I seem to rather frequently read phrases like the following: x (some particular age) is the new y (some particular age that is at least 10 years younger than x). These statements never fail to humor me. In some cases – 40 is the new 20 – they seem to be thinly veiled rationalizations for continuing to behave like an adolescent long after one should have left that sort of behavior behind. In other cases – 50 is the new 30 – they seem to be simply delusional. In every case, it is not at all clear what might be meant.
Since I am in the 50-something category, I feel free to weigh in on the latter statement. At 30, I was in the midst of bearing children. I had two children already and, unbeknownst to me, would have one more before that part of life was over.
At 50, I would frankly be horrified if God approached me as he did Sarah of old and told me I was going to give birth to a child. While those years were wonderful and I look nostalgically and with a certain amount of envy at those who are at that stage, I would not be keen on trying to bear and raise a child at my age, with the relentless demands and sleepless nights that entails. One week with my 4 month old grandson back in April was enough to clue me in to the fact that I am not what I was at 30.
Yard work and house work are another area of dissonance with the statement. Last fall, my husband and I helped our son and his wife weed, rake, and generally clean up their yard. They are relatively new to owning a home and we thought it would be fun. It was fun! We spent a beautiful fall Saturday with them, talking and laughing and getting the job done.
Then came Sunday morning. We are both in good physical shape. Both of us work out regularly, are not overweight, and enjoy physical labor. But getting out of bed was a considerable challenge. I had no idea that sitting up would be like trying to fold a two-by-four in half. I felt like someone had starched my body and nothing short of a hoist attached to the ceiling would be able to get me upright. The activity that may have given me a sore muscle or two at 30, had left me needing to stretch for 15 minutes just to get moving at 50-something. I am not 30 any more.
And then there is my body. Don’t worry. I won’t go into too many details. But the sad truth is, that no matter how much I exercise and take care of myself, this body ain’t what it used to be. It has sags where there were none and dimples on areas where they don’t belong. I used to pluck the occasional stray eyebrow but now I occasionally find one of these on my chin! And then there are those annoying personal summers, you know, those times when it feels like someone turned the thermostat up to 120 but only you are the victim? If this is the new 30, I’ll take the old 30 thank you very much.
All of this light-hearted reflection is simply to reinforce the point that I am not some new version of 30. I am 50-something. Denying that reality by claiming that this is the “new 30” does nothing to change the facts. Despite all the changes and losses, however, two things have not changed. I am still me – Mary – and I am still a beloved child of God who is called to reflect his glory to the world every minute of every day of every year of life that he chooses to give me.
The road forward will be one of increasing decline in physical strength and ability, and perhaps also in mental ability. That is a fact of aging. But I know that God, “who created my inmost being,” will continue to be with me on this journey to old age, giving me the strength for each new day. “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you.” Isaiah 46:4