In my mind, until recently, I told myself I was 29. I’m not, really, but I thought by playing this (what I now know is a limiting) game I was sparing myself from the aging process. Yep. I tricked myself into believing if I told myself I was 29, that somehow I would permeate the age and others wouldn’t find the notion of me being “perpetually 29” so shocking. The game was: If I Could Pull It Off, Then I Am. After much deliberation, and more and more evidence from Mother Nature, I have come around to embracing and celebrating my 40s.
And it turns out it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s kind of great! Sure, “things” are shifting. I was expecting the physical shift, and have been doing my best to prepare for it. Lucky for me, I have some good genes on my mother’s side that can carry me on the days a dozen chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons win out over a date with the treadmill. Even so, little aches and pains have crept up and take longer to slink away. My College Sunday Boyfriend, who is slightly older than I am, talks about this physical process from time to time. First you must know, for as long as I have known him, my College SB has been body conscious. Always. Not in the way that he has to have the biggest muscles, or needs to bench press more than the “other guy;” rather, he likes to be fit and eat well and wants others to be fit and eat well. I distinctly remember him vigorously telling me the all the horrible things that go into eating microwave popcorn in the hopes I would stop eating such “vile.” I didn’t stop (because I have a not-so-secret love affair with popcorn and when I need it, well, I need it), but I smiled and thanked him for looking out for my colon.
After 20 plus years, when the world continually spreads the beauty myth (despite Naomi Wolf’s attempt to enlighten), my College SB remains true to his core of touting the virtues of eating well and has conquered. And I admit-- it looks good on him. He’s just as lovely as the day we met. But what I find comfortable, beautiful about him, is his commitment to be good to himself. So perhaps at 40, beauty and image shifts. I can still appreciate a lovely DVF dress, D&G shoes, and a suave George Clooney, mind you. But these days, what seems beautiful to me isn’t so much what I see, but what I feel.
This focus shift from the outside to the inside can (and should) happen before reaching the age of 40, but it seems sweeter at this age. So when my College SB and I get a chance to chat beyond the surface, about surviving all the little things that come with this age, he admits things aren’t as easy as they used to be. And that sharing is what is beautiful. And I can’t help but think that maybe the idea of things becoming harder as you age is another falsehood. Because were things ever, really easy when we were younger? Or, are we having selective memories? And what is “easier” anyway? It seems to me every age has struggles. I just hope when I’m 80 years-old, I relish more in what is comfortable, than what isn’t. I hope the world stops trying to say only 20 year-old, photoshopped women are beautiful and shifts its ideal beauty to a glorious, ageless feeling. I’ll never be 20 again…nor do I want to be.
Another shift that comes when you hit your 40s: Embracing Wisdom. Wisdom is the recognition that you don’t know everything, and more importantly, you never did. Some would say this is a step backward. But really, it isn’t. When I think about all the black and white times I approached an answer, I shudder a little. In my younger years, I was certain every question had a clear yes or no answer; a clear right or wrong; a clear good verses bad. But this, as I now know, is a fallacy. The murkiness that surrounds some questions prohibits any sort of solid color answer. Ever. The best we can ever do with these questions is agree to a greyish compromise or come to an understanding to let go of the things we cannot change. For if we don’t let go of the one-answer-fits-all notion, the only thing we will see is red; red stop; red anger, and in some extreme cases, red bloodshed.
With my Email Sunday Boyfriend, the youthful rigidity that created a doomed-to-fail-friendship environment, has given way to a new friendship under the direction of wisdom. My Email SB was, if you’ve been reading my blog, for all intents and purposes, my first SB. We cared for each other, but couldn’t sustain the friendship amidst the I’m-right-you’re-wrong volatility. We were stubborn and vocal. My fiery red-headed stigma was in full force. We imploded. Fast forward through the peaks and valleys of a life lived and we found out we are grey. All the years apart didn’t diminish the underlying caring. If it did we wouldn’t have dared revealed our faults and forgive. Without all the good and bad times we encountered on our respective journeys, I wouldn’t have been in a place of letting go “what I was” in order to let in “what I am.” Uncovering this shift included confronting some uncomfortable realities, the sharing of heartfelt words, and courageous listening. Wisdom helps you get out of a restrictive box and discover there is more to life than black and white.
So when my Email SB recently shared some of his thoughts about our friendship during our hiatus, I was touched. I was flooded with happiness and sadness at the same time. How can this possibly be? Here we are, in our new wise grey space, comfortably sharing the thoughts and feelings that mark the great friendship I hoped we would always have: happiness. But I mourn all the shared moments we missed out on for one another (birthdays, weddings, children, jobs): sadness. And this mourning is okay…at least for a little bit. I take it as a sign of honoring the lesson wisdom helped uncover. It’s helpful to honor these discoveries because it puts you in a better position to leap into new territories. I thank my Email SB for sharing his very caring words and helping me shift my false notion that letting your guard down makes you weak…for I now know it is the opposite.Here’s hoping we all become more comfortable with the surprises that shift our thinking and open our worlds, and embrace who we are at any age.
As always, stay comfy; and be good to yourself and all your Sunday Boyfriends.More information on Sunday Boyfriend may be found online at Milwaukee Magazine, Facebook (“like” us if you are so inclined) and Twitter.