Two Weeks to Sixty!

I celebrated the conclusion of my fifties on a 7 day cruise with my beautiful niece Lexi in April. In another two weeks, I will celebrate the beginning of my sixties with my husband in Turks and Caicos. I chose this photo for this blog post because the serenity in my face here matches what I'm feeling in my heart as I approach a new decade of my life. And, as we grow older, the times when what we see in our face matches up with what we feel inside are fewer and further apart. Some days, the only person I recognize in my reflection is my mom!

However, internally, though not always physically, I feel more vibrant and alive today than I did in my thirties. Internally, I feel at peace with my life and choices. Internally, I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been previously. I've grown to not only accept my flaws and weaknesses, I have learned to embrace them. I no longer have any desire to change who I am or the traits God assigned to me at birth. Every time I start to critique a rambling response to someone on Facebook and cringe at my verbosity, I remind myself, this is who God created me to be. I am a born communicator, a writer, a relater, an empathizer. I could not fulfill God's plans for my life without the traits He gave me. And I must accept both sides of my traits. Our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. This is not just true of me. It's the human condition. I finally grasp that I don't need to be anyone else but who I am and I shouldn't want to be anyone else. It doesn't mean I don't laugh at myself. But I am rebuking the cringe these days. 

I think recent therapy was the catalyst for this particular change. The statements I have made in therapy sessions, through tears, that "I am not bad or defective when I am being who God created me to be," lodged in my heart and mind. And making statements of forgiveness out loud to the people who mock, belittle, or feel disdain for me -- for being who I am -- has helped me to heal and move forward too. I don't know exactly how it works, but I do believe there has been a reset in my neurological wiring.

I like a quote I recently read that says "There would be no mountains without earthquakes." This applies to me at this point in my life. And God has used the analogy of an earthquake to communicate with me that what I have gone through the last few years has been for my good and for my growth. I know He told me that sometimes it takes an earthquake to set us free. I can see that now.

I am no longer feeling the craving of external validation that I once needed from people around me. I'm not saying I don't need ANY external validation. My primary love language IS "words of affirmation." But my focus now is on what I know to be true of myself and who I am. The opinions of others, while still valued, are not my compass. And I no longer define myself through the lens of other people's opinions of me; especially those who are harshly critical of me. I wish I had gotten here sooner. But I'm thankful at least that I got here! And I'm celebrating that as I look FORWARD to my birthday in two weeks!

I've come to learn that while it may always be painful to know someone you care about holds a dark view of you, it isn't the end of the world. Things I once thought I could not bear have happened to me. And I have survived. No, I need to say it differently. I have thrived! I have grown ... exponentially. I've grown in wisdom, in self-control, in self-awareness and in self-respect. But most of all, I've grown in the awareness of my own intrinsic value and worth apart from anyone else's opinion. 

There's something almost magical that happens when you "arrive" at this place in life. You feel free. Oh, pain is still there to be felt. But pain can be felt in the background while joy moves to center stage. That's where I am as I reach this milestone birthday. 

My forties and fifties exceeded my expectations and I fully anticipate that I will one day say the same about my sixties.

The last few years of my fifties, I must admit that I've struggled with the woes of having to grow older. I haven't looked forward to being an "older woman." Only the fact that I was still living made it acceptable. We all want to stay young. And why wouldn't we? Well, I have been counting the reasons why I love being this age as I've moved closer and closer to 60. (The number that represents the beginning of old age to me. HaHa.)

One of the greatest joys of being this age is found in my relationships with my nieces as they have become young adults. I have adored my nephews and nieces since the day they were born. I used to call them my practice grandchildren. My goal was the same in both relationships. I just wanted every kid in my life to know how much I loved them and that they were special to me. This was my goal as a mother too. Purely and simply, unconditional love. I've never wanted control or dominance. I just wanted to LOVE the next generation (and the next after them) WELL and UNCONDITIONALLY with all my heart. I didn't want to control anyone because I never liked it when parents or grandparents attempted to control me or my thoughts. What I craved was unconditional love and acceptance. So that is what I tried to give. 

As my birthday gets closer, I've thought a lot about how I am the oldest (in my family) of the now "older generation." My parents are both gone. And I am the older sister of two brothers (although one of my brothers has always seemed more like the older brother -- even to me). All the cousins are adults now except my baby brother's two youngest. And one of them will be driving soon. In eight short years, they will all be grown. And I'll feel even older. These thoughts were making me feel like I had one foot in the grave for a while. (Laughing at myself here.) And then my outlook shifted dramatically. I really think it was God's voice in my ear (once again).

I started to think about my role in the lives of others; specifically the lives of younger women. Primarily, I thought of my nieces. But I also thought of my younger friends. And I began to focus on what I bring to those relationships BECAUSE I am this age. Where would any of us be without mentoring relationships? Especially as women! I have a special and important role in some very special young women's lives. And I can't fulfill my purpose or God's plans for me by staying young. He has a fresh agenda for me in these years. And I want to let go of what's behind me so I can fully take hold of what is ahead!

I'm excited about the years in front of me. I'm taking care of myself. I've recently taken control of my eating and shed the 11 pounds I had accepted as age-related weight gain. (Apparently, not.) I'm feeling strong physically and I still have my health. I'm not on any medications. I'm exercising 5-6 days a week. I'm able to travel more and enjoy life. I have the most generous, loving, unselfish, funny, sweet husband and a happy, fulfilling marriage. I have so much love in my life. I have lifelong friends and newer friendships that have grown deep and rich in recent years. I am so blessed. And because of what Christ did for me/us, I have so much more to live for than just this life. There is nothing to grieve about growing older. It's all good except for the limitations and changes in our earth suits! But what is happening inside is worth that!

I am ending this decade and beginning the next with gratitude and expectation. And I'm on-the-edge-of-my-seat-excited to have a front row seat for the next chapter of life unfolding in the lives of our family's younger generation. So many changes this year. And while there is a little sadness to deal with about those whose adventures are taking them to new places, I know that no distance can separate our hearts. I'll just have new places to visit.

I have a whole new outlook on turning 60. I'm 100% thankful and overflowing with joy. I am blessed. And whatever bumps in the road the future may hold for me, I'm going to enjoy every day that God gives me to the fullest. I'm going to choose joy. I'm going to choose gratitude. I'm going to do it to the best of my ability every single day. And I am not going to waste precious time wishing I was younger (not even when I look in the mirror). I like who I am at 60 more than any other age in my whole entire life. And THAT is something to be celebrated!

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts! I know there are some of you who ALWAYS do! I love you!

Life is good.