Today is my birthday. My 49th birthday, to be specific. I've always loved celebrating my birthday but I have to be honest - these past few have felt different. As I approached 40, I felt that each year was bringing me closer to my true self. I was figuring things out. I was accepting myself while discovering new things. I felt that somehow aging made my life, experience, words, and opinions more legitimate. Now, each year seems to only bring me closer to senior discounts and a membership to the Antacid of the Month Club.
Forty nine is really close to 50 and I find myself wondering how this happened to me. When did I get so old? Didn't I just turn 40? Actually, didn't I just turn 29 not too long ago? I find it hard to think of this as "midlife" because I have no illusion that I'm going to live to 100. My mother died at 72 and my dad died at 50 so the odds aren't in my favor.
You may be thinking, "Ah...her dad died at 50. That explains why this is so hard for her." If that were the case, I'd actually find some comfort in that because it would add some emotional depth to the struggle. But the truth is that my struggle with the looming milestone is two parts vanity and one part existential angst. I have so many questions. What is the point of all this? What have I accomplished? Have I done things that matter? What does the future hold? How can a chin hair get so long overnight? Classic midlife crisis questions.
I have struggled with body image issues for most of my life. I thought I had them beat in my 30s and early 40s but I've noticed that over the past couple of years, I've taken fewer pictures of myself and find fault with the ones I do take. Before I got pregnant, I knew that I would struggle with the changes to my body so I prepared. I worked out every day and did hundreds of sit ups so that I would go into pregnancy feeling good about my body and hoped the preparation would carry me through it all. It did. Lately, I've been thinking that I might need something similar to prepare for turning 50, something to help me make peace with my body and mychanging definition of success.
So, I'm using this space to set my intentions.
In the coming year, I will embrace my body (again). I will focus on things that bring me joy. I will take risks and put more of my work out into the world. I will love and laugh with everything that I have. Maybe I'll even share some of that here. (At one point, I thought I might pledge to blog every day until I turn 50 but aging has certainly made me a better judge of what's realistic.)
So, in the spirit of self-acceptance, this is what 49 looks like. This is a selfie I took in Portugal. I am sun drenched but well rested and free from stress so there are no excuses for the tired eyes and wrinkles. This is me.