Last night, I was watching Noah Baumbach’s recent film While We’re Young. A forty-something childless couple begins to hang out with a twenty-something, spontaneous, energetic couple. Being influenced by the junior husband and wife, the elder couple (which, of course, is only a year or two older than I am today) starts to change their activities to revive their aging lives. Without giving much of the plot away, their new lifestyle finds its expiration date, naturally.
In the ebb and flow to life, the two Gen-Xers eventually face the missing elements of their lives with honesty. Josh (Ben Stiller) says to Cornelia (Naomi Watts), “I’m 44 and there are things I will never do. Things I won’t have.”
Josh’s words ring true to many of us who have crossed the threshold into our early middle-age years. We begin to take inventory of what we’ve attained and what we haven’t. We stop running from the mirror which indicates our current lives and our actual ages.
And, for the first time, we admit that there will be things that we’ll never do or have.
Each year, in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I take stock of what I’ve accomplished in the past year as well as the mistakes I’ve made. I try to offer myself some grace as I confront shortcomings. But mostly I sit with the melancholy of not having certain things in my life and the achievements that I haven’t yet grasped.
Admittedly, there are always tears in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
I’m 42 years old. As much as I’m 19 years old in my heart, I’m a middle-aged woman. There are some things I will never do and never have. At this point, I probably won’t have a child and definitely won’t give birth to one. I’ll never win any major awards, run a marathon, skydive (totally fine with that one) or become a US president, senator or congresswoman. I won’t be a millionaire or a physician. I’m ready to leave some of those possibilities behind, and others may take a while to toss aside.
But as I look ahead, there still is life. I still have the chance to walk a marathon, write a book, influence lives and advocate for the voiceless. I will sit with people as their life slows down. I’ll meet new people and speak my truth in new ways. Life may not yet be quite half-over for me, so some of the things I dreamed about are still possible. And while my body doesn’t look or work the same way it did 10 or 20 years ago, my mind continues to grow and my confidence blooms.
What 2016 will bring – I’m not sure. But as my body ages and the expected aches begin to intensify and multiply, my vigorous mind and soul will continue to listen for God’s relentless call for my life.