The Smell of Restlessness (Lent, Day 12)

Over the ten years I’ve lived in my town, I’ve walked in the same park many times.

Nothing much has changed about this park. What used to be our town’s first country club is now a walking path with benches to sit and people-watch and a lake to stare at reflections of the sun while ducks float on the water.

It’s one of my favorite places to come. When I’m here, I’m myself. No one is with me except the music in my ear or maybe a podcast on afternoons I’m feeling extra-eager to learn something.

My favorite place in Oxford besides my deck.

Sometimes I will sit by the lake on a blanket and write. I study the water. I watch small children as they fish. I see turtles’ tiny heads poking above ripples, or, as I said before, notice the many ducks who call this area their home.

Something about water brings me closer to the Creator of the Universe. I haven’t quite pinpointed why that is; I only know that water reminds me of the Living Water, and I’m filled with gratitude when I’m nearby.

I have to admit that lately I haven’t had much gratitude.

I could blame it on the last few years; they’ve been hard on us all, right?

But I think it’s more than that.

I’m sad.

We get to our forties, and everyone says something like, “This will be the best decade yet!”(I know because I just said it last week to a girl who turned forty.) But if I were honest, I’d also say, it’s the most difficult decade yet, at least, for women.

The forties is the decade where, unless we’re Shakira or able to afford millions in plastic surgery, we stop being pretty by the world’s standards.

This is the decade that we’re no longer sexy, no longer desirable to most of the male population.

I’m painting with broad strokes here because of course that’s not true for all of us, nor do all men suddenly stop finding us attractive or desirable at forty.

But it sure feels that way, especially to those of us who have let ourselves go, who used to be pretty, but no longer feel as if they measure up to what is considered beautiful today.

Entering your forties as a woman who is struggling to stay youthful is painful. You know that serious changes need to be made mentally, physically, spiritually, but you’re still fighting like hell to hold on to what you once had, what will no longer be true again.

If a face could describe flying through your forties!

I will never be twelve again. Twelve was such a weird age; I felt trapped between a child and a woman. One day I wanted wear makeup and grow huge boobs, and the next I wanted to lock my bedroom door and play with my barbies.

I will never graduate high school again. I look at the picture of my daughter’s graduation, and I’m overwhelmed with the realization that mine felt like it was just yesterday, and now so much time has gone by.

I will never again give birth to a child. That is probably something that many women will never have a chance to do, and it sure wasn’t something I took for granted. I enjoyed every minute of it, and it’s a bittersweet feeling to know it will never happen again.

By far, the hardest part of entering my forties has been realizing that, if God Wills, I’m likely a little less than halfway finished with life.

When I stop and think that my paternal grandmother died at 77, her mother at 84, and my maternal grandmother at just 62, it’s probable that I have even less time than that.

If I’m being honest, the thought sends a shiver down my spine.

Don’t get me wrong; I believe in eternity, and because I am a Christian (sad that I have to follow that with, “I’m not that kind of Christian”), I truly believe what comes next will be more than good.

But even the most pious and faithful of believers won’t raise their hand to say, “Hey, take me now!” unless they are utterly miserable here on Earth.

And while I’ve had some rough times, none yet have been rough enough for me to say, “I’m ready,” with the exception of the last couple of years.

Mornings on my deck are always spent with these two!

The last couple of years have been a doozy.

Many mornings I’ve woken up, poured a cup of coffee, sat on my back deck, and thought to myself, “I wouldn’t care if today was the day I died.”

And honestly, suicidal thoughts used to scare me. But they don’t anymore. I recognize they are a normal part of an empath like me dealing with the stress of growing older in an imperfect world.

It’s a frightening thing to come to terms with the end of life. I’ve had enough conversations with my parents and in-laws to know this is true.

Here I am at the midpoint (again, if God wills), and they’re on the last leg of their journey. Every day, we are all nearing the end, as morose as that seems.

It’s caused me to panic a bit, I’m afraid. Call it a midlife crisis, call it a come to Jesus, call it whatever you like. I’m all of a sudden thinking of all I never did, I’m not doing now, and I may not get to do in the future.

To make matters worse, my body seems to be giving out at a faster pace than my brain.

My hysterectomy eight years ago accelerated the aging process. It is what it is. I can’t do anything about what was done, but I’m sure not helping matters now.

Since I gave up alcohol, I sometimes binge on food more than I should.

I want to exercise, but my body feels depleted of energy, most likely from a lack of testosterone.

I fall asleep at 8 pm when I’m not ready to, and I wake up at 3 am, when I don’t want to.

I’m the hot mess express.

A wise man told me yesterday that today’s woman is caught between a rock and a hard place.

“I wouldn’t want to be a woman today for all the money in the world,” he said.

You have to be perfect.

Perfect body at any age.

Perfect employee, or better yet, owner of your own empire.

Perfect wife and mom.

Perfect caretaker of others.

Perfect cook and homemaker.

Perfect, perfect, perfect.

I wanted to argue with him that women have always been caught between a rock and a hard place, and I wonder if so many times, it’s not by our own doing.

It seems to be part of women’s nature that we believe we can do it all.

But we can’t. And maybe my generation is the one that needs to stand up and shout that from the rooftops.

I can be an okay employee or a phenomenal mom. But I can’t do both.

I can be a kind of good mom and an awesome writer. But I can’t do both.

I can cook some amazing, melt-in-your mouth food full of cheese, and fat, and salt and sugar and I can eat a plate of lettuce to be skinny and perfect. But I can’t do both.

I can be an amazing wife and a somewhat good vixen, or a freak in the sheets and a bleh wife. But if my husband is asking me to suddenly turn on my sexy while turning my head every time he goes to the golf course instead of spending time with his wife, then sorry, sweet husband, I can’t do both.

Of course, all of these examples employ the caveat, “at least, not all the time.” There are days I rock it at work and at home. There are nights I get the good food because I’ve eaten well during the day, and there are months where my husband and I just click regardless of what’s going on, but for the most part, I’m barely scraping by in one area of life if I want to kill it in another.

And maybe that’s what the rub is.

Maybe I am tired of thinking that as a woman, I have to kill it all the time.

Maybe sometimes I want to do me, for me and make life about me, and not have the world’s issues on my shoulders.

Maybe I want to write that book, travel to that far off place, dress however I want to, eat the good food, drink the good wine, have amazing sex.

Maybe I want to just be who the Creator made me, who I really am, instead of who the world–especially the evangelical world of my past–thinks I should be.

What I’ve been asking myself lately is this: Have I been chasing all the wrong things?

I’ve thought about this more and more since my grandmother passed away ten years ago.

She was such a rock in my life, and she provided stability and love. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve remembered at what cost that stability and love for me came.

My grandmother quite literally laid down her life for her four boys and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was miserable in order for us to be happy.

The woman did it all.

And maybe it’s just my generation–maybe we are a little too selfish–but I don’t want to be miserable, not for my husband, not for my children, my parents, my employers, not for anyone.

Even so, I feel caught between a rock and a hard place. I remember what it was like to be the child who had to pick up the pieces when my own parents decided they weren’t happy with their lives.

All of these decisions I’ve made in my life for others. Sure, I’ve been selfish, too. No doubt about that. I forced my husband to move away from the only home he’d ever known. I forced my kids to leave their grandparents and their safety all because I wasn’t happy.

I’ve been very selfish. I feel selfish now.

I feel selfish because I’m restless. It’s so palpable I can smell it in the air. It reeks of bitterness and sour stench and a rotting soul.

And it reminds me of my grandmother. She died unhappy. Seventy-seven years she lived on earth, and for many, if not most of them, she was unhappy.

I don’t know whether that makes me want to cry out in gratitude for what she sacrificed for me or if it makes me think that maybe we’re all unhappy here and always we’ll be.

And maybe what makes us have momentary pockets of peace and happiness is the gratitude we’re willing to throw on the table.

Gratitude for being alive.

Gratitude for having a body, soul and spirit.

Gratitude for a roof and a car and a family.

Gratitude for a paycheck and a life worth living.

Gratitude that my life has abundance and joy, if only I would stop and see it.

Maybe my grandmother wasn’t as miserable as I thought she was.

She woke up every morning and cooked a grand breakfast.

She dressed and put on makeup and went to the store.

She worked in her beautiful yard and watched her soaps.

She adored her family.

Love these two to the moon and back!

Maybe I’m projecting my own restlessness on my late grandmother’s life.

And if that’s so, then it’s time for a reset.

Because I might be aging, but I don’t have to be ungrateful, and I don’t have to see the world in such a negative light.

There is so much left to do, and with gratitude in my heart and pockets of joy–and a good walk around the lake every once in a while–I will achieve what I set out to accomplish before my time on earth is finished.

But I can honor myself and all the women who have come before me by living a life of gratitude. I can repay their sacrifices by being thankful for the many gifts and opportunities I’ve been given from the love of those around me.

See you soon,


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