It’s All in the Journey
On my 37th birthday in July, I took a Zumba class taught by a good friend, who dedicated a song to me that I particularly love. After the class, all the Zumba ladies, as they’re affectionately known, gathered around me in the locker room. These women range in age from late 50s to 70s. Many of them have grown children or grandchildren.
They asked how old I was and then wistfully recalled being 37 themselves. They all reminisced about what their lives had been like then and about how young I was and how much of life I still had ahead of me.
Still, it feels startling being 37. I’m not really in my mid-30s anymore. I’m edging my way into my late-30s, with 40 right around the corner.
Next year, I’ll celebrate my 10 year wedding anniversary and my older daughter will turn 5.
I know everyone says life goes so fast, but it’s crazy to recall exact details from your sweet 16 party and college and your wedding and then suddenly find yourself pushing 40.
How did that happen?
I’m grateful to those Zumba ladies for giving me a little perspective on aging. These women turn up to dance their hearts out week after week, giving their all to the class and constantly look joyful while doing so.
They make me realize that a lot of good comes from growing older. A lot changes, but often in the very best of ways.
At 37, I feel more settled into my life. My daughters are getting older, which comes with challenges, but also brings a bit of freedom to my life as they’re less dependent on me. My husband and I are able to carve out time for ourselves. I’m able to talk to other women without a child demanding something every 30 seconds.
These are all good things.
I don’t look the same as I did at 27, when I was a fresh-faced bride. I have more greys in my hair and more wrinkles around my eyes. Having children changed how my body looks. I have a rounded stomach that probably will never go away and smaller breasts, forever changed from breastfeeding.
I’m also physically stronger than I’ve ever been. At 35, I committed to a regular workout routine, incorporating strength training in ways I never have before. While I am able to push my body in new ways, I’ve also had to learn how to listen to myself. Did I tweak my shoulder doing push-ups? Is my knee aching because a storm is coming? How do I adjust my workout to compensate from that?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more accepting about what my body wants and needs —and what I should avoid. Here are some of the ways I’m learning to age gracefully:
I’ve always been a pretty good eater, but working with a dietician over the last year has really helped me be healthier. The downside of this is that my body definitely feels it when I eat unhealthy foods. Too much dairy completely does me in. Besides dairy, I face bloating and other GI issues with too much red meat, processed or fried foods. It’s frustrating not being able to indulge in foods I love, but the gastric discomfort the next day is starting to outweigh my enjoyment in making unhealthy choices.
I can no longer stay up late drinking alcohol either. If I start drinking after 9 PM, I get too much sugar in my system to sleep well. I also can’t drink as much as I used to. I rarely have more than two drinks in a night these days. Normally, this isn’t a problem, but sometimes it can be a challenge if I’m at a wedding or another kind of special event.
Coffee too has started to wreak havoc on my digestive system. I’ve had to give up my beloved French press after getting sick following even just one cup of coffee in the morning, but on the other hand, it’s been fun exploring coffee making options from a Chemex to an old school percolator.
Growing older has definitely changed how I process food and drinks. But the plus side is learning how to treat my body better. I drink more water now than I ever did. I focus on eating more veggies, lean proteins and whole grains, all of which is better for me than anything else.
Getting enough sleep has never been an issue for me. I’ve always made sleep a priority, but recently, I find I wake up earlier than I used to, even if I go to bed later, which means I have to stick to a regular bedtime of 10 or 10:30.
At first, I was upset to find myself constantly waking up before 7 (or sometimes 6) AM, but I’ve learned to see the positive. I feel well rested and I have time in the morning just for myself. My husband and kids are still sleeping, so I get to have a quiet breakfast alone and enjoy a cup of (non-French press) coffee, while reading a book.
For years, I used to buy the most beautiful dresses from Anthropologie. As the baby weight finally started to come off, I was so excited to wear all those clothes again. But, I quickly learned that the dresses were way too young or that I had nowhere to wear them to. I ended up consigning and donating a ton of clothes—which was great for cleaning out my closet—and finding new, more age-appropriate styles. Gone are the busy prints, replaced by more bold and solid color choices. I’ve started accessorizing more to complement simple black or navy blue dresses and shirts.
I may not shop at Anthro anymore, but I’ve found styles that are much more flattering (and comfortable) for my new body—and friendly on my wallet.
Focus on Happiness
I’m comfortable enough in my own skin these days to know what makes me happy: a gin and tonic on the deck with my husband, an iced coffee at lunch and a good book. I’ve learned to focus on being more mindful and present in each moment. I’m embracing my newfound creativity. For years I used to write nonstop, but after focusing on my career and family, I stopped working on fiction. Now I’m back at full force and am finding inspiration everywhere. If only I had more time!
I still find it hard to believe that I’m 37, when I distinctly remember being 17 and 27. But I’m also learning to embrace my age and, if my Zumba lady friends are any indication, the best is still yet to come!