At the headwaters. Finding focus at midlife.

January 19th, 2012


One of the many cool things about passing mile marker 40 is moving beyond the getting-to-know-me phase of life. It surprises me when I think, “I’m good at this,” or “I like things like that,” and there’s weight behind it. Until I was in my mid- to late thirties, such thoughts were tentative or grasping. I was trying on so many things. Now I am this, now that. I was a shape shifter.

I haven’t stopped changing and trying new things. But I no longer feel the need to try on everything. The glittering blizzard of passing fancies has settled into drifts. I can see patterns and preferences that draw me deeper down one path or the other. Like photography. I love telling stories with pictures. I never saw that one coming. I know, every fool with an iPhone thinks they’re Alfred Stieglitz . I don’t have a good camera, but I have a good eye. I’d like to get better at it, to learn manual focus and make adjustments for lighting and what an f-stop is, exactly. I’d also like to learn how to edit properly with Photoshop, so I can tell those stories closer to the way I see and feel them.

Knitting is another of those paths. I learned the basics as a young girl from my grandmother, picking it up off and on throughout the years, usually abandoning the project, unfinished, because I get bored with repetition. See? I know that about myself now. I can say it with authority (and irony): I get bored with repetition. So I limit myself to one-skein patterns. I’ve finished a bunch of things in the last few months: slippers, gloves, hats, toys. I’m even advancing to intermediate techniques. I’m a knitter. I knit.*

With writing, too, I know what I’m good at now. I know what I can pass by (probably not going to learn to play guitar and write songs–carry on, Nashville), and where I want to delve in and go further.

It’s paradoxically exhilarating, this narrowing of possibilities. The mastering of a few. All the melt off of youth pooling together now, surging with purpose and passion. Here my river begins.

*One of my and Patrick’s “inside” jokes is from the movie What About Bob?, where Bill Murray, strapped to the mast of a boat, crows, “I’M SAILING. I SAIL. I’M A SAILOR.” It’s become marital shorthand for giving ourselves props.


13 Responses to “At the headwaters. Finding focus at midlife.”

  1. Cid says:

    Wonderful post and so timely. I just signed up for a Photoshop class and can’t wait to explore it. As for my arts & crafty side? Well, lets just say, that’s still a work in progress even at 45.

  2. Christa says:

    Spot-on, as always. I just turned 41 and am enjoying those moments of “I’m good at this”.

  3. Noelle says:

    I’m going to start a weekly photography post (hence, the “click” finally –LOL,) & f-stop is one of the first things I’m tackling. When it clicked for me (accidental pun) it made a huge difference in my shooting. I’ll send a link when I start.

  4. Heather says:

    Great post!!! 🙂

  5. I know exactly what you mean and let me say after fifty there’s even less drifting going on. I made a big decision recently with regard to photography (no more desire to go pro full-time) and I have some lovely cameras equipment you might be interested in. I do realize you’ve been saving for a washing machine, but you might want to check out my list of goodies here.

  6. I turn 50 next week and so much of this resonates with me. Thanks!

  7. The Mommy says:

    I turn 40 very soon (April) and I have found the same thing. I look back at my 20s (trying all new physical things – skiing, caveing, mountain biking) and my 30s (creating 4 new lives) and am excited for the next decade. BUT. I don’t need to try everything. And certainly not all at once. I am on the prowl for a “big girl” camera. My point-and-shoot was recently stepped on by a 2-year-old and I’m taking that as a sign!

    PS – MckMama (another blogger) is offering photo classes, too, if you want to check over there…she has some tips under her photo tab as well.

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