At the age of nine, all it took was a pair of orange stirrup pants to make me feel groovy. Purple and pink paper flowers decorated my room. Peace signs adorned my notebooks. Some might say I was too young to be a true flower child, but I felt hip.
In junior high, all it took to feel special was a pair of white go-go boots, castoffs of my much cooler aunt. So what if I had to rub white polish on them daily so the worn places wouldn’t show? My boots were made for walking! My room smelled of incense, and posters of Shaun Cassidy and Donny Osmond hung on the wall. Okay, not quite a rock rebel, but I felt cool.
In high school, the piece of clothing that made me “with it” was a lime green peasant blouse, another hand-me-down from my aunt. My friend and I giggled when we heard her mother moan to a friend, “You can’t tell the difference between these and maternity tops.” What a shame to grow old and be so “out of it.”
Then, one day years later, I stood in the auto department of Walmart, waiting patiently while my husband studied each and every type of windshield wiper the store carried. Bored, I gazed around until my eyes spotted a grouping of mirrors.
That’s when I had it…my middle-aged moment.
I could see myself in the mirrors. In fact, I could see myself several times over. It wasn’t my dress or even my shoes that made me stare. It was my purse, a no-nonsense affair attached to my arm by two sturdy straps. It was a middle-aged woman’s purse.
I was middle aged.
I know how it happened. Those birthdays I’d joyfully celebrated had turned on me. But still, going from the bloom of youth to the top of the downhill slide–well, that was hard. It required a whole change in attitude…namely depression.
While I didn’t pull a black scarf over my head and take up residence in my rocking chair, I did, in a sense, give up. After all, I wasn’t young anymore, certainly wasn’t “with it,” and I hadn’t been cool for a long time. This depression could have gone on forever if I hadn’t realized I was looking in the wrong direction along my timeline.
While thumbing through a magazine one day, I came across an article about an artist. She was proudly in her sixties, making no apologies for her age. Her clothes weren’t the latest style. She’d even allowed her hair to go gray. And she looked wonderfully graceful, tailored, and confident.
I wanted to be her.
But how? I have the grace of a gazelle without night vision. If I wear anything remotely tailored, I guarantee I will spill soup on it or pop at least two buttons. Confidence? If I had that, I wouldn’t be eyeing the black scarf and rocking chair! After rifling through my wardrobe and contemplating a bonfire, I almost slipped back into my depression. I couldn’t be her.
Then I recalled the wise words of Psalms 139:14.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
I couldn’t be her, but I could be me. Ah yes, that was the lesson. Her grace and confidence came not from imitating others, but from living happy as herself.
Could I be happy as myself? Yes, but first I had to change my thinking. I needed to start acting like I believed the verse.
I am not pale, but fair (or on a good day, gossamer).
I am not chubby, but curvy.
I am not average, but fabulous and unique, the best (and only) me that exists.
God created me and he didn’t do it as a joke.
He made me wonderful! And He loves me. We all need to remind ourselves of that very true fact.
Seriously, try singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of your voice (preferably in the privacy of your own home). Treat it not like a children’s song, but as an affirmation that yes, Jesus loves YOU. Not because you’re graceful. Not because you always say the right thing, and certainly not because you wear the latest styles. He loves you because you are worth loving. Of course you are–He made you.
Have I suddenly developed grace? No, I’m still bumping my way through life just like that night vision-impaired gazelle.
I’ll never be twenty again. Anything dewy about my skin comes from a bottle. Perky has never described my personality and now it doesn’t come near to describing my body.
But now, my timeline faces forward. So what if I’m middle-aged? That simply means I’m in the middle of life’s adventure, still looking forward to where it’s going to take me. God’s got plans.
As for that middle-aged purse? It’s gone, baby, it’s gone!
Susan has spoken at Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conferences and has also judged in the juvenile and short story for children contest categories for the Oklahoma City Writers.She lives with her hubby and Kira, the dog that thinks she’s people.
You can find out more about Susan and her books at susanameyers.com