The Only Constant

I started this blog because I wanted to write about the phase of my life that I called “middle age,” even if I was a bit old for that title. At the time, I was feeling a little bit lost and unsure of myself in the face of changes that sometimes seemed overwhelming.  I was a stay-at-home mom whose kids had grown up and moved out, and a free-lance writer who hadn’t sold anything in years.  My mother had reached the age where our roles were beginning to reverse.  Trying to keep up with the latest in technology left me feeling both confused and inadequate.  Worst of all were the changes that aging had wrought on my body, which essentially meant that everything that could possibly go south had done so, and I couldn’t read a thing without my reading glasses.

One way or another, I felt that my old identity had been stripped away and I hadn’t yet found my new one.  I thought that blogging about it might help, because writing has always helped me sort out just exactly what I am thinking and feeling.  And I was right… did help.  Just not quite in the way I had thought.

It’s been over three years since I launched Muddling Through My Middle Age, and I still haven’t found that new identity.  But after spending so much time writing about the struggle to figure out just who I have become,  I finally realized that it is that it’s perfectly okay not to know exactly who I am, or to claim a particular role and self-image and try to make it last for the rest of my life.  Because life is constantly changing, and the only way I can ever hope to cope with that is by being willing to change right along with it.

Of course some things about me will always stay the same.  My basic personality, my morals and my values, my deepest loves and my most annoying quirks are with me for life.  But so many other things have changed.  Just in recent years, I’ve become a blogger, a mother-in-law and a grandmother.  I am, slowly but surely, gaining confidence in my ability to master technology.  I have embraced new ideas and conquered some old fears.  I have become more “comfortable in my own skin” than I have ever been, even if that skin is awfully wrinkled and saggy these days.

The truth is, there is no such thing as just one new identity for me to discover and embrace for the rest of my life.  There’s just me….continually changing, growing and adapting to whatever life happens to bring.  And that’s a good thing.

Do It Anyway

IMG_4471I’m not exactly what you would call an motivated person.  I don’t spring out of bed in the morning, ready and eager to face the challenges of the day ahead.   My New Year’s resolutions are usually more along the line of “I will try to be more patient and tolerant with people who annoy me,” rather than “I will publish a book, run a marathon, and become chairman of the board of a worthy charity.”  Left to my own devices, I’m perfectly capable of wasting an entire day just puttering about the house, happily organizing my photo albums, re-reading a favorite book, or cleaning out the junk drawer.

I would prefer to think that I appreciate the simple things in life, but the truth is, I’m just not a “Type A” personality, and never will be.  And that means that I spend an awful lot of my time doing things that I really don’t want to do.

As much as I love helping shelter dogs, there are many days when I just don’t feel like walking them.  Some days I’m too tired or too sore, on other days I don’t want to be out for so long in the bitter cold or scorching heat, and there are also days when I’d just rather do something easier than walking ten or more shelter dogs in a row.   But if I’m on the schedule that day, I go down there and walk the dogs anyway, because I know that the dogs and the other volunteers are depending on me.

I enjoy writing my blog and being part of the blogging community, but there are days when I just can’t think of a single thing I want to write about.  It would be so easy to skip a turn on my self-imposed schedule of two blog posts a week, but I don’t.  If I’m supposed to publish a post on a particular day, I sit down in front of the computer and type until I come up with a post that’s at least somewhat worth reading.  That’s the only way I’ll keep this blog going.

This is nothing new.  When I worked full-time, there were many  mornings when I would have given anything for an extra day off, or at least the ability to delegate the parts of my job that I found boring or difficult to some other poor soul.  But I needed the paycheck, so I did the work anyway, without complaining.  Later, staying home with small children came with an endless stream of jobs that I would have preferred to avoid:  the dirty diapers, dealing with toddler tantrums, scrubbing vomit off the new couch, etc.  Raising small children can be hard, but they need and deserve loving care, so I did my best to see that they got it.

I think for most of us, life is sometimes a series of doing things that we’d rather not do, at times when we’d rather not do them.  And for people like me, who are not terribly driven or motivated, it probably always takes a little extra effort to tackle all the necessary challenges and chores that life throws our way.  But I don’t believe that’s ever an excuse for not being dependable, caring or hard-working.  I learned long ago that whether or not I feel like doing something is usually not what matters.  What matters is whether or not the job in front of me needs doing.

How Old Am I?

No matter how much I’d like to believe (or pretend) that I’m still young, I really do consider myself to be a middle aged woman.  I’ve thought of myself as middle aged for at least the past fifteen years or so.  And when I finally decided to start my blog, I made it all about being middle aged and coping with all the changes that middle age brings.  One way or another, being middle aged is a big part of my identity right now.

But then I started reading other people’s blogs about middle age, and realized that there are many different ways to define middle age.  I had always considered middle age to be the huge chunk of life between younger adulthood and senior citizen, and I sort of resented people who suggested that it starts and ends much earlier than that. (I even wrote a post about it called Don’t Take Away My Middle Age.)  Others believe middle age literally means the exact middle of our life, so that even if we live to be one hundred, our middle age ends when we are fifty.  Middle age is, at best, a rather fluid concept.

IMG_0393I think the problem for those of us on the upper end of middle age is that we don’t have any real term for what comes next other than “senior citizen.”  And while I have the utmost respect for senior citizens (my 85 year-old mother truly rocks the whole “cute little old lady” thing), I know that it will be many more years before I am ready to be one.  So that creates the whole question of, if I’m too old to be middle aged, but still too young to be a senior citizen, then what exactly am I?

At 57, I’m fast reaching the age when, even with the most generous definition, I can’t all myself middle aged anymore.  This will be the first time in my life when I don’t really know what age group I fall into.  So far, I’ve been a baby, child, tween, teenager, young adult, just a regular adult, and middle ager.  All that’s left, as far as I know, is senior citizen.  But it seems a bit odd to me to lump people who are in their early sixties with people who are in their late nineties.  I think that span is too long, and that the people on the opposite ends of it don’t really have that much in common.

Maybe I need to just go back to just considering myself simply as an adult, the way I did in my thirties, at least until somebody comes up with a good term for this particular time in our lives.  Or maybe it’s time I just stopped thinking in terms of age categories all together, because my age is really nobody’s business but mine.  Whatever I decide, I’m going to keep the name of my blog the same. I’d like to think that by doing so I’m making some sort of bold stand against aging and age classifications, but the truth is that figuring out how to change the name is just too much work.