Monthly Archives: April 2014

Beta-testing Stormy 2.0

Despite the fact that I’ve never considered “Mom” to be my primary identity, I’ve been having a tough time adjusting to my empty nest. I remember back to when my mother-in-law found herself “retired.” Her husband passed away about the same time her youngest two graduated from high school. After spending 40+ years as a wife and mother, she literally didn’t know what to do with herself. She spent the next several years in a funk until a chance meeting with an old high school friend blossomed into a “golden years” romance.

Having seen her go through that, I—as a young mother—vowed to have more balance in my life so that my identity wouldn’t be defined by my relationship to my family. But as most of you probably know, raising a family while building a career doesn’t leave a lot of extra time for “self-actualization.” So despite my best intentions, now that my children are off starting their lives, I’m floundering too.

I try to get excited by the potential of what lies ahead—I’ve got time to pursue my interests now (if I could only remember what they are!), I’ve got time to volunteer for causes I’m interested in, time to reconnect with friends. I can totally reinvent myself for the next phase of my life. However, before I unleash Stormy 2.0 on the world, I need to figure out who I am today—independent of my role as wife and mother.

So, as an experiment I conducted a poll, asking my Facebook friends to describe me in three words. I thought this would be an interesting experiment because my Facebook friends are comprised of people from all walks of life: family, coworkers, former coworkers, and friends from high school, college and church. I assumed that I acted differently with these various audiences, and therefore different descriptors would emerge based on how I knew the person responding to the poll.

Here’s a Word Cloud that shows a distribution of the responses:

Screenshot 2014-03-24 21.05.25

Me in Three

First of all, keep in mind that the poll was conducted with Facebook friends. Consequently, I expected most words to skew toward a positive light. (But because just about any trait—when taken to an extreme—can be negative, I also tried to keep in mind that some of these traits might be categorized in a less positive manner by those who don’t know me as well.) Although it’s true that an assortment of terms were posted, a few themes emerged…

“Driven” took top billing – Okay, I expected that one from my coworkers, but I was surprised when a few family members chimed in with that descriptor as well. KitKat and I have observed that we both share a vague dissatisfaction with life—always wanting more despite the fact that we are both pretty blessed. So I recognized this trait as the source of my current unhappiness—because it’s a core part of my personality, yet I have nothing I’m driving toward. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s a fine line between contentment and complacency. On the one hand, I credit my “drive” with helping me to accomplish many things in my life. On the other, I sometimes wish I could learn to be satisfied with all I’ve been given.

Another set of words centered around authenticity—being genuine. This surprised me a bit. I know I could apply a little more diplomacy at times, but I guess it’s generally considered positive that people know where they stand with me.

The most surprising responses? A current coworker who described me as “sweet” and a former employee who described me as “empowering.” Both of these responses made me smile.

Overall, the “Me in Three” exercise was insightful. While there weren’t any life-altering revelations, it was a good reminder that there is more to me than just my role as an employee, wife or mother, and I’m generally happiest when I can find a way to express all sides of myself. Now that I’ve got the time to reacquaint myself with those other aspects of my personality, I plan to do just that. At the same time, there are a few words missing from my Word Cloud that I would have liked to have seen appear among my three-word descriptions. Apparently these are traits that I haven’t quite mastered. So this exercise may also serve as my inspiration to make some new descriptors a reality. Can I do it? Of course… After all, I’m “intelligent,” “capable,” and let’s not forget: “driven”!

 

45 Candles

Well, tomorrow I will be waking up as a 45-year-old. Birthdays have never gotten to me. I celebrated 30 and 40 without any dismay about the accumulating years. That is not to say getting older hasn’t hit me. The increasing wrinkles and slowing metabolism are a constant reminder of the aging process that I am none too happy about. But, it has never been a birthday that has depressed me.

This year is different. For the first time, I am experiencing the birthday blues and want to protest or divert this upcoming age transition.

I should get some credit for skipping despair of turning 40. Though I may now resort to celebrating a repeating 44th birthday.

Perhaps it is that I am approaching 50. Every day, from here on out, I am closer to 50 than 40. Fifty sounds like a whole new life. Not an age I ever imagined being. But now it is sinking in as a reality. I am crossing over the line. I have friends in their 50s. They look amazing. Actually, they look better than they did in their 40s. But I am not ready to join them.

This birthday also means I have officially hit midlife. (I figure I will live past 80, looking at the women in my family, but don’t expect to see 100.)

Or maybe it is the combination of mood swings and hot flashes that have been a preview to what is in store. It’s an uphill battle from here on out. Good genes can only carry me so far. In an effort to take some control, I have taken a few preemptive strikes. Similar to Stormy, I am very good finding reasons (sometimes farfetched) to pay for services that make my life, and looks, better.

Covering the grey hair has been part of the age-fighting routine for years, although now the timeframe has narrowed from every six weeks to four. Though, a fresh hair color was not going to carry me through this birthday. When I was getting my hair done, my gorgeous 49 year–old stylist told me she liked me without makeup. I looked younger, fresher. Hmmm … it got me thinking. I always wanted to try “mink” eyelashes. And what better reason than a birthday—I would experience time savings in getting ready, less stress on my eyes if not applying makeup, saved makeup costs, and a new look. Plus, I had been complaining that my eyelashes were thinning out and breaking (a common complaint this year that I also attributed to aging). A week later my masterful rationalization has me donning new, lushes lashes with only a hint of blush and lip gloss: A natural look. (Okay, a fake natural look, bought and paid for.)

wrinkles

I did add some “natural” help, all shoved into a few weeks ago as I realized 45 was getting close. Microdermabrasion treatments to brighten up my skin (no needles were involved, so I count it as natural) and waking up at 5:30 to add a 20-minute Jillian work-out to my other routines. She promised it would change me in only 30 days!

I think the toughest thing is time is going so fast. It seems to be speeding up.

40 years ago with my sister and mom. Same bangs though!

40 years ago with my sister and mom. Same bangs though!

Sitting at the kids table at Thanksgiving, I used to wonder when I would feel like an adult. I remember thinking 30 was so old and now it seems so young. My mind still feels like that same little girl. I still have a lot I want to do and experience. I am not ready settle.

Yes, I know that aging graciously is the way to go. I am just not ready for it. And, if I have to distract myself from all the other issues of aging with a silly focus on looks, so be it. Right now, I will focus on the shiny object.

I will also spend my first day after turning 45—first day closer to 50 than 40—with Stormy for a birthday drink. We can catch up (we both have been crazily busy at work) and perhaps the bartender will buy me a drink after hearing I am turning 44 … again!

Did you think I would end this post by coming around to accepting my age and being thankful for all the wonderful things about aging and all the things I am grateful for? 🙂