The Prime of Miss Grace Burrowes

Sorrel trakehner stallion gallops in fieldOne of the standing jokes between my daughter and me is that I’m a woman “in my prime!” I’ve claimed to be “in my prime!” pretty much as far back as she can recall, which is at least a quarter century. Despite graying hair, an expanding middle, slowing reflexes, and pretty much every evidence of aging, I’ve nonetheless claimed to be, “in my prime!”

horse bud weiser teamI’m 55, and by any life expectancy trajectory grounded in fact, that puts me in the second half of my life. This version of my prime is taking longer to do just about everything. When I fly across several times zones, it takes me at least a week to get my circadian rhythm straightened out (especially flying east), and I used to not even a notice a change.

horse puissanceIf I have a truly bad night of sleep, I’m dragging for several days. In college, I routinely skipped a night of sleep every week–counted on being able to do that, in fact, to keep up with work and studies.

When I undertake any domestic task–cleaning up the kitchen, vacuuming, getting after the bathroom–what ought to take an hour takes half the morning and forget taking on that stuff later in the day. I just plain don’t have the energy or focus I used to have.

horse steeplechaseI miss those wonderful years of imitating a human buzz saw, of knowing I was tired, but also knowing the fatigue wouldn’t have much impact on my productivity or recall. I miss being able to wrassle hay bales and feed bags without it making me sore for three days. I miss a truly clean (if only rarely) house that I scrubbed down myself.

But–took me a while to realize this–I don’t miss having three-day migraine headaches several times a month. I don’t miss being on blood pressure medication. I don’t miss measuring my self worth by the to do list, or going for a jog in 95 degree heat on my lunch hour because that’s the only time I could fit in exercise.

horse with queen mumI’m slower–lord, yes, I am slower. Slower to lose my temper, slower to let those thoughtless words go flying out of my mouth, slower to think I have the answer just because I have an answer. I’m slower to commit, slower to give up, and slower to judge. I have my non-negotiables, but they are fewer and quieter. They’re my non-negotiables, I don’t expect them to be anybody else’s.

horsecatAnd this slower, grayer, quieter person? I like her more than I did the faster, smarter, more productive version. She laughs more, she’s more patient and generous. She’s better at rolling with the punches and lending a hand. She’s easier to spend time with, probably a better friend, and maybe even a better mother.  I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my daughter (who is “in her prime!”).

So how’s you’re prime looking these days? In what regard are you better than you’ve ever been? To one commenter, I’ll send a $25 Amazon gift certificate.



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53 comments on “The Prime of Miss Grace Burrowes

  1. Two big changes for the better:

    1. I’ve learned to be more flexible and spontaneous. I still rely a lot on my to-do lists, but after leaving a full-time job at age 40, the lists gave me a structure I didn’t yet have in working for myself — while giving me the chance to learn how to be resilient and adaptable. Now, 4 1/2 years into this world of unplanned and sometimes unplannable work, I know what needs to be done when, and I know to leave plenty of open spaces in my schedule for additional work projects or for fun things. And though I’m facing real uncertainty about my work life later this year, I know I’ve learned how to adjust my plans and be open to what might present itself.

    2. I’ve learned to love myself as I am, not as I want to be. I’ve had a lot of negative or falsely positive impacts on my body image over the years (some of which I’ve laid on myself), and I’m learning to appreciate who I am as a mature woman and to understand that I am wonderful and beautiful as I am. Doesn’t mean I don’t exercise and try to eat better and try to keep myself healthy — just means I keep trying to remember that who and how I am in any given moment is a person worthy of love and care.

    And yes, I like myself much better as I get older and wiser, Grace — you have nailed it!

    • Wonderful observations, Jennifer. I wish I could give younger women a week in an older body, for all kinds of reasons. The awful burden of being beautiful falls away (if you were seduced into picking it up in the first place), you have a kind of privacy you’re denied in your reproductive years, and you find out who sees you, and who’s been mistaking your rack for who you are.

      Then too, you’re usually, as you say, wiser. You can’t be gamed, manipulated, hurt, or taken advantage of as easily, and you have more kindness and wisdom and to share.

      Though there are downsides, so far, I’m liking this deal just fine.

      • I admit I’m not enjoying the sense of invisibility that I experience more now, but as you say, you learn who really does see you and can value them (and learn more about yourself through their eyes!) even more!

  2. I am 55,too.

    Turning 50 was not a big deal for me. I have a college age daughter, my friends, family and dogs which keep me engaged in life. Being in our prime has oodles of benefits.

    I am not in a rush to be first at work. I would rather have the right answer to the question than jump in and be first with the wrong answer. I am dependable, resourceful and I get the job done.

    I have noticed that I am much more patient. I don’t get upset when the kitchen sink (which was empty when I went to bed.) is full of dishes and glasses when I wake up. I have much more compassion as well. I call my mother regularly and deal with family issues diplomatically. I listen to my daughter and assure her that this too will pass. Things get better.

    I enjoy the little things. The birds singing, Irish napping in the sun with her grand dog Celeste snuggled next to her. Molly nudging Brian for their morning game of lazer tag. Good music, a great movie and an awesome book.

    Maybe, we appreciate things a bit more in our prime?
    I know I do!

    • I don’t use AC in summer anywhere but my bedroom at night, even if it’s 100 degrees. I like hearing the birds sing. If it’s not too hot for them to sing, it’s not too hot for me to leave the windows and doors open so I can hear them.
      For one day soon, I might not be able to hear anything, and then I will need their songs in my heart.

  3. I remember once when I was in my 50s (I’m almost 70 now) looking at a picture of myself in my 20s, and thinking how pretty I was back then. But I remembered almost immediately that I didn’t “feel” pretty then. I had real body image issues at that time. So, even though I was 20 pounds heavier, had a few wrinkles and was starting to get age spots. I felt prettier in my 50s than I did in my 20s.

    The good thing about aging (maturing) is that you get a whole new perspective on life. That’s natures kindness.

    • I had the same experience, Mary. I came across a photo of myself at my brother Dick’s second wedding. I was in my mid-twenties, and awkward, but not… I wasn’t fat. How could it be, I had a perfectly lovely figure, and I’d considered myself fat? I’d been fat since childhood, right?

      One of my other brothers heard me pondering this, and older brother, and he said, “You were never fat, you were just big compared to Maire.” Maire was two years my senior, and petite.

      I’d never connected those dots, but geesh, that moment, and my brother’s insights, opened onto all manner of revelations that I’ve taken to heart since.

  4. I was just talking about women “of a certain age” with a co-worker the other day. Personally, I am better health-wise than I was twenty years ago (I’m 46 now). I find I am more tired after a full time workday but I am also vegan and exercise daily so I don’t have headaches, stomachaches, or other aches and pains I might have. I do find that the “change” is approaching so my sleep is not as restful as it can be but I have hope I will adjust and it will work itself out. But I definitely feel more attractive and healthy than when I was 26.

    • We need to write a book about this, Ladies. Isn’t anybody horrified to be “old?” I don’t think we are. I think maybe the guys expect us to be… and they certainly haven’t had the warnings and harbingers we get, so they’re kinda ambushed by it, emotionally.

      • Grace– maybe you could have a book with an older hero/heroine. We still an attractive, interesting group with lots to share! 🙂

  5. Yeah, I think sometimes now about things that would have been so much bigger to me when I was younger- things that I would blow up about, or hod a grudge for days. Now I just let them slide off my back. And that’s a good thing! The wisdom of age is a wonderful thing.

    • If you know what defines you, you don’t need to hang on quite so tightly to what you’re “against” to do the same job. Some people never catch on to that, so good on ya, Make Kay!

  6. “She laughs more, she’s more patient and generous. She’s better at rolling with the punches and lending a hand. She’s easier to spend time with, probably a better friend, and maybe even a better mother.”

    …and she’s a better writer. 😉

    For myself, I’d like to think I’m wiser now, able to look at the truly big picture to see the patterns of life and events, and maybe even the reasons.

    OT: BTW, The Captive is your best book yet. I’m already anxious to re-read it. Thank you!

    • Donna, I hope the writing improves as I learn more, and thank you for the kind words about The Captive. I’m taking risks with this series, but so far, they seem to be paying off. Things lighten up in October when we get back to the Scottish Victorian for Christmas… mistletoe and bunny hops!

      • The scene with the bunny is one of my all time favorites. I have reread it several times, and I still laugh out loud. The line about the bunny was sober and had the advantage, and bunny haggis-there are many, many nuggets in that scene appreciate !

  7. Wow! you have listed my struggles with slowing very nicely, although I can never claim to have been as active and tireless as your history indicates.

    I particularly like the patience piece that has come with this change. The ability to wait out a reaction, a response, a naturally occurring outcome is an incredible asset. The quality of these occurrences is so much more genuine, well worth the wait. I have discovered that the actual extended time required rarely exceeds 20 – 30 secs. causing me to wonder where my impatience ever came from in the first place. The appreciation, even esteem I see when it’s a person who has been given these extra few seconds is gratifying indeed.

    • Sue, I think as young people, we’re cursed with insecurity more than impatience, and that insecurity–nobody will deal with this unless I do, they’ll never understand unless I explain it, the problem will get worse if we simply stare at it–makes us twitchy.

      Life whittles down the twitchiness, and rewards the smiles. Eventually, we catch on.

      Most days.

  8. I am 57 & definitely have those “few” extra pounds going on, with major difficulty taking it off. Jogging is a distant memory, but I don’t miss it! I would say that I have less job stress going on. I quit my “day” job 12 years ago because I couldn’t sleep & was snapping at my kids because I couldn’t keep up with work and life at the same time. I have definitely made mistakes financially, probably stemming from quitting that job! Luckily, I still have good health, my family & a roof over my head. 🙂

    • Not too long ago there was a buzz about the five lessons to be learned from the dying. A hospice nurse asked her patients what their regrets were, and MANY of them said they regretted giving so much for so long to the job.
      The job doesn’t love you, doesn’t really need you (you can be replaced), and doesn’t feel a sense of obligation because you tried so hard, went above and beyond and so forth. I think a lot of us are stuck with jobs that are only jobs, and then we compound the error by hanging onto them as we loved them.
      You didn’t make that mistake, and over the long haul, that was wisdom. Says me.

  9. I have to agree with what you said. I’m 63 so even a bit slower lol. I do miss being able to pull a word out of the air when I need it though lol. And age is relative I think. I’ve known younger people with older souls or others who act just plain old and older people who act younger and some that never grow up lol.

    • The fastest growing segment of the population is people over 100 years old. We’re probably revising our definition of old, and our expectations of those decades north of fifty. I know a retirement age of 63 seems silly to me. Cut back, sure. Re-balance, of course, but set aside all professional identity because of a number? Um, nope. Not this kid.

  10. Well, I can’t say I’m in my prime, at 62 things are definitely a little slower these days. I find myself asking the grocery clerks not to fill the bags too full because they’re too hard to lift, and although I exercise, I like my yoga classes the best because they’re at a slower pace. I find that I’m a bit more patient (especially with myself) and definitely calmer than I used to be. I don’t get as excited about stupid stuff as I used to. 😀

  11. Since the doctor said I wouldn’t live 2 days when I was born and I just turned 51 a couple of weeks ago. I consider myself in my prime and doing pretty good.

  12. The main improvement I’ve found as a result of simply having a larger number in the age category – 42 as of last Sunday! – is acceptance. Acceptance of self – flaws and all; acceptance of others – flaws and all; acceptance of circumstances – good and ill. Working within reality instead of wishing for it to be different. Still tough, but much more peaceful.

    • Forty was a turning point for me, in part because my daughter hit full tilt adolescence, and I had to ease up or I’d be flung from the roller coaster. The trend, though, has been wonderful. With each decade of adulthood, I’ve been happier and more at peace–generally.
      Come along, grow old with me. The best is yet to be!

      • Yes, adolescent girls are an adventure! I’ll gladly join any journey with you … You’ve taken me on some beautiful ones already!

    • bn100, I do too. Very little gluten, processed foods, or starch of any kind. Doesn’t seem to do anything about my excess avoirdupois, but I think it reduces the risk of cancer, at least.

  13. You and I, Grace, are of an age.

    My husband and I spent the long holiday weekend visiting his mother. His sister joined us, as well, so it was a reconnaissance and pleasure trip. My mother-in-law, despite challenges, makes 80-something look pretty good. I credit much to attitude.

    On the drive home, I dared to ask my husband if he’s noticed a change in how it is to get along with me over the many decades of our marriage. He told me, in short, that there isn’t as much “should” in my life, and that makes it easier for all of us. Hmmm.

  14. Ah, in my prime I’ve learned to just not let nearly as much bother me. I guess “let it go” was my theme long before it was the anchor of a Disney musical. I think I’m finally learning what I’m made of.

  15. I honestly believe someone can be “in their Prime” for many many years because there are so many facets to most people on not all sides shine with equal brightness at all times.

    As I’ve gotten older:
    * I have become more patient overall and learned to pick my battles more wisely.
    * I’ve learned not to get upset when people don’t take my advice and I don’t generally give it if not asked.
    * I’ve learned to listen to my body when it is telling me to slow down (at least most of the time).
    * I am less obsessed with my looks – though I admit many days putting on makeup is doing a community service. 😉

    • I never learned how to put on make up, or I never realized I owed the community any subterfuge about my looks. The lessons were before me. Mom and both sisters are appearance conscious, but when I decided that “I’m not going to be like HER,” because poor Mom didn’t have a lot left for child No. 6, I also dodged some of the insecurities that went with Mom’s value system.

      It has taken into very late old age for Mom to find the same freedoms, but by God, she has!

  16. Well my Prime Number for this year is 67 – And believe I’ll keep adding prime numbers (LOL).
    I’m in that “post” arena (post-retired) (post-Menapa{u get the idea}) (post-Cancer) and empty nesting for many years…. I have slowed down. Getting rid of the Negative folks in my life helped a whole lot..In the hard times, I got the low down on who matters and who don’t. I realized somewhat the same as you Grace, looking at a picture of my self at 20 and thinking to my self “wow girl, you looked HOT”. At the time the world told me I was skinny and had no form and was not very attractive. If I could do one thing it would be to take those girls who are being taught NO self estime and give it back to them… The best think I did was make sure my daughter knew everyday, she was pretty, she was smart and she could do what ever she set her mind to….. The Captive was great….. Thanks for another great read…

    • “Getting rid of the Negative folks in my life helped a whole lot..” love this.

      I started at 35 doing this, now 59. Family, can’t really get rid of them, but making them less important in our lives helps a great deal.

      I don’t mind getting older. I really feel, plan as best you can then, live as best you can.

    • Georgie, you said a mouthful. There are people who honestly do not mean us well, and they can’t help that. Those folks need to go hang their cloud somewhere else, even if they’re family, church members, neighbors… away, away, with them!

  17. When I was younger, my brain worked better, but I was mean. At 50 years old, I can remember nothing. I have no short-term memory, but I am a much nicer person. I like myself better now.

    • What a curious paradox–without memory, maybe we CAN’T be mean? But what is a grudge, except a bad memory that dictates our present frame of mind and behaviors?

      In my adult guardianship work, I often come across people who are losing their buttons, and they are the sweetest, dearest, move lovable people. They’re in the guardianship system, though, because as younger people, they were hell on wheels, leaving a path of hard feelings and ill will so wide, none of their family members want to have anything to do with them now.

  18. I am more patient, more willing to let things unravel as they will and accept them that way. I can still use a few more steps in the patience direction, but I’m getting there. Thanks for the post and giveaway.

  19. I’m with you, Grace – slower to anger, slower to judge, slower to believe my way is best. Also slower to get things done, darn it! But this is just another passage through this life, and I’m determined to enjoy it to the fullest.

    • I’m enjoying being “me” more as time goes on, contrary to all the youth centered, productivity centered, appearance centered, wealth centered, blah-blah loose in the water supply. Life is for loving, and now is the best time to be about that.

  20. I am so glad you were able to articulate so many of my feelings in your letter. It just goes to show why it’s important to follow your favorite author’s websites. I am 57 have wondered for the last few years why I spent every Saturday cleaning my house for decades! Now your description of cleaning has described mine to a “T”. I really enjoyed your article, as I do your books.
    I’m not sure if you and other author’s realize the importance you have in your reader’s lives. Bringing us relaxation after a hard day. An escape to cool off a bad temper, so maybe calmer words will be used. An escape in times of severe grief from losing a child and sibling within 3 weeks of each other. You bring laughter and entertainment and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I say we are still in the prime of our lives. Tell your daughter we rock!

    • Barbara, I’m sorry life threw such hard curve balls at you in such close succession. Even the thought of losing my daughter reduces me to tears.

      I started reading romance novels (The Wolf and the Dove, can I get an amen?) in junior high, when I was one those quiet kids on the margin, who dressed funny, had far better grades in English than math, and hated school. Romance novels have been my refuge ever since, through boy troubles and man troubles, lay offs, unexpected single motherhood, and a day job that deals day and day out with child abuse and neglect. I consider my keeper authors my daughter’s honorary god mothers, because they did more to keep me sane and functional than any fancy pill or high priced therapist could have. Your authors know what the books mean to you, because we’re all readers even before we’re authors.

  21. oops, where did my Sunday go??? I knew I was missing something…

    Oh I have to say something to respond to your question… I am 52 and totally in my prime!!!! I totally agree with you and so many other fabulous comments!!!! I am so glad I am not alone in feeling all this… oh the power of validation!!!!

    I rejoice in all the growth and wisdom I have acquired over the years… oh to change and see life in a different way… to know that things change, that it will get better even if the circumstances does not change at least we can change and adapt to new things.
    I have decided to be kinder to myself and more merciful! To look at my flaws and learn from it instead of beating myself up and aim for unattainable things…

    • We’re probably the nicest people you’d ever want to meet–give you the shirt off our backs and our favorite books, but we turn around and look in the mirror and instead of seeing kind eyes and a good heart, we see a graying size eighteen failure.
      Bother that. If I were a failure, I’d weigh a hundred pounds more, have no job instead of two, never read a book much less write one, and have nobody to blog with!

  22. As I am getting older I am better at trying new things, getting outside my comfort zone. A big part of that probably has a lot to do with becoming a parent. It’s not as easy to be an introvert when you have these wonderful little people wanting you to thing with/for them.

    • My entire value system changed when my daughter came along. Instead of the to-do list (I was working full time and going to law school five nights a week when she came along), my day was successful if the baby was fine. My day was wrecked if she wasn’t OK, and some of that was exactly the shift I needed at the time.

      Does it really, truly, absolutely matter if I make into the office by 7:55 every morning? No, Grace, it does not… but Beloved Offspring had to teach me that lesson.