I spend quite a bit of time on the Twitter these days. I’m not one to follow a bunch of celebrities — although, Melissa Etheridge did like my Bring Me Some Water post when I tweeted it, which kind of had me swooning for a couple of days. But aside from a select few famous people I truly admire, my feed is nearly void of celeb tweets.
Instead, I’ve surrounded myself with other #bloggers, people from the #writingcommunity and those interested in, or dealing with, #mentalhealth issues. In addition to being incredibly warm, welcoming and supportive, I find that a good number of people in these groups are also fairly young. This shouldn’t, and doesn’t, surprise me. After all, social media tends to be a young person’s game, so it stands to reason the people I’m interacting with would be on the youthful side.
The thing is though, many of them don’t seem to think so. It’s not unusual for me to come across a tweet of someone celebrating a birthday, often a milestone — 21, 30, 35, 40, etc. that includes some variation on the “I feel old” or “I’m officially old now” theme. And here I sit, pushing the middlest of my mid-50s thinking, “You can’t be old, because I’m not old yet!”
Well, not old mentally, anyway. And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. I’m sure there are plenty of people my age and older who would say, “But inside, I still feel like I’m 25.” Okay, maybe 35. But whatever age I feel inside, it’s not my chronological age. And it’s certainly not the age my body feels.
Frankly, I’m sort of fascinated by the whole aging process and I tend to look at myself the way an anthropologist would. For instance, I find it interesting that I’m able to throw out my shoulder scooping ice cream from the container. I’d like to understand how the act of sleeping can cause me to wake up feeling sore all over. I’m also trying to determine at what point I ceased being able to rise from a seated position without making some type of “oof” sound.
In an odd stroke of bad luck leading to good, appearance-wise I’m also holding up fairly well. In my early twenties, I had melanoma and was banished to the shade for the rest of my life. It turns out that staying out of the sun worked out well for me because I’ve got very few wrinkles, crows feet or lines. Just to clarify, though, I do NOT recommend getting cancer as part of your skincare regimen!
As a woman, I’m fortunate that I don’t (yet??) have one of the symptoms of aging from which some of my middle-age sisters suffer: the dreaded incontinence. Perhaps it’s because I never had children. But, I can laugh as hard as I want, or cough and sneeze at the same time, and remain leak-free. With my luck, however, I’m jinxing myself by writing this and next time I burst into gales of hysterical laughter I’ll pee all over myself like an excited puppy.
Speaking of my underwear, I know that my body is aging faster than my brain because I’m no longer able to put on a pair of undies without hanging onto something. I can manage the first leg. But when I go for the second, I need to grab onto my dresser or I feel like I’m going to topple right over. And even with a stabilizing hold, sometimes a couple of little hops are still necessary just to maintain balance.
Then there’s the weight gain! Apparently, the air has calories that only affect post-menopausal women because I swear I gain weight from breathing. Watching my nice, flat little tummy turn into a gut has been traumatic in a bit of a drama-queen way. I know it’s not the end of the world, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to stomp my feet and cry, “That’s not fair!” And if you think a little diet and exercise will bring back your washboard abs, keep in mind that menopause sends your metabolism the way of the Dodo and trying to shed those pounds is about as easy as peeling an apple with a stick of chewing gum.
Now, I know I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last, middle-age person to lament their bygone youth. And I’m sure many people who don’t yet check the 40-55 age category when filling out forms may have already rolled their eyes, said “Next!” and fled this post. But, if you’re still reading this and you don’t have to scroll back through the decades like you’re searching for the British invasion to find your birth year on those aforementioned forms. Or, if you’re so young you assume the British invasion has something to do with the Revolutionary War, then I have a piece of advice for you.
Notice all the little details about being young. Get all up in your mirror and check out your smooth, wrinkle-free skin. Look at that shiny, gray-free hair you’ve got. When you wake up in the morning have a good, long s-t-r-e-t-c-h and listen to the lack of pops and creaks firing off from various joints. Get out of bed and enjoy the absence of back pain and the way you don’t start your day with a moan of misery. At some point during the day, sit on the floor, then stand up. You can probably do it without using your hands or without needing to get on your hands and knees before struggling to your feet. Go out at on the weekend and have a drink. Have another. Have another. Have another. Forget how many you had. Stay at the bar until it closes. Luxuriate in your ability to sleep until the early afternoon the next day. Relish your body’s ability to metabolize all the alcohol you consumed and leave you feeling fine when you wake up.
Don’t take any of these things for granted. Enjoy them while they last. Really celebrate them. Wallow around and take advantage of them. Because one day they are going to seem like lost superpowers and you’ll be seriously disappointed if you didn’t wring every ounce of pleasure out of your youth while you had the chance.
And none of this is to say that all time after 35 or 40 is spent hopelessly staring into the abyss of aging, just waiting for your turn to fall in and die. My 40s were probably my favorite decade so far. I had a great time! I felt young enough that I still wanted to get out there and live my life, but old enough that I no longer cared about the things that held me back in my 20s and 30s.
If it weren’t for all the physical changes, I’d probably resent my 50s less. It’s like another puberty that no one tells you about. At least we got a class in 6th grade warning us that our bodies would be going through changes. AARP seriously needs to start offering some education on this front … I’m thinking Chin Hairs, Hot Flashes & You: Welcome to Middle-Age!