This week I turned 55. I've had time to reflect on growing older. I've also had time to think about suffering, loss, depression, and grief in ways I would never have imagined. I haven't resolved my struggles. In fact, I have more questions than ever. But I've learned to live with them and embrace them. As Rainer Maria Rilke suggested, "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves."
I celebrate this milestone with humble gratitude that, despite my weaknesses, I have learned some valuable and unexpected lessons.
Here are five things I've learned since turning 50:
- Hard doesn't mean impossible.
"Can't" was a big part of my inner vocabulary. I didn't realize this until we were faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Now I understand that life may be hard or difficult, but not impossible. "I can't" has become "I can try."
- My voice matters.
As our medical needs grew in the days following my 50th birthday, I found myself at the mercy of more than 60 medical professionals. I felt voiceless and inadequate, drowning in a sea of expertise. Something was wrong and I knew it. I faced a difficult choice. Do I listen to the experts or trust my instincts as a mother? My decision to listen to my mother's heart has made all the difference.
- Embrace reality.
As life became increasingly difficult, I found myself idealizing my past. "If only" and "I wish" kept my heart and mind directed to our old life. "Someday" kept me idealizing our future. Only when I chose to embrace reality did I find myself able to connect with our present. Today is all we have and all we're meant to live.
- My health is my own.
When our health declined I looked to a doctor to fix us. I resisted responsibility for my family's health. After exhausting our options, I knew it was time to try a different path. Food became our best prescription for recovery. My kitchen became our pharmacy. Taking charge of one's own health is both empowering and rewarding.
- Keep going.
My health and mind collapsed the day our world collapsed, and I struggled to get through every minute of every day. My unrelenting fatigue, along with the sudden loss of my mother, took me deeper into despair and discouragement. I hung onto one thought: "Don't give up." Even if I wasn't "succeeding" and our lives were still in turmoil, at least I was trying. There is much to gain simply by taking the next step.
Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be . . .
Out of these painful years has come a clear mission to educate and empower others through the organization momsAWARE This week on my husband's radio program (Chris Fabry Live!), I discussed the issue of hair coloring. To prepare, I colored my hair using 100% botanical products. I took before and after photos. Here is the "before":
To see the "after" and learn more about the hidden hazards of hair dyes, see our article To Dye or Not To Dye.
If you'd like to hear the interview, visit the Chris Fabry Live! website to listen online or download the podcast.