Updated: Jan 17, 2022
Write Your Story Series
As I sit on the balcony overlooking the Phoenix skyline on my 49th birthday thinking of
all the things I have learned about life so far, “Pictures of You” by the Cure plays in the background as I write.
“I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real
I've been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are
All I can feel …”
Choices. Everything we do in life is a choice we have made or a result of one another has made that has affected us. Today, I began the first day of the last year of my 40’s when the clock struck midnight, I became 49.
Now, I have some choices to make.
One, I could go down screaming and fighting, because we all want to be young and live forever right? I could be in denial about the whole thing, and start the “I am turning 35 on every birthday moving forward” scheme for as long as I can get away with it. Yep, I could do that. Hmmmmm … tempting.
Or, I could “suck it up” as a second choice and accept the fact that I am middle aged. I could watch TV with one hand in my pocket like Al Bundy and destine myself to live the rest of my life in a discontent routine. One that I chose, without hope, fear or adventure. But, alas, one with cable T.V.
My third, but not final choice would be to approach it the same way I handled turning 39. Screaming and crying, no fighting, I didn’t have the willpower to put my fists up and fight that good fight. I was afraid of losing myself as I got older, afraid of tomorrow. I wasn’t afraid of what was to come, but fearful of what will never be -- hopes, dreams lost in the abyss of nothingness. I didn’t want to be sucked up by the black hole of “Too late, time has passed” and resisted it to the point of exhaustion, depression started to kick in. Let’s get real here, yes, I said the word “depression”.
“I've been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures
Are all I can feel…”
Our culture focuses on men going through midlife crises, the stereotypical scenario of them trying to keep their stamina, youth, sexy women they think they could have dated, a need for adventure with a hint of danger -- longing to not lose their role as the hero and their last chance to buy that one fast car. This of course, does not reflect all men as everyone is unique in their experience.
Although it never is talked about, women go through midlife crisis too. Some may chalk it up to when she goes through menopause, her hormones go out of control and that’s why she is not being herself. I have to say from my own personal encounter that is not true. My midlife crisis happened around 39 and stood with me as I entered into my 40’s.
In my opinion, women experience it at a younger age. I think one of the reasons why we never discuss women going through this is because all of our lives we are primed to always look our best, to be “pretty” and desirable. As little girls one of the coming of age milestones is when we are allowed to shave our legs and wear make-up, which carries over for most, the rest of our lives. There is so much pressure to be “sexy”, lest we forget that the definition of beautiful far outweighs sexy. Because beauty lasts a lifetime and entails every part of a woman's being.
At least for my generation and others before me, we are asked at a very young age to be caretakers, to give up our wants and needs and prioritize our families, putting our careers and other goals on hold until our children are fully raised and out of the house. Although I am not married, in talking with my married counterparts, many of them come to a point in life where they felt they have sacrificed so much of their “wants and needs'' to benefit the bigger picture. We all thirst to grasp onto that young girl who was so vibrant, full of life and dreams. All women want that high school feeling of romance and the excitement it brings, that sort of thing makes us feel young again, when a young man is chivalrous in his pursuit of you. Most of all, when a woman goes through her midlife crisis, she wants adventure and is ready to seek it out.
Commercials, social media, everything around us tells of a story we MUST write. One of holding on to being young, with fists clenched tight, for if we let go, then all is lost. It is a narrative that asks us to finely chop down the decades of our lives into separate pieces, instead of seeing them as a beautiful medley of our life story. We yearn to hold them together, not fully letting go of the past, being unsatisfied with the present, yet not embracing the future with our arms wide open. Where does that leave us? It leaves us nowhere and gives us nothing but panic.
“But, it’s YOUR story right?” I finally woke up and reminded myself “Who holds YOUR pen?”
“There was nothing in the world that I ever wanted more than to feel you deep in my heart … all my pictures of you”.
Those words resonated with me, not in the traditional sense of being in a relationship, but how I see “me”. I felt that I had let go of the pictures of my life, memories that I kept so deep within my heart. I felt the experiences that defined me as a young woman were slipping away as I got older and that I was soon to become someone unrecognizable.
“If only I'd thought of the right words
I could have held on to your heart
If only I'd thought of the right words
I wouldn't be breaking apart
All my pictures of you”
“Remembering you fallen into my arms
Crying for the death of your heart”
As we mature, we look back at our mistakes knowing that we have learned from them. They add to our character making us into the men and women we are to become. 39 year old Jenny wanted nothing more in the world than to go back in time and fix her mistakes. I remember her falling into my arms, as she held on tightly to her pictures, mourning the death of “what was”. If only she had the right words, she wouldn't have felt like she was breaking apart. Time was running out, there was more to experience and many more adventures waiting at her doorstep. She didn’t want to change and wasn’t ready to live up to the expectations that others had for her. Most of all, she was afraid of getting old and losing herself, quietly fading away once she hit her 40’s.
It was at that moment that I embraced all of her; she was much more than I perceived her to be and I exhaled with a smile.
"You were stone white
Lost in the cold
You were always so lost in the dark”
Looking back to that moment, little did I know that my 40’s was to be my best decade yet. Maturing, being a woman in every sense is exhilarating, makes me feel solid and sets me free.
There are times I wish I could go back and talk to that 39 year old Jenny and let her know that there is nothing to be afraid of. The one who felt that the young delicate girl of years past was to no longer be. I want to tell her that she wasn’t losing herself, but gaining life experience, ones that were molding her, causing her to enjoy living in the present and looking forward to the days ahead.
“Remembering you standing quiet in the rain
As I ran to your heart to be near
And we kissed as the sky fell in
Holding you close
How I always held close in your fear
Remembering you running soft through the night
And screamed at the make-believe whiter than snow
And screamed at the make-believe
Screamed at the sky
I still am that girl. My 40’s helped me realize that. I absolutely love standing quietly in the rain, the stars shine their brightest through the night. Everything that I am and who I will be in decades to come makes me feel bigger and brighter and whiter than snow. I have learned to love her unconditionally for who she was, is and will be, looking up and kissing the sky as one.
“And you finally found all your courage
To let it all go””
The best part? I have found the courage to let it all go. I chose to see life through a different set of lenses, picked up a new pen, as the author of my own story. I am ready to write the next few chapters, sharing my pictures through words because my story has just begun.