|BWS Stories - "If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves|
"If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves - Forty and Fine, Thank You
Betti Bernardi is a freelance writer with a background in Behavioral Science. She has lived in harmony with three males (two of whom are her sons, now married) who did windows and knew how to iron! She has published several articles and poems, and is now working on two book proposals. She resides in Pueblo, Colorado and can be reached at Bgjean@cs.com.
Forty and Fine, Thank You
The world tells me that I should be depressed, clamor for the Retin-A, the Lady Clairol, and that special psychiatrist's couch reserved for aging and, therefore, soon-to-be-neurotic women. Well, the calendar announced my passage into that cliché of all birthdays: I am 40. And now if I could find the time, I would work on my feelings of predicted depression. Except I do not have the time or the inclination, and I feel sinfully wonderful!
I do not mean to infer that the date passed without a second thought. I indulged delicious reflection regarding my future and how it intertwines with, and departs from, my past. That heart-to-heart I gave myself produced smiles and a quiet camaraderie with my own personal history. The special and loving efforts offered by my family of men—one life partner and two teenaged sons—made the day shine and sealed my sense of comfort with this milestone birthday.
So to all the experts on women and aging, on feelings and families, to those of you who would predict the beginning of my demise, reduction of my self-esteem, and diminished desire to make an impact on this world, I refuse to submit to your grim predictions. To those of you who would have me feeling dowdy, dumpy, sad, unwanted, scared, weaker, and older, I say let me enjoy what it really is for me. I do not need your dismal forecasts of where and how aging neuroses should manifest themselves in my life. I am fine, thank you.
Physically speaking, let us discuss “over the hill.” The commonly used phrase sends many of us to the spa grasping for that elusive fountain of youth, causing us to reach for impossible standards of beauty. I am supposed to become obsessed with retaining what is left of my youthful appearance. Vanity? Oh yes, I am vain. I see the dentist regularly for my smile; the health aspect of such visits is a nice by-product. But I will not be covering my gray. I will not be going in for a face, rear or bust lift, tuck, or whatever. Not that I am antagonistic toward people who choose to do such things, it is just that my bust and rear are fine, thank you. And I like my face.
The difference that 20 years has wrought is that I am more comfortable with my crow's feet at 40 than I was with all my imagined imperfections at 20. I look at me through my eyes now. At 20 I saw only what I assumed others admired. Forty is more honest—and better.
My marriage is thriving. But if the predictors of doom are to be believed, I am supposed to be experiencing a certain amount of waning marital bliss. Why our intimacy, understanding, and love continue to bloom does not seem to be answered by such statistics to the contrary. I have never felt “married” to the man I married. Maybe it is because the experts and society gave us a tainted view of what a marriage is. It is, for us, fresh, funny, intimate, hard work, loving, sometimes sad, joyous, never routine, independent, and continually growing. It is two soul mates walking together through life with joy and with pain, with love and with commitment, toward the mutually satisfying and enriching possibilities the union affords us. Waning marital bliss? Sorry, my love life is grand, thank you.
My motherhood is secure, though my sons are teens. The experts tell me I should begin to worry about the impending empty nest. Sorry, I have not, do not, and will not! We struggled financially through those early years of marriage and babies however, our commitment to our family was total. Our babies illuminated the superiority of one human’s love for another over the acquisitive frenzy in which so many of our generation seem to be engaged. Though babies are “in” now, they have always been “in” to us. I am grateful for their presence in my life and am honored to have helped launch them into a world that desperately needs young people like them. I am secure in the fact that our daily attention to their advancement and growth in a world often hard to explain has served us, and them, well. Twinges of the empty nest syndrome? No, I am genuinely comfortable with the time invested in them. And because I have invested that effort, I have no regrets about time lost to less important matters
I also hear about midlife crisis. Strangely, I do not feel powerless, incapable, or useless. My life is such a cacophony of different experiences, most unplanned and surprising, that I have had the good fortune to adjust to a myriad of situations. Crisis? No. Finding the time to do all I want to do? Yes! I maintain a passionate and active interest in the world. My ideals have not changed greatly since I was 20, but perhaps my perspective on how to attain those ideals has changed. And so at 40, I am aware that change is a process, ever dynamic. I am cognizant that the struggle toward anything better is part of the process, and each day helps us to understand that particular evolution a little better. And at 40, I know that understanding does not always mean liking.
I continue to feel loved and valued as a friend and confidante. I have learned over the years that friendships are essential to my well-being. Although I am still a kind and interested listener, I no longer deny myself in order to give another my time and soul in a one-sided relationship. If my sister-in-law is obnoxious, I no longer blame myself for it. If my kids are cranky, I do not try to smooth the way out of a sense of guilt. I know better now, and I share relationships that are richer for that knowledge—and much more real.
I am not a subservient matron rendered dysfunctional by unexpressed anger at being taken advantage of by members of my household. My family will not remember me for the gourmet breakfasts and lunches I prepared or the freshly starched shirts hanging in their closets at the close of wash day. They will know however, that I was there with them. They will remember that I was available to talk if they needed it, and nothing would supersede their need to discuss a problem, accomplishment, or any of their everyday happenings. I have enjoyed the most remarkable and heart-felt conversations with my sons and their father over the years. We have laughed a lot. I hope they value my independence and my exuberant love for them. They have never taken me for granted since any signs of such were met with loud vocal reproach. In other words, I do not feel misunderstood by the males in my family. My self-esteem is intact, thank you.
Though I am not as bright-eyed, I am certainly more focused now. Forty? Well, it is great to be 40. I do not feel anything that I have been warned to expect. In fact, I feel fine, thank you!