Webster’s dictionary defines middle age as “the period in a person’s life from about age 40 to about age 60.” Well, I trust Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, so I’ll take her word for it, but I wouldn’t have guessed that 40 was considered middle age, but I digress and will move on. So, for those of us who fall within this age range, we are no longer just your average adult. No ma’am – we’re now elevated to a higher level known as midlife. I’m 55 years old at this writing, so I most definitely qualify! Well, all I’ve got to say is…YIPPEE…I’M A REAL GROWN UP NOW! Actually that’s not all I have to say about it, so keep reading.
“My heart was racing when I woke up suddenly. I felt it beating hard in my chest as I lied in bed – very still and quiet. At first I didn’t remember where I was, but then my mind quickly pushed the fog of sleep away and the familiar images of my bedroom flooded my eyes. I’d fallen asleep with the television and the lights on. I was dreaming about something, I don’t remember what. All I do remember is that a voice was whispering to me, “Ten years from now, you’ll be 65!” I remember feeling panicked and scared. “What?! I’ll be how old in just 10 short years??!” It was that thought that scared me awake! But after a few minutes of watching some infomercial on T.V., I took a few deep breathes, cut off the TV and the lights and went back to sleep. I’d decided right there and then that If I’m blessed enough to live to see 65, then I’ll deal with that when it happens!”
That’s a true story and it happened to me a couple of months ago. Yes, it was sobering to think that this youthfully spirited woman may one day be considered a SENIOR CITIZEN! I have since decided to cross that bridge when I get to it. In the meantime, l’m embracing my middle years with gusto! I’ve even begun to coin a new term for us middle-agers – I call myself a “Junior Senior” – I’m old enough to have my AARP card (and I use it often, by the way) but too young for Senior Discounts at restaurants and stores.
As a vibrant middle-aged woman, I’m very aware of a body that is not in the process of changing (that happened in my 40’s), but one that has already changed! Nothing is firm, tight or standing upright anymore – and it doesn’t matter how hard I exercise or how much moisturizer I use. On the brighter side: I look at my body in the mirror and smile at a face that is more defined and richer in character than ever before. I see the “laugh lines” that aren’t only present when I’m laughing, but they remain even after I’ve stopped. That’s okay, though. Because those lines tell a story of a life filled with joyful and laughable moments and I’ll keep my lines as proof. I see a woman who is perfectly seasoned and ripe with indelible faith and optimism, an indomitable and tenacious spirit, resilience and self-awareness. I see a sometimes weary warrior and traveler. I see a survivor.
My Neo-soul sistah, Erykah Badu says in her song, Cleva – “Without a bra my ninnies hang down low….got a little pot in my belly and nowadays my figure ain’t so fly…but I’m cleva!” Erykah, I can relate! My reflection reveals breasts that are no longer perky – instead they are full and they sag, but with a special bra that I have, they will stand up and look marvelous when I want them to! I still rock a plunging neck line and look fabulous and sexy doing it! But, in either case, I am more than okay with my saggy breasts because they’ve been faithful to me over the years. They have fed and nourished both of my children in their infant years, they have brought pleasure to two husbands and other lovers and, giving thanks to God, they have always – so far- returned with “negative” results after my annual mammograms. So, you know what? I’ll keep my saggy, healthy breasts.
As one of my favorite comedians – Joan Rivers- used to say, “Can we talk?” Ladies – can we really talk about, well…okay I’m keeping it real so far, no need to stop now! Can we talk about INCONTINENCE! Before you go looking it up on your smartphones, it means when you laugh or you sneeze and you pee at the same time OR you get the urge to pee so bad and so suddenly that sometimes you may not make it to the bathroom. Ummm…can we say Poise or Tena pads? Just when you thought you were finished with pads forever because you’re in menopause and no more periods, right? WRONG. If you haven’t experienced this yet…keep living! On the dryer side: there ARE dryer sides and several fixes for this Junior-Senior situation, so don’t sweat it! Instead, put it in perspective: better to have an overactive bladder that requires you to use a pad when you’re away from home or a possible minor surgical intervention then one that doesn’t work at all because of renal problems, i.e. dialysis/renal failure. It’s how you look at it!
How about aching joints, arthritis, and forgetfulness? They all come with our mid-life age, along with a host of other things that I could go on and on about. I say to the achy joints and arthritis: Thanks for reminding me that I’ve lived a life – and continue to do so – that is physically active and engaging. While arthritis may have found a home in my knees and the heel of my foot now aches from Plantar Fasciitis, I work out pretty regularly, either walking a track or taking a Zumba class. I’m not giving in to the pain – No ma’am! I’ll take some Advil, put on my sneakers and keep it moving! My knees may not be what they used to be, but they have tolerated my fluctuating, rollercoaster weight over the years. My feet aches sometimes now, but they never failed to take me wherever I needed to be. I’m not in a wheelchair, so I’ll swallow the Advil and be thankful! As for any forgetfulness – well, usually I always find or remember whatever it is that I’m looking for or thinking about. And sometimes, forgetting some things isn’t such a bad thing…neither is losing something. Truth is: None of us lives this long without something – and none of us lives this long without leaving this life unscarred or untouched by something.
Look, I could go on and on about this aging process and how being middle age has its ups and downs – of course it does! But that’s life and life is exactly what we STILL have. I always tell my daughters – and any other young people who will listen to me – that their best is still in front of them. I listen to my daughters and other young people talk and the things that they talk about – their concerns, their fears, their problems, etc. I remember feeling the same way at their age – worrying about the same things. But you know what? I survived those fears, and even conquered some of them. My career went the way it did, I loved, I laughed, I made mistakes, I learned – sometimes quickly, sometimes not – I was betrayed, disappointed and all those other things that we all go through when we’re younger – and even still now many times. But the difference is now – at least for me – most of the things that I worried about or feared or was anxious about in my youth, well…it just ain’t that serious anymore!
If someone were to ask me what age I would want to redo, I’d have to say that I’d love to remain in my 50’s and probably 60’s, too (haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m looking forward to it – despite that dream). After all, what is the alternative to aging? Death. It’s the only thing that will stop the aging process – the only alternative. It doesn’t matter how many plastic surgeries we have or how many vitamins we take, the body will naturally age if we live long enough. So, what I have decided to do is this, and it’s very simple really: ENJOY MY LIFE RIGHT NOW! I am embracing my middle junior senior years with love, vitality, tenacity, fierceness, and, most of all, with peace of mind and the determination to live my best life now – not tomorrow or next year – but now.
So, I’ll leave the job grinding, problem solving and world changing to others – I’ve grinded on my jobs for more than 30 years –solved problems for even longer and, while I didn’t change the world, I have birthed two incredible daughters who are outstanding human beings and assets to this world. As for me, with God’s permission and His blessings, I will now relax, enjoy myself and truly enjoy the best years of my life – which are right now – saggy breasts, laugh lines, arthritis and all. My best is yet to come!