More at Forty

I was lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, salty streaks pooling in my developing wrinkles.  My husband came in to the sound of deep sighs mixed with hard sniffs. I had come upstairs to change out of my pajamas when I sat on the edge of the bed and wondered how I’d gotten here.  Overcome, I tried to catch my breath and huddled in my self-doubt. He was perplexed.

“Seriously, what happened? Are you ok?”

As I opened my mouth to speak, a mix of mucus and unholy caterwauling erupted from my throat.

“Have I peaked? Seriously. Please, babe, be honest. Have I overhyped myself? When I think about me, am I really that delusional? Did I peak at forty?”

As he sat down next to me, I rolled my face into my pillow to hide my shame. Had I indeed peaked? Was I already on some downward trajectory from the awesomeness that my optimistic twenties had given me? I sobbed.

When my husband quietly prayed for me and let me be, I reflected. It wasn’t just that I was forty, or that snowy white tendrils were peeking out from my thinning brunette curls. It wasn’t the two freeways that now ran between my eyebrows from years of furrowing and internal processing. It wasn’t even the expansive exhaustion I was feeling as I followed the rest of my generation and waited eons to have kids, or that my two-year-old had somehow managed to cement a half-eaten waffle to my llama pajama pants.

It was words. Words that had transformed into undealt-with-thoughts. Thoughts that had crept into my mind and heart. They had found one lonely corner and lit a candle there. This space in myself had been largely ignored because of the frantic pace of my life, marriage, and kids.

These words, sown into my garden from a wicked colleague, had quietly and efficiently challenged the best in me and called it worthless. My insecurities met that treachery, and they curled up together in those dark places as bedfellows. They whispered false narratives together by candlelight.

So, when plain, busy, crazy, fluctuating life happened, instead of it feeling normal, temporary, comical, and exhilarating, it felt like the roll call of a judge that confirmed the worst of those narratives. These bedfellows chanted, breaking through like protestors. Insufficient. Selfish. Mediocre. Incapable. They brought their stories out from the corner and looked for space in the front parlor of my heart.

That day, in exhaustion, covered in lint and waffle and wrinkles, I felt done. My colleague was right. If I was any good, life would feel more manageable. More exhilarating. More paced. More accomplished. More silent instead of bombarded by the noise of my husband refereeing two screaming boys on a Saturday morning. I would be more. But if I wasn’t more, then I must really be less. Less amazing. Less fierce. Less intelligent. Less worthy.

My eyes fixed on the ceiling. Cobwebs swayed as the box fan mumbled along. My life and thoughts slowed. I could breathe. I could feel. And honestly, I felt dissonance instead of misery. Why the dissonance?

As I quieted, life shifted. Truth was welling up inside of me.

See, the truth is that there is less. Less promotion. Less time. Less working late hours at an office by myself. Less feeling alone. Less needing my name in lights. Less worrying about if my boss will recognize my worth.

But the truth is that my life is full of more. More noise. More joy. More dishes. More moments of being tickled by my six-year-old.  More hiding in the bathroom with chocolate. More watching movies under blankets. More nights on the roof, waiting for meteors. More llama pajama pants instead of plain, tight, unimaginative corporate slacks.

The truth is, I haven’t peaked at forty. I’ve made new, powerful choices at forty. I’ve been empowered to care about the things that really matter. When I held up the mirror to what my heart wanted, it wasn’t the ridiculous nonsense my old colleague flung at the dark places in my soul. I wasn’t done. I wasn’t close to done. New peaks were in front of me. I was choosing life and newness and greatness every day, in every squeeze of my kids, every dance with my husband, every new colleague I hugged. I don’t need more because I am more.

Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor, and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can, because she believes in you.