I now have the perfect definition of middle-age: when your list of things to do and places to go include shopping for new baby, wedding & graduation presents in equal measure with writing the perfect sympathy letter because in the course of the next month or so, you’ll have a baby shower to attend, a high school prom dress to buy and a funeral you would attend if you were any closer geographically.
Back in the day, when I could hardly wait to get older because I was so boooorred with being told what to do by my parents, I thought that being an adult would be a non-stop parade of really cool stuff to do. Yeah, so not. Well, so not a parade of cool stuff, anyway. I mean, I have done some pretty darn cool stuff (not all of which you’re ever gonna know!!) but there’s also been the not-so-cool stuff, and the demanding stuff, and boring stuff, and the jeez, really painful stuff.
I’ve been really fortunate in that any of my really painful stuff has been buffered by an incredible circle of family and friends; I am grateful for it, and I certainly don’t take it for granted. But when you’re 16, you don’t expect and you don’t know how to deal with terminal illness and dying, and sure as anything illness and death will definitely come your way. You don’t believe that, some days, getting up to go to work is actually going to be much worse than getting up to go to school. You don’t think that finding a great job is going to be so much effort and you certainly don’t think that when you do find that perfect $60K a year job right out of school that you’re actually going to have to, like, work.
But eventually, you figure something out about the work thing. And when illness or accident hit, you’ve got friends and family to call on. And as all that goes on, you learn that there is lots of great stuff available around the angst and drama, so you have a good life with some fun along the way, and you do some things that make you kinda proud of yourself and some things that make you shake your head and hope no one around has a long-term memory. But all the while, the one thing happens that you really never, never thought was going to happen.
You got middle-aged.
Not old. You’re never going to get old, but you are certainly, definitely, middle-aged.
And the friends you had in high school have had heart and/or cancer scares not mention having joints replaced and are being called Grandma and Pops. And the weddings you go to are the weddings of those friends or – more amazingly! – your nieces and nephews whom, you swear, just a year or two ago you were teaching how to bake chocolate chip cookies and sharing first chapter books, but they are not the weddings of your own friends, unless it’s nuptials number two. Or three. And you’re sending condolence letters for their parents’ deaths and now, sadly, sometimes, even the deaths of their children or grandchildren, and maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of getting those letters and you still haven’t gotten used to being an orphan. A middle-aged orphan.
And let’s not forget the shallow stuff! For example, you look in the mirror to see how your roots are doing and you’re kind of wondering just what exactly the original colour of your hair was because damn if you can tell with all that grey. Plus, seriously? Eyebrow tweezers for the chin? And when you go shopping for “party” shoes, you’re back in the patent leather Mary Janes of childhood because there is no way in god’s green earth you are going to be able to walk anywhere in high heels! And if you’re not on any prescribed meds, you are taking one or two or half a dozen supplements in the hope that, should the monkey brain & donkey placenta cream do its work on those wrinkles that JUST SHOWED UP THIS WEEK, all your internal organs can keep up. Of course, you have to remember what each one is and what it does and how much to take and remembering stuff like this is getting harder and harder. Just like finding your keys every morning is a 15 minute task.
This sounds like I’m complaining, doesn’t it? Actually, those brand new & sudden wrinkles aside, I’m not. I do know that I’m a lucky person. I have had good things in my life, many more than bad things, and for the most part even those bad things have come as they should, as life goes on. It just has struck me this week, as I’ve written two letters of condolence and have talked with my beautiful, brilliant 17-year old great-niece about our planned shopping trip for her prom dress (as I did with her mother 25 years ago), that these are the activities of a middle-aged woman. And what really gets me… I’m so surprised to be here so soon.