Embracing forty

The year I turned 38, I found something that kind of rocked my world as I knew it. I found . . .

A grey hair.

This just couldn’t be.

I got super close to the mirror and examined that hair. I stepped back and looked at it from a different angle. Then I got right up on the bathroom countertop and peered at that hair with such intensity, I swear it shriveled back into its hole.

And then I went to show my husband.

“Look. A grey hair.”

“What? Where?”

“It’s right there. Don’t you see it right next to that other hair?”

“I don’t see it. Oh wait. That one?… I think that’s blond.”

Ye-aaaah. That’s right. It’s blond.

And then I yanked that “blond” hair right out of its socket.

Thirty-nine
After the shocker of 38, I didn’t think 39 was going to faze me.

I was wrong.

I had a mini midlife crisis. I say “mini” because it’s not like I went out and got Botox or something, but I did obsessively research miracle anti-wrinkle creams for a few months. I was seriously struggling with the reality that I was in the last year of my thirties.

How could I be 39 and where I was in life?

I thought I’d be further ahead. More grown-up. More secure.

More.

I know it sounds ludicrous, but I think I was shocked that time just keeps ticking. That time does not hand out handouts. Not even to me.

You know, me, Time’s “favourite” gal. Time might make everyone else age, but not little ol’ me. Time might not allow others to achieve what they want, but it would help out me, right? ‘Cause age and pain and all that garbage happen to other people, right?

Right?

Forty
This past week I turned 40. And I won’t lie: it’s been rough. You know that song, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to?” Well, that’s been me. All week. Sure, I’ve been tired and hormonal and I’m 40 with young children, but really? You’d think I’d turned four, not 40.

But I’ve been a wreck. Like a funeral or new year, turning 40 has caused me to pause and ponder about my life. And being more like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, I’ve admittedly had a bit of a “glass-half-empty” focus.

I look in the mirror of my life and I see mostly regret. Life not lived. Time wasted. I see the areas that I haven’t grown. The places of rebellion I still clutch onto.

The pain that I numb.

And I see anger and disappointment in God. That he hasn’t intervened, healed and rescued me when I’ve wanted him to, in the ways I’ve wanted him to.

Walking through the wilderness
On the eve of my 40th birthday, my sister called me up. After hearing my Eeyore voice, she tried to cheer me up. “Embrace forty!” she encouraged me.

But that’s the problem. Embracing 40 means I have to embrace it all: my sagging skin and my sagging heart. The greys on my head and the grey in my soul.

Not just the good. But the bad and ugly, too – old feelings that have been pushed away for a looong time. Decades.

And I don’t want to embrace them. I often wish those emotions away, deny they’re actually there, or worse: try to pluck them right out.

Like the Israelites who wandered through the wilderness for 40 years, it’s taken me 40 years of wandering in my wild emotions, whining, complaining, hating their existence.

And it’s like God’s finally saying, “Enough. You think I don’t know what exists inside of you? I know the very number of hairs on your head for cryin’ out loud (even the “blond” ones)! It’s time we walk through your true feelings. Not around them. No dying them a different colour or pretending they’re not there. Through them.”

And like a tantruming toddler, I hear myself scream, “I hate this. I don’t want to!”

“I know you don’t,” I sense him saying. “But I can handle even those emotions. Just feel them, and I will walk you through their wilderness.”

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2 NLT).

Author

  • Julia Van Huizen is a part-time marketing director, freelance writer and stay-at-home mom. She lives in Stirling, Ontario.

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