In less than a week, I'll be dipping my toes in the big 5-0.
But it's not the toe-dipping that rattles my nerves. As all mid-lifers know, it starts with a little "testing of the water" and the next thing we know we're half-way through a decade and beyond!
Seems like just yesterday friends cheered, "You're gonna love your 40s." How true that was ... I really have loved this decade!
Over the past week, I've been doing some reminiscing. And some looking ahead, too.
Looking back, not much of note stands out from my 30s. Not that it was a bad decade, but it was mostly about living life one day at a time, just trying to keep up. It was about loving on my two boys ... a rewarding but demanding career ... keeping relationships alive with my husband, my friends, my parents ... and trying to keep my eyes open ALL THE WAY through story-time when I tucked the boys in at night. More than once, MY head nodded and hit the pillow before I finished the story.
THE GREAT BALANCING ACT. That was life in my 30s. Stealing away from work because Zack had yet another painful ear infection, but on the other hand, missing his 3rd birthday party to handle media during a fatality at work. It was a tug of war working moms face every day, trying to give our full attention to our sick little boy or the work crisis of the moment, whichever needs us most.
But the 40s were a time of huge changes! Some stand out from the rest. A handful of experiences rocked my world; some quietly shaped me (for better or worse) into the nearly-50-year-old standing here today.
My 40s started with a career change, leaving my 17-year job at the place where I thought I'd retire. A big leap for a girl who didn't like change. At the time, my kids were still ... kids. Jake was 12 and Zack was 8. I appreciate now how young that really was, but back then, it felt like they were growing up quickly.
During their growing up years, my 40s, I learned so much from my children. There were tangible things, like Jake teaching me that I CAN run for more than 30 seconds at a time (at 13-years-old, he already called himself my personal trainer!).
And there were the other lessons, the ones that taught me life isn't always black and white. In fact, now I think it's RARELY black and white.
I learned to "pick my battles," like Mom always said, but I also learned that sometimes there really isn't a battle at all. That I should just let it go. And now, sometimes I actually can "let it go." (But not always. Maybe that'll happen in the next decade.)
It was a decade of half marathons with family and friends. It was family vacations hiking down into canyons in national parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone ... and gazing up at skyscrapers in big cities Chicago and New York City.
It was learning to feel comfortable in my own skin. Like a kid in a 40-something-year-old body.
It was good times.
And it was bumpy times, too.
Jake -- then Zack -- went away to college. And in between those two milestones there was a brutal, long-term illness for mom, and open heart surgery for my husband, Darren. Then, the earth-shattering loss of my sweet mom. My guide, my friend, my safety net.
I learned a lot about life during those turbulent times. I learned that some of life's brightest moments come in the darkest hours. I learned to hold on for dear life to the ones I love ... to my faith ... and to never lose hope.
I don't run so much anymore, which makes me a little sad, but I've found something new: writing. If my 40s were about putting one foot in front of the other, I hope my 50s will be about putting pen to paper (so to speak). Time will tell.
And in our little empty nest on Windsor Park Drive, my husband and I have discovered something. We're doing ok here on our own, with just our little dogs, Cookie and Sandie, to spoil. As much as we miss the boys (and we really do!), it's been kind of fun to rediscover each other and almost fall in love all over again.
Who knows what the next decade holds? I can't imagine. But I know God has a plan for me, and I know He's gotten me through the tough times, and blessed me in a million ways, too. Looking ahead, I feel a bit of excitement.
Standing here on the edge of 50, I think maybe instead of dipping my toes in the water, I'll just go ahead and dive ... right ... in. Head First.