When I turned 40, I googled, “When does middle age begin?” I was shocked to see that many sources considered 45 the start of middle age. Since I was married to a man 4 and a half years my junior, and I was a bit older when I became a wife and mom and I still had a toddler, I just could not wrap my mind about the thought of only having 5 more years before I entered the dreaded “middle age.” I wasn’t embracing the concept that “40 is the new 30” quite like I wanted to, or like so many moms appeared to.
A couple of years ago, I pondered 7 lessons I’ve learned in my 40s, and a few years (and a pandemic) wiser, I have pondered 7 more things. I recently celebrated my 45th birthday and I am officially middle aged, I decided to reflect on some of the things I have learned while getting to this point in my life.
I’m in charge of my schedule. I’ve learned to prioritize the things that are important to me. My kids are busy with athletic schedules, and my husband is a coach, so our evenings fill up. I have determined that something has to be very important to make it’s way to the family schedule.
My health is a priority. Now that I’m in the middle part of my life, I have prioritized sleep, drinking water, mental health, relationship boundries, moving my body every day (even if it’s a 30 minute walk,) and fueling my body with appropriate amounts of healthy food that makes me feel good when I eat it. I love sweets and treats, but I’ve finally recognized that my body doesn’t, so I sample a bit and move on.
Quality shoes are important. It might seem silly, but over the last year, I have come to realize that I deserve to wear shoes that support my feet. I’ve been a long time fan of quality running shoes for exercising, but my work and day to day shoes were mostly what I could get on sale or at Target. After way too many occasions that I couldn’t wait to kick my shoes off, I finally decided to ask for a pair of Birkenstocks for Mother’s Day a few years ago. I’m not the most fashionable, but my feet are much happier now that they are supported. I’ve since purchased several pairs of supportive shoes in a variety of brands, and I have no regrets.
I like being at home. Maybe the pandemic is responsible for ruining me for having a social life, but I’ve really come to enjoy spending time at home. My children are tweens, and while they don’t always love to hang out with mom and dad, they still enjoy family movie night and playing games with their folks. I’ve felt more compelled to get our home organized and arranged in a way that serves our family. We’ve taken care of deferred maintenance and spent time working on our home. We put up a hammock in the backyard and take turns reading in it. We are working to create a home that we can thrive in.
I’ve navigated plenty of challenges, and have made it to the other side. At this point in my life I’ve lost a parent, weathered my husband’s job loss and subsequently going back to school, a challenging baby, financial challenges, purchasing a house and cars, and refocused my career choice. Looking back at the last few decades, I’m so proud that I have come out on the other side of those challenges. I’ve been battered and bruised, but I’m still standing.
Average is OK. I used to strive for perfection, and have realized that is unattainable. No matter how hard I try, I won’t have all of my ducks in a row. I’ve struggled with all or nothing…..if I can’t be perfect, I’d throw in the towel completely. I’ve come to realize that there is a happy medium. I’ve realized I can’t be all things to all people, and have learned to manage my expectations a bit better.
Let it go! Queen Elsa made the phrase famous, but I have adopted it as my own. When I’ve realized I was not in control of challenging situations, I have learned to take responsibility for actions, make peace with situations beyond my control, and move on.
I’ve realized that middle age means so much more than a sore back and gray hair, even though those may very well be part of my life. It means learning who I am and recognizing that who I’m becoming is not perfect, and that is fine by me.