Facing Forward, Looking Back

It was a weird week.

I had a birthday, visited my kids at the University of Oregon, and released my third novel.

All good stuff. Celebratory. Fortunate. (Fortunate is my grandma’s favorite word. She’s 95. Her being in my life is part of why I’m fortunate.)

And yet.

In the wake of allthegoodstuff, I found myself more often weepy than happy.

Then I felt like a shit for feeling like this.

I have it better than so many. Better than most. I’m a person who finds the joy. I focus on it. Share it.

And yet.

This week I kept finding myself teary-eyed.

Part of this is due to what’s going on around me—some dear friends and family suffering—which hurts my heart.

Then there’s our country which seems broken, and knowing that some Americans think things are great hurts my heart too.

But that’s a whole other blog post. (And I’ll admit it was easier to write this one when a person I respected was in charge.)

So I’ll trade in that topic for something more personal:

Turning 50 is a trip.

I feel obligated to state 50 IS NOT OLD.

But it’s different than turning 40.

My family was still youngish then. Some friends were still having babies. I was at the beginning of a ten-year experiment to see how this writing gig might go.

Well, it went.

And the release of Forgetting Ophelia felt — for a minute — like the end of something, even though it’s not.

I have at least two more manuscripts to work on—a sequel to Forgetting Ophelia, and a memoir about the marathon I ran when I was 40.

Actually I ran three marathons. Was that really a decade ago?


40 was facing forward. Running forward.

I do more looking back now than I used to.


There are beginnings now, too.

For instance, I’m still at the beginning of our empty nest, and grateful that Jack and Karly are happy, healthy, and at the same university. They like each other and they like Bill and me. (This is better than “loving” which they also do, but people can love members of their family and not want to spend time together. <—Furthermore, wisdom from someone who says “for instance” and “furthermore” must be true.)

In conclusion, we had so much fun on our trip to Eugene, I missed my kids even more when we came home.

The pit in my stomach will pass, but it was in full-force on launch day.

So these most-amazing friends took me to dinner. We ate delicious food. My new book got some lovely reviews. Everything was wonderful (like, dream-come-true wonderful). But the rest of the week, my house was too quiet. Bill was at work. The kids were in Oregon.

I was 50.

I am 50.

(Sometimes I even wear a headband to prove it.)

Also, I get teary-eyed when my ex-students post pictures of their newborns. Tears of joy. Tears of  “Oh! They’re at the beginning of it all!”

I guess you could say I’m basically bursting with emotions. My cup runneth over, and the excess dribbles down my face.

So I think I need to thank you all.

For allowing me to ramble here.

For (hopefully) not hating me too much for admitting I get sad sometimes. Even though life is good.

It’s also hard sometimes. Complicated. Mysterious. Littered with unanswerable questions.

Life goes on until it doesn’t. It’s already stopped for people I love who were younger than I am now, or not much older.

I let myself think about that this week. (Cue more tears.)

Then I decided that while my life goes on, I shouldn’t waste time mulling over which big hill to conquer next. I should simply get to the conquering.

A whole new book? Another marathon? I’d love to go back to school, but half the Gardners are in college already, so that will have to wait. Maybe forever.

I don’t know.

Like I said, my week was weird.

One long sigh. An exhale. This existential breath.


Maybe tomorrow I’ll figure out my gameplan for the next 50 years. (My grandfather turns 100 in January, so I’m taking the long view.)

Today I’m going to see if my kids can FaceTime. Work a library shift. Cook dinner for two. Check for new reviews.

And I’ll be thankful.

I am so, so thankful.

You see? Gratitude makes me teary-eyed too.


FORGETTING OPHELIA, Book 3 in the Friendship & Secrets Series, launched October 8th! Find your copy here. 

Find ebook or print editions of Letters for Scarlet here and the audiobook here.

Find Guest List here.

Find Lily by Any other Name at Amazon or Kobo or iTunes or Barnes &Noble.

Keep up with my writing news—and receive Running with Pencils  FREE—by signing up for my monthly newsletter here.

And PLEASE connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Writing is a lonely business and I love to make friends along the way. (Plus, people online don’t know I’m in my pajamas and haven’t brushed my teeth.)

17 thoughts on “Facing Forward, Looking Back

  1. NannyK

    “My cup runneth over, and the excess dribbles down my face.“….this says it all❤️❤️! I love you. I feel you. I miss you!!

    • Julie Gardner

      I LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU SO MUCH. We need to get together ASAP.

  2. Olivia Arquette

    I get it *hugs*

  3. Julie- Happy Birthday and thank you for being so open and honest and caring. Just so you know, to me America is great and is becoming greater. I would like to politely suggest that if you do write a post that might be more political in nature, please keep me in mind. Of course you can write whatever you want and I want to hear what you have to say- but just remember who I am. Love!

  4. Laurel

    Happy everything, Julie. I’m glad that you are whole and blessed and 50 and kicking ass and weepy and good and living your truth and my friend. It’s what we want for our broken world. No apologies needed. Keep on being wonderfully you.

  5. alexandra

    Happy birthday, wonderful friend. I am so lucky to know you. You and how you assure me of our like minds, with you I’m not the odd woman out. I belong when I read your words, and I feel less odd and more part of the world around me. What makes a good writer? Someone who never thinks they can stop reading now. I want your words to go on. That is you, I could read for another 20 posts and never think, it’s time to click out. Also, living to be 100 would mean one of your lifetimes till now lived again. IMAGINE.

  6. Diane

    Gratitude is the feeling I have knowing that you are an integral part of my life. Fifty is a piece of cake, maybe not as delicious as Gail’s, but still wonderful. Love you my young friend. Ciao until Wednesday morning!

  7. Maureen Vasile

    Julie this brought tears to my eyes. I love the human you are, enjoying all your FB and Instagram posts. I appreciate your great creative talent, dog photos, and honesty when sharing feelings. Though far away most days your posts make me feel you’re my neighbor or family, as can I relate to your feelings about family.
    Your next 50 will be as amazing a the first. Keep enjoying every bit.

    Love and Hugs,

  8. jackie

    Just be so happy to be 50, at lot do not get to celebrate 50!

    I just had a birthday too, 72 and I am so happy to be 72, a lot do not get to celebrate 72!

  9. I love your words that flow out on an existential breath. And I love you.

  10. Bailey

    Happy birthday! This was a great read. I also consider myself quite “fortunate”. I am so thankful for my two healthy children, my husband that I love, my family, my safe home, my education, my wonderful job etc. And I feel extremely guilty because I think “why me?”. And the fact that it feels like we aren’t moving in the right direction is so tough to think about. Here’s to working towards more progress for our country and world the next 50 years! Wishing you and your family the best!

  11. I think you’ve invented mid-life appreciation and all the wonderful things that come with the tears. Love this. Love you.

  12. I loved this post, Julie. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. 50 is a tough nut to swallow – it’s a weird feeling knowing that you likely have more years behind you than ahead of you. (Though, with your grandparents, maybe not!) It can definitely be a melancholy time, even when life is good and you have so much. Maybe especially when life is good and you have so much. That’s okay. It will pass. Just keep being grateful (I know you will) and surrounding yourself with those you love (I know you will do that too).

  13. Many hugs Julie. You done good! (Ignore the grammar.) 🙂

  14. I turned 45 this year. It feels [insert so many words] weird. I love your description of just finding yourself feeling a certain way. No particular specific thing that happened right then to cause it but maybe a culmination of allthethings and it’s just there and you acknowledge it and might even know why but you move on. See? Weird.

  15. I love this honesty so much and I totally get the mix of gratitude and somewhat unexplained (though also explained) sadness. I think a lot of us get it!!

  16. Congratulations on the release of your new book, and a belated Happy birthday!

    I know what you mean about feeling guilty sometimes for feeling weird, mournful and disconnected when there is so very much for which to be thankful. Like you, I am truly full of gratitude. I just release my tears quite easily, too.

    My first book, – one about Christmas, family struggles and faith – just came out, and I am terrified it will never catch on, but after holding on to it for so many years, I had to be brave and let go. You are a great example of someone who followed her dreams and succeeded in blazing a new trail for herself. Congratulations again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *