Do you ever wake up afraid in the morning, I mean really afraid? You don’t have to answer that, because I know that sometimes we all do. I did today. I’m not sure why, but I have a few guesses. It’s been a hard week over here. I’ve had some challenges. I also went to bed last night after discovering that our esteemed *cough* governor had nominated Susan Dench for the University of Maine Board of Trustees. If THAT doesn’t strike fear in your heart, you have not been paying attention!
This made me remember another morning, as a child, getting on the school bus on the first day of school. I went to a Catholic elementary school, but we rode the same bus as the public school kids. I was the only Catholic school kid on my new bus. I was the only one wearing the blue and green plaid uniform and the knee socks and I was terrified. I was terrified of being different, of being ostracized; I was terrified that everyone could hear the thoughts in my head and would know how scared I was!
The difference in adult situations is that at least I know for sure you can’t hear the thoughts in my head (until I blab them all in a blog that is). I know as an adult I can put on my game face and get through any difficult situation. Now, as a reasonably healthy adult, whether or not strangers like me does not affect my own sense of worth. I know which “kids on my bus” I can count on!
While the very young certainly have valid fears, they often have the blissful freedom of not fearing the things us old folks know with certainty will happen at some point. The young don’t often fear death, illness, or unemployment. They don’t fear not having enough retirement savings, or wonder who will take care of them when they are old.
But by the time you hit middle age, you‘ve survived enough to start to worry what the hell is around the next corner. You know that people die, unexpectedly and far more often than we want to think about. You know that you could get laid off no matter how hard you work. You know that relationships, even those in which everyone promised “happily ever after” can end. You know that health is not guaranteed, and neither is your ability to be able to take of yourself.
The thing about being middle aged that is so wonderful, and so comforting, is that even though we can finally say out loud how afraid we are sometimes, we don’t let it hold us back. We know what matters. We know what’s important and what we can just let go of. We know that every moment counts. We concentrate on having quality people in our lives. We know that every encounter is a blessing, and we know that we could lose them without warning, so we love them with all we have.
I adore that about my friends. When we were in our twenties we hardly ever said “I love you.” Today, we say it often. We say it out loud, and we mean it.
Just as important, at this age we love ourselves. That doesn’t mean loving ourselves is always easy. That doesn’t mean that we like what we see every time we look in the mirror. What it means is that we have made peace with ourselves. We know what’s good about us, and we know what still needs work, and we are working on it. As adults we’ve made peace with the scared child inside of us. We stop denying that he/she exists. We acknowledge that child’s loss, and pain and fears and we try to move on from there.
The very best realization I’ve come to at this age is that I am not alone. I know that you all have that same inner child. I know that everyone has the same fears and the same needs. The truest people in my life, the ones who can be counted on, are those who can recognize that child. No, we can’t hear each other’s thoughts but our hearts speak the same language.
We know that we deserve truth and care from those we allow into our lives and we have the courage and strength to accept nothing less. We have the courage and strength to let go of the people who our hearts are not safe with. We are true to ourselves.
My dear friend and fellow blogger, Jim LaPierre, was on the same wave length this morning when he wrote The Truth about You & Me and What We Deserve. If you’ve enjoyed or related to these thoughts, hop on over to his page and continue the discussion.
And remember, the marks of a life well lived have nothing to do with the balance in your bank account, or the size of your house, or the title after your name. So if you’ve reached this age, and you are worried about which of those things you’ve done and which of those things you’ve missed out on, I’m here to tell you a little fear is okay, I’m scared too, but you are doing fine.
The signs of a life lived fully are the number of people who love you, the number of people you’ve loved, the times you’ve laughed, the sunsets you’ve watched and the stories you have to tell. We start this life with nothing more than the love of those who brought us into the world, or welcomed us into their family, and we leave with nothing more than that, just the love and support of our family, our blood family, our adopted families, our friends who often are our truest family. It’s all you need. Anything else you have in the years between is gravy.