“I’ve done my best work, really, my most important work, from the ages of maybe 57 to now.” That quote is from the poetic writer and musician Patti Smith, 72, in a recent interview with the New York Times.
That quote struck a chord and affirmed what I’ve been feeling as I head into this new stage of life. I turned 57 yesterday, and I can tell you that I believe, God willing, I will be able to say the same as Patti when I reach 72. I believe my most important work is ahead of me. I am talking about in addition to THE most important work of mother and wife, which would be enough if that was my only work in this life.
Every once in a while, something happens that gives me pause and makes me take note of the ways I am aging. I attempt to open a bottle of apple juice and find myself struggling to budge the screw cap that used to loosen without effort. I bend down to put away dishes and a shooting pain in my knee makes me straighten up, except that it’s not as easy as it used to be. Whenever one of these age jolts occurs, I think of my grandmother, who lived independently until she was closing in on 101. I wonder what it was like for her to notice the subtle changes in her abilities and strength as the years passed, and I wonder if I’ll be able to manage those same kinds of changes with anything close to the grace and chutzpah that marked her century of life. Read more
Whenever I give my retreat talk titled “Broken, Beautiful, and Beloved: Learning to See Ourselves through God’s Eyes” (last weekend, for example), I quote St. Francis de Sales twice. Actually, I quote St. Francis de Sales a lot in my life — in posts, in books, in columns, in workshops, but in this particular talk I quote him twice. This 17th century bishop had so much to say that remains incredibly relevant to our 21st century lives. Read more
For much of my younger adult life, I was waiting — hoping — for the day when I would feel wise. Some people said when they hit 40 they finally felt comfortable in their own skin and filled with wisdom to boot. I never felt that at 40. Not that it was a bad age, but the wisdom thing wasn’t happening as far as I was concerned. Then I heard, no, wait, 50 will be the magical age when you stop caring what other people think and become who you were always meant to be. I hit 50 in September, and while I felt some of that, I still didn’t feel all that wise. Read more
I’m used to being the oldest mom in a crowd, at least when it comes to spending time with my youngest, Chiara, who is only 6 years old. Having had her just before I turned 43, I am closer in age to some of her classmates’ grandparents rather than their parents.
Although on the surface that might seem to be a negative, when I am willing to look beyond the inevitable challenges of being an older mom — like not having nearly the same energy level I had when I was running around with my first 15 years ago — I think being of an “advanced maternal age,” as they say in the OB/GYN industry, has it benefits. Wisdom is the obvious gift that comes with age, but also a deeper appreciation for making the most of the moment when you’re in it. As I approach the half-century mark, I have become all too aware of how fleeting this life is, how quickly my 15 years of motherhood have passed and how quickly the next 15 years are likely to fly by. Read more