tomorrow will present another opportunity to run again. I have become capable of telling myself the same thing with regard to having dessert a few days in a row or not being disciplined enough with my writing schedule. Decrying the mistakes has never been motivating for me, but remembering that skipping one workout or sharing a hot fudge sundae with Lola isn't grounds for desertion puts things in perspective.
Saturday, we had planned our first ever family whitewater rafting trip. The girls were old enough to be excited about it and it promised to be 90 degrees out. I was really excited until the guide launched into his safety spiel about what to do when you fall out on a Class 3 or 4 rapid, how to signal that you're okay (or not), and how your paddle should never be out of your hands. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lola begin to blanch and I knew I had to keep my cool. I couldn't let on that I was nervous, if only to reassure her. By the time the four of us climbed into the raft, Lola had recovered but I was sinking deeper into apprehension. I could see Class 3 rapids right out of the chute and did some quick calculations to determine whether the girls were actually okay to do this. Neither of them even weighs 65 pounds! I envisioned backing out. What would Bubba do? Would it be a relief to one or both of the girls - they could back out, too, and save face? I forced myself to stay put and breathe. I reminded myself that I am a very strong swimmer and I only had to be in this moment right now. Nowhere else. No projections into the future. And then I heard it. That voice inside my head. The angel on my shoulder. She said:
"You do not have to be anything other than you are right now."
So I can be a somewhat-frightened, 39-and-counting mother of two sitting in a raft in the glorious sunshine. And that's okay?
Yup. It is. It doesn't require action on my part. It doesn't mean that I ought to be striving to be anything other/different/better. It will not drastically alter anyone's life for me to be just who I am right now in this moment. It would not make anyone else's life or experience better if I were different. I simply am.
And that, my friends, is the beauty of aging. I finally get to just be who I am and be happy with it. No excuses. No shame.