What To Do When You Feel Old

It wasn’t a mirror that “done me in” or made me feel old. And that surprised me. I always perceive the mirror or the scales to be my adversaries to a healthy body or age image.

At the first signs that the mirror or scale will be speaking lies or distorting truths to me, I brew cups of hot lemon water and my skin plumps back up and my stomach stops plumping. I grab my bag of  tricks and tips proven to keep my age numbers and appearance numbers in close proximity to each other. I can manipulate the mirror and the scale if I want to–and some days I do and some days I don’t. Because I’m not afraid of aging.

In fact, when my sweet Jesse turned eighteen on Tuesday, I was ready for it. Homeschooling all your children gives you a healthy perspective to the kids growing up and moving on. I’ve spent every single moment of every single day with them for twenty-eight years (give or take). I am okay with the last one reaching adulthood; I am ready for it. (If only homeschooling came with retirement and pension plans!)

The mirror was my friend this day. It said, “Good job, girl! You completed a mission God gave you and you didn’t screw it up. You more than survived. Let’s tackle the next mission!”  And I was kind of teetering between excitement and trying to reconfigure how to handle moments when I am not bogged down with all the child rearing responsibilities. Really, I was wondering if I could do nothing without guilt. Could I pursue some things I have given up for a season in an effort to find myself again?

It’s a real thing, this finding yourself. There is more to you than what you are doing. And when the years of sowing and watering are slowing and you get a few seasons of letting the soil rest and recoup before your harvest, then you’ll understand. It’s not as lovely as you imagine, but there are things to learn here. And I was willing to. Until I got the phone call.

“Shannon, it is confirmed, your internal nursery is now filled with dead and withered eggs. All your potential and possible babies no longer exist. Your ovaries have shriveled, quite some time ago and those hot flashes and physical and emotional sufferings were not in your head, they were in your uterus, which is now totally and utterly useless. Have a nice day.”

Okay, it didn’t go down like that, but that was a good translation of the nurse saying I am postmenopausal. And one phone call and one blood test did the undoing that a mirror and stupid scales could not do in a year’s time. It made me feel old.

Combine that with the fact that the phone call came on the day my youngest son turned eighteen and the perfect storm was made. It just goes to show you that anything can be a threat to our images of aging or body. Anything can make you feel “less than” or “more than” or “other than” or like you are indeed the Biblical vapor and you are watching it dissipate too quickly.

There’s a good place to go when the perfect storms named Aging and Image hit us. It’s not a spa or a mall. It is Psalm 90, my go-to chapter that stops me from capsizing and freaking out about all things life-relating. You should bookmark it and highlight the dickens out of it. I know it has historical meaning and application, but I and my withered eggs needed something that day and God gave it to me here, in this prayer of Moses. So I rewrote the chapter as my prayer, in my need on the day when my baby grew up and my eggs died.

What To Do When You Feel Old (Psalm 90 for the Postmenopausal Woman)

Psalm 90 for the Postmenopausal Woman

Lord,

You are eternal and I have clear evidence I am not. Before everything was and is, you are and will forever be God. No one is older than You. You use everything to draw people to you. May you use the slow destruction of my flesh to make me come closer to you.

Time and age here is not the same as time with You, but the key to all I want is to be in Your sight. You carry time and years away as fast as the waters flow and flood in the creek in front of my house. Years come and go as fast as the spring grass that I long to mow after this long, hard winter.

I sense your displeasure with this world and I admit to being troubled at the issues I read about today and every day. I can barely look at the news. And everything I hide from friends and family is right before you. I am bare in front of you. No smoke and mirrors with you. You see me without the Revlon and the firming creams. You see me raw and naked. Inside and out.

My life is a story. A story that will be told. And you wrote my story, and some days it feels so beautiful and other days it can feel tragic. But may it be a story that showcases you. And when the final page is finally revealed to me, may You be the highlight of it. May You be showcased and glorified.

May my strength remain for every single day until it is to be no more. May I live fully and freely until I fly away to where my soul is finally at home.

Teach me to count and number the days, not so much the years. Limit my vision to see smaller not longer. If I count years I miss so much. I will waste time. I will not find the sacred in the daily. I will only look for the big holidays, instead of the holy days. Help me to stop counting years and start counting days.

I am only satisfied with your mercy and I am thankful you give it to me. It is enough that it should make me glad on each of those days I am counting.

In the years and days I have lived, I’ve seen affliction and evil. But I’ve seen your work and your glory also. You always appear so magnificent and so beautiful on those days. As those days are sure to come again, will you appear to me once again? Will You help me see You?

May I think less of my beauty and may Your beauty fall upon me. May the things I do with my hands and the work I make be described as beautiful, because it is Your work and Holy work, whether I am serving at my table in my home, or visiting the sick. Whatever the work is, and no matter how the mission of work changes, may Your beauty fall all over it.

I felt better. I felt like I could accept the sounding of the bullhorn of aging. Even though I don’t suppose this is the last I will hear my body, my scales, or my doctor telling me that this vessel isn’t meant to stay here forever.

Our lives are a story, and God is the Author. Don’t forget it! Mirrors and scales, and even blood tests do not write the story; God does. There will be new chapters and new days. Finding the mercy in them will help make them joyful ones. And if the mirror reveals a few more lines, let them be laugh lines.

Next time scales, mirrors, or anything else makes you feel old, try it for yourself. Write out Psalm 90 to be your prayer, on that day. Make it personal to you and give that moment to God. I think it is lovely if we can face our reality with the perspective that is filtered with these words:

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
-Psalm 90:12

Here’s to counting days not years!

Image Credit: Patryk Specjal

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