Caitlin, this is a gorgeous, gorgeous essay on transitioning into middle age. I'm 42 and feel much the same way. In some ways, I like the idea of being "irrelevant" because then I'm free to do whatever well I please. But, it's also unfortunate that women are dismissed as we come so much into our ripeness. There's a lot to think about here.
On the cracking skin, dry hands note--my doctor recommended Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand cream last year. It's more of a barrier than a lotion. It works really well for me. Maybe it'd work for you, too. :)