Originally published Tuesday, 16 May 2023.
I am 50 years old for one more month, and I am confused about how I feel about it. On the day of my birthday last June, I was excited; I had assumed I would be disappointed by being 50, but I wasn’t. The day was a celebration of a life I was deeply grateful for. How amazing it is, I reasoned, that I had been able to be alive for this long.
This life of so much beauty and goodness. This life of so much rebellion and learning the hard way.
My life so far has been one long wrestling match with God. Am I okay? Yes. Am I enough? Yes. Do You see me? Yes. Am I loved?
My mom told me years ago, on her birthday, that aging was strange in that she feels, inside, like she is the same person that she has always been—and yet, with each birthday, she feels further away from that person, too. It is not only our bodies aging that mess with our self-perception—the aches and pains of them not working like they used to when we were younger; it is also how life’s challenges affect our resilience and faith. Can I still be joy-filled when my circumstances feel too much to bear? Can I still rejoice with hope amidst suffering and self-doubt and fatigue?
As we age, do we grow more resilient—and then appreciative of life with all of its goodness and strife? Or do we grow more exhausted, the longing for heaven intensifying each day? Aging messes with one’s identity, for sure.
Who am I now? Who was I then? Given the truth of who I am, I can only explore through my distorted self; how do my age, life experiences, and wisdom affect my interpretation of my worth?
Getting older is such a confusing business—one I don’t have at all figured out.
Here are some of the questions I have offered lately to God:
Am I still the same person you loved when I was younger, Father?
With all of my life experiences—and as I age—I feel a bit disoriented—distant from the person I was, and unfamiliar with who I am now. Am I battling with shame toward my aging? Am I idolizing youth?
I think I am wrestling with aging being one of those things I can’t control. I can’t stop it, and that makes me scared. Deep down, I feel like I am worth less each year I grow older—like the things one does when they are younger carry more weight and worth than something one accomplishes at 50.
Writing a book at age 20 versus age 50. Running a marathon. Climbing a mountain. Taking care of a loved one. Creating art. Everything I do now, at age 50, I wish I did then. This is because it feels like what I do now, at this age, is worth less than it would have been worth at age 20 or 30, or 40.
It is not that I am very disappointed that my body, face, skin, and hair—all of my physical appearance—are worn and older, even while my body aches more than it used to. But I don’t like that I feel at odds with who I am. I feel disorientated sometimes—unfamiliar, in a way, with my current self.
I recognize that our world doesn’t help me appreciate my age. With the message that “younger is better,” I feel like I am in a constant battle of telling myself that “everything is fine; you are okay.”
Perhaps this act of wrestling and confusion brings us closer to God, for as we grow older, we may have a greater understanding—and appreciation for—all that we don’t understand.
May we be calmed by the One who created us. May God’s love define for us what is new and beautiful and good. Amen.
Of course, you know I can’t end it here: I’ve learned better—for isn’t this just one side of a conversation? And don’t we feel better—after we have done our best to be open and vulnerable with our hearts—when we now listen for what God wants to say to us in response?
Oh, Father, we know you have an opinion here . . .
Sister, as He speaks to you, what do you hear Him say?
It's funny how our subconscious wrestles with questions long before we might acknowledge them–and give them the honor they deserve. This morning, as I prayed, I opened my journal to a poem I had written three weeks ago and forgotten about. I had titled it "My Life," which caught my attention, and it felt like a letter from myself to myself–an observation, an attempt to engage with the language of my own heart. I've shared the poem with you below.
It is worth listening to our hearts, don't you think?
So, here's my question to you today: Would you like to continue writing poetry with me–not because we aspire to be the most amazing poets (although you just might be exactly that!)–but because writing poetry or journaling (with words or with art) might be powerful tools to access–and honor–our hearts?
Yes? Are you in? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
And, if you'd like to do some writing with me this day, how about considering this question–an idea to ponder through either writing to yourself in your journal–or writing a poem:
How does your age affect your attitude toward your life and its worth?
And would you want to share your poem as a comment here?
Finally, stay tuned for another place I'm setting up for journaling and poetry lovers, a place where we get to share our heart wrestling (writing) together!
We worry if we amount to anything
–when does a gesture of kindness land,
or a gift, a sacrifice of the heart?
Does its worth equal what the recipient decides,
–or you, what about you?
For my heart is troubled,
empty hands requiring trust
feel vulnerable, ill-equipped to discern
what kind of life is more right than another
but who decides? Who knows?
This post appeared originally at jennifer.camp