I am not one of those women who have reached middle age gracefully. I wish. I thought I would be, but I am finding there is nothing glorious, graceful, or even remotely easy about middle-age. I am enchanted by the stories of women who become inspired by life at the age of fifty, feel at peace when they hit forty. I greedily read their stories, find inspiration in their words, long for their serenity.Despite the fact I met the man of my dreams, joyously embraced motherhood, and found an interesting career, my middle years have been marked by a distinct inability to find life expanding in fabulous ways despite my quests and improbable discoveries. Of course, I could just be the troubled kind, born haunted by insecurities, a sort of neurotic wonder who may never acquire the knack for putting a lid on the same old misplaced worries unearthed twenty-odd years ago. Conceivably, some of us are just not born to tap into an inherent wisdom. I have to say, however, I am puzzled how this new-found peace is even unearthed while hot flashes drench on cue be it behind a podium or on the edge of a soccer field, when the gray is brittle and stubborn under a trusted hairdresser’s hands, when men no longer gaze upon one in wonder (or for the wrong reasons), when chocolate beckons like a much-needed drug and bits of one’s body ache for no apparent reason (lord knows not from pitiable attempts at push-ups). How have these women with assured gazes and inspired words managed to get there? To their place of confident reflection after epic journeys. Is it because they met their soul mate early and the ride has led them finally to a state of bliss? Well, let me tell you I too found mine and he was strong and handsome and loved me mightily as I did him but the union did not leave me swooning with newfound composure. Or is it because they found and lost great loves and their anguished journey led them inevitably to a place of courage and forgiveness and an impatience to explore the ends of the earth? I have to say I found myself a widow with a small baby on a most treacherous journey but it led neither to living each day as if it were my last nor the daring to explore uncharted paths. Did their careers spur them on to defy glass ceilings and all the odds? I too braved the status quo and mined the unknown but instead the process left me unglued with worry and doubt. Did they climb from welfare to riches, from confirmed spinsterhood to joyous marriage, from the unknown to the known, from scarcity to buckets of happiness and wellbeing? Does facing adversity lead after all to a well-deserved place of tranquility if one simply recognizes what paths to take along the way? Whether in the seeking and finding of love, the journey that takes the unknown and makes it the known, growing roses where there were none, fashioning a life of abundance out of nothing, turning desperation into hope, manifesting dreams when the voices threatened to defeat, they all relinquished one important thing. Winking at their imperfections, dancing a waltz on their demons and dismissing their sadness, they relinquished fear. It is these women’s determination to shrug off fear when it would have been easier to embrace like some familiar but deeply troubling friend, their heroic walk towards the unknown, be it one small step into a vast arena or one long leap away from mediocrity, it is in that head-on, in-your-face, defiant approach to that which threatened to defeat or consume which separates them from those who are still waffling on about once broken hearts and dreams. It is in the tackling and pocketing of fear, holding it accountable, then releasing it like so many carelessly held balloons that separates those who embrace their middling years from those who do not.