Happy Birthday to me. I turned 46 years old today. There’s something monumental about crossing over to the 50 side of my 40s. More monumental than hitting 40, I think. That was sort of anti-climactic, if you ask me. However, since I turned 40, I’ve been biding my time, waiting for the moment when the wisdom of middle age would take hold and I would finally feel comfortable in my own skin, something that hasn’t always come easy to me. Well, I’m here to tell you, the time has arrived! As I told Dennis the other day, I feel as though I have reached a crescendo in my life. In the immortal words of the Seinfeld episode on senior drivers, “I’m old, and I’m coming back.” In other words, I’m doing what I want to do regardless of what everyone else thinks or wants.
I don’t mean that in a selfish or mean sense. I mean that in a wise and softened sense. I mean that, finally, at the age of 46, I am letting go of some of the unnecessary stuff and worrying more about the important stuff — like God and my family. Nothing drove this point home more than last weekend’s camping trip at Auriesville. This would not have happened a few years ago, maybe not even one year ago. My fears of camping would have gotten the best of me and I would have missed out on the experience with Noah. Now I am embracing my inner camper, and I think that has to do with getting older. The thought of being outside in God’s creation is starting to hold a lot more weight than the dread of having to use latrines or public restrooms and sleeping on the cold ground. Suddenly schlepping through the mountains or fields without a shower for two days, covered in grime, hair shoved into a baseball cap so as not to scare the wildlife, seems absolutely perfect.
I’m feeling this new laid back side of my mature self in my work as well. I can feel my writing shifting. I recently resigned from my position as Contributing Editor at Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. After 15 years with OSV, I told my editor that I no longer felt called to write about the business of the Church but rather about the truths of the faith. That’s the best way I can describe it. Still, that was a leap of faith. I will need to find new kinds of writing to fill the void, but I know it will come. It always has — every time I’ve stepped off the proverbial ledge and trusted that I wouldn’t hit the ground.
This is where I am now, and I find that I’m very happy here. Back when I turned 30, when Dennis and I were just co-workers and friends at Catholic New York, I remember telling him that my 30s were going to be “my decade.” And, in a sense, they were. I married Dennis, had two of my three children, moved to Texas, bought a house, wrote my first book, and built my fledgling free-lance business into something livable. Not a bad decade. I didn’t think my 40s could top that. I thought it would be all down hill from there, but then along came Chiara and another book and more work and a beautiful region of the country to call home, and all the wonderful, crazy things that go along with being a wife and a parent.
Lately — and, again, a lot of this may have to do with all my retreat time and with my renewed and deeper hunger for more of God in my life — I realize that I should be enjoying my 40s, especially since I have been blessed with good health and a strong body and an even stronger will to do the things I set out to do. Life is good, as the popular T-shirts and coffee mugs say. And so it is.