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My Inspiration at Forty

It's the eve of my 40th birthday. A lot of people panic about forty. I've been thinking about this. A lot. In fact, if you have followed my blog for a while (at least a year) you know that it's been on my mind least a year.

I remember when my mother turned forty. It was only a big deal in the sense that it was a neat, round number. It was the first "major milestone" birthday that I remembered for a family member. Other than that, I didn't really get it. I didn't see it as "middle aged" or "over the hill" (It was 40 then. Isn't 50 the new 40?). 
Now, here I am. I'm in the same place my mother was in so many ways. Our eldest children were born in the shadow of our 30th birthdays. I was 29. My mom was 28. Within the next ten years, we would both face amazing joys and incredible challenges. For my mom, it was helping my father start his law practice and raising a family. For me, it was also launching a career and raising a family. And then...the unbelievable, unexpected, and overwhelming wave of grief hit us both head on. 

For my mother, it was my father's untimely death. I was eight years old. Instantly, my mother became a widow; a single mother, raising 2 kids and managing her grief the only way she knew how. She took it one day at a time and she had a strong faith and we had a wonderful Network of friends and family to support us in the journey. 

It wasn't until recently that I realized history repeated itself a generation later. I watched my daughter die during my thirties...and it was only through patience, time to heal, and a strong Network of friends and family that I made it to the other side of that grief. 

Looking back on this, I marvel at my mother. In the five years since Charlotte's death, I have heard many people say to me, "I don't know how you do it." and "You handled her death with such grace." While my mom never explicitly said, "This is how you grieve. This is how you manage it," I understand now that I learned much from
watching her and living with her. You put one foot in front of the other. You find your inspiration and your motivation. And you learn to rely on a Network that will pick you up every time you start to fall. 

On the eve of my fourth decade, the true lesson is this: my mom's life didn't end with my father's and it didn't go downhill at forty either. She has lived fully in (almost) three more decades, raising resilient and successful kids, contributing to her community, and finding love again. 

On Saturday, I was listening to Scott Simon interview author Jonathon Evison about his new novel, which revolves around the relationship between a mother and daughter. Evison says, "What I've noticed a lot in the female relationships in my life, between mothers and daughters - there's this theme with mothers and daughters that are so alike but don't recognize it. They might have a little bit - a different style, but their hearts are in the same place."

I'm the first to admit that I'm my mother's daughter in so many ways. Some people dread becoming their mothers, but I see it as a great compliment. 

Forty? Old? No way! Bring on this next decade. I'm ready for you. I've had the best models for success that a girl could ask for. (Thanks, mom. I love you!)

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