As I stare down the new year and I try to set goals for my and my family's future, it's become very clear to me that I have no idea what I am doing. It's especially clear that I have no idea how to be middle aged.
This time of life is a completely mixed bag. So much is SO GOOD right now! My husband and I have worked hard over the last 20 years, so now we can relax (a little) every once in a while. Our kids are more independent, which is amazing, but it also brings a new set of challenges. We also are now old enough to have elderly parents and there have been plenty of unexpected deaths in the last several years. It seems that for every amazing moment of growth at this point in life, there is an equally heart breaking moment that makes you want to crawl under a blanket and hibernate for a few months.
In my very rare free moments, I really wish I was spending more time asking myself the larger, soulful, important questions. When I’m on my “A” game, I ponder the important stuff, but much of the time I instead find myself Googling stupid things like “How should I dress after 40?" "How should I wear my hair after 40?", “How much makeup should you wear after 40?”, “What do I do with these wrinkles?”, “Why do I have gross purple veins?”, “Why do I sweat so much at night?” (HOW did we answer these questions before the internet???)
I am now officially “40 something" and I’m in the throes of mid-life, but I still feel on the inside like I'm 16. I am supposed to have total confidence by now, but I’m still socially awkward. I still worry what others think of me (not nearly as much anymore, but it creeps back in). I should know more by now. I should know how to be a parent. I should know how to be a business person. I should know how to be an artist. I should know how to be a wife and a good friend.
So what do you do? Should you focus on being "normal" or should you focus on gradually morphing into a weird, outspoken old lady with crazy outfits and purple hair? Should you focus on being kind? Or should you start to remove all filters and openly offend everyone over the next decades because you can? Should you really be thinking about yourself at all? Is that even allowed at this stage of life? How do you stay relevant? How do you make a difference? How do you not become invisible? How do you make the time you’ve spent on the Earth count for something? How do you deal with the losses that have already started happening all around you?
Basically it’s pretty clear… I personally have no idea what I'm doing. And I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of other people around me don’t either. So at this point I've come to the conclusion that in my corner of the universe... I'm just... ME. And everyone around me is just… THEM. And somehow we are all supposed to muddle through life and look like it’s effortless (and also somehow look fantastic while we do it). We are supposed to age gracefully and float harmoniously through the hard parts.
But the truth is that by this age we are all bruised and battered… some of us just hide it better than others. Even though we’re expected to make things seem effortless, a lot of things are just dang hard. A lot of the time we are less-than-perfect people and parents and daughters and sons and siblings and friends. But we are US and that is all we have to offer.
At this point in my journey I fully know (if nothing else) that I am ME, and that has to be enough. So that is what I plan to focus on this year. I will be the best me that I can muster so I can do good things for the people that I care about.
So do I know everything I’m “supposed” to at this age? Not a chance. Will I know more a few years from now? I hope so! Ask me again how to be middle aged when I'm 50. Maybe I'll have everything figured out by then.
In the mean time, I’ll be my best me and you go out there and be the best you that you can this year. It’s the best gift we can give everyone.
Happy New Year!
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