Monthly Archives: February 2019

Am I Dead Yet?

The closer I get to turning fifty, the more absurd the idea that I could ever recreate my thirties becomes to me.  In the early forties, there’s still that glimmer of hope.  The body still holds some elasticity.  Arthritis and the uncoolness of raising teenagers hasn’t set in.  I can still go for a jog without regretting it for days afterwards.

I’m sure that with a great personal trainer, a LOT of conviction, and refined habits reflective of those people we read about in magazines whose lives depend on looking good, we could recreate some semblance of youth as we age.  Hell, look at Laura Dern, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, to name a few.  These women are older than I am, and they look a heck of a lot better.  And the women in their early forties, like Reese Witherspoon?  Well, forget it, they might as well be thirty.  Us?  The women in our forties who aren’t driven by a spotlight and acting roles?  We know what comes easy, and we know that emulating the health and youthful glow of a woman half our age is NOT easy.  We know there are a lot of creature comforts we have to give up, a lot of lifestyle adjustments we have to make, and a lot of professionals we have to consult, if we want to go there.

These days, so close to my fifties, I’m at a crossroads about “going there.”  Sometimes I think that accepting my size ten and forgetting about being a size six ever again would be my healthiest route of least resistance. I would free up so much room in our cramped closet; I could move forward again and start building a decent wardrobe that suits me instead of wearing thrift store clothes that I bought with the idea that I would someday be able to fit back into my other wardrobe, my “real” wardrobe.  Well, it’s been three years since I could squeeze into a size six.  My favorite outfits from years past just take up space in an already limited closet.  They’re like tombstones of another me—“here lies the jeans she loved so much when she didn’t drink a drop of alcohol, didn’t take hormones, and wasn’t in her late forties.” Is it time to just let it all go?

Or am I just making excuses for myself again, blaming my age and medication for my lack of conviction and strength?  Who was I, way back when?  And how did I create her?  And can I—is it even possible—to create her again?

Old is NOT the New Young

I spilled it to my Christian chiropractor this afternoon.  Just spilled.  He has a special gift, with his perennially calm demeanor and his seemingly accidental conversation starters.  I should have known.  Sigh.

But I spilled.  So what?  He knows my story.  Maybe this Sunday in mass, he will pray on it.  Or maybe he’s forgotten about it.  I don’t know!  I don’t know how this profession works, what they gain from making us confess.  Well, duh, I guess I do—more business.

But I would have returned to my chiropractor anyway because I want to get my spinal stuff right.  Before I spilled this afternoon, I had intended to return for a follow-up xray to see if my spinal stuff had gotten any worse in the six years I’d been sporadically seeing him.  Thank ME for keeping journals!  Six years.  My GOD how they pile up.  Six years of an unsolved spinal problem.  Six years since I was scared sober and then scared drunk again.  Six years since I wore a size six.  Six years since I was in my early forties.  Now, how the times have changed.

I am approaching fifty. And soon the idea that I have dabbled with for nearly a decade—that the forties are the new forties—will be obsolete. I asked my husband what I should do with 40sarethenew40s when I am no longer in my forties.  Should I keep going?  Should I strive to squeeze in as many thoughts as I can before I hit the magic number.  He just casually replied, “Why don’t you just start calling it “Old is NOT the new young.” Heh heh.  There really is no going back in the forth or fifth decades. There is just now.

This same non-dramatic husband always said—quite matter-of-factly—that I’ll do what I am inclined to do, and I shouldn’t waste time fretting about what I’m not doing. He has been right all along.  I spent my first night of this past weekend, my Friday, reading and commenting on student writing, reaching out to a new class that starts next week, and tweaking my plans for that class.  I stay late at work because I have just one more thing I want to do or try or send so that whatever work I end up doing later at home is purely voluntary and for the purpose of getting a little further ahead.

Work has been an adventure since I was hired full-time and given a professor title.  It wasn’t bad before.  But now, I think it’s extra special.  It’s the kind of thing I should have in my late-forties/early fifties—a title, a paycheck, a job satisfaction that reminds me that all the years I spent working for it have paid off.  I worked for this.  I didn’t work for a novel or an investigative piece of nonfiction.  I didn’t do it, and I’m ok with that.  I have this.

I keep waiting for that old panic to set in, the kind I felt every day in secondary public schools, when every extra little thing I needed to do felt like a chore and an imposition, when I dragged my ass in every day and counted the minutes until I could leave, when the work was never done because there was simply too much all the time and no end in sight.  Hasn’t happened this time around.  I think I found my dream job.  And I think my needs are simple—I thrive in an environment that doesn’t guarantee burnout within a year.  I can’t believe I spent twelve years working under that kind of duress and not making any changes because I just didn’t know any better, because I thought that was normal, because I lacked introspection and thought any unhappiness I felt was my own damn fault.  I am so far past that now, and I’m not EVEN 50.