My New Normal

I think I’m finally getting the hang of being middle aged.  True, I’m 57, so that means I’ve been middle aged for quite some time now (some would say I’m too old to be called middle aged, and I treat that suggestion with the contempt it deserves), but I can be both stubborn and resistant to change.  So it has taken me a long time to come to grips with the fact that I now have what it often referred to as a “new normal.”

Gone are the days when a late night meant staying out with my friends until three in the morning.  Now a late night is eleven o’clock, midnight at the very most, and even staying up that late means I spend most of the next day puffy-eyed, sluggish, and complaining bitterly about how tired I am.  Genuine late nights, and especially the late-night snacks (often from Taco Bell or White Castle) I used to indulge in are a thing of the past. And considering the delicate state of my digestive system these days, that’s probably a good thing.  For everyone.

The slim waist I enjoyed for most of my life has been replaced with a rather soft “muffin top” that refuses to leave, despite my attempts to exercise it away.  You would think that doing ten crunches or a thirty-second plank once every week or two would do the trick, but sadly, it has not.  So I have given away all my long, slim tops that used to look so good when tucked in, and replaced them with tops that are meant to be worn over my pants and are wide enough to hide back fat.  In short, I have come to embrace middle-aged fashion.

Previously, packing for a trip meant simply making sure I had enough clothes and toiletries for however long I was going to be away.  Now I have a large list of additional “must have” items which I absolutely can’t do without: two pairs of reading glasses (I always have a back-up pair), a make up mirror so that I can make sure I’m getting my eye shadow on my actual eyelids, a custom-made mouthpiece that I have to wear every night to stop me from grinding my teeth (as a friend once commented when she saw me pop it in, “your husband is a lucky man”), my allergy medications, and most important of all, my tweezers.  Because being middle aged means having hair where hair does not belong.

I have always been a little bit compulsive, but I no longer worry about having an obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Yes, I never walk out my back door without backtracking through the house to my front door to double check that I’ve locked it, but I don’t do that because I’m compulsive.  I do that because by the time I’ve reached the back door, I can no longer remember whether or not I actually locked the front door.  And after I pull out of our driveway, I circle back around the block to make sure that I’ve closed the garage door for the same reason.  My memory has never been great, but these days it’s almost non-existent.

Grandma GreenPlease don’t think I’m complaining, because I’m not.  For one thing, I understand that complaining isn’t gong to make me young again, and I also recognize that there are many advantages to being middle aged.  Honestly, I not only accept my “new normal,” I have come to appreciate it.  Because I know that it won’t be so very long before I’ll hit the age when I have yet another “new normal” to deal with, and something tells me it’s not going to be as nice as this one.

Quick, Before I Forget….

I’ve been reading some terrific reviews of the new movie Still Alice, but I haven’t been able to make myself actually go see it yet.  It’s not that I don’t think it will be good enough to be worth my time and the price of admission.  I’ve read the book, and it was very good, and I’d kind of like to see how the book compares to the movie.  It’s just that the book struck a little too close to home, because it is about a middle aged woman who suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  And I have a horrible memory, and it’s getting worse all the time.

I don’t know about the movie, but early in the book, there’s a scene in which the Alice, the main character, is out for a jog on a path she has run daily for years, and suddenly looks around and realizes that she has no idea where she is or how to get home. Her memory has begun to desert her, and the rest of the book deals with how she is diagnosed with the disease and struggles to cope.   So now every time I have a lapse in memory, I find myself worrying, “is this normal, post-menopause memory loss?  Or is this just like that early scene in Still Alice?”

To be fair, I’ve never had a great memory.  My family still teases me about the time when I was about ten years old and put a glass bottle of Coke in the freezer to chill it more quickly.   Naturally, I forgot about it, but I did find out that when you leave a glass bottle of carbonated beverage in the freezer too long, it explodes, coating the entire freezer with frozen Coke and shards of glass.  And that your parents will not be happy about it, either.

Then I hit menopause, and found that my naturally poor memory has gotten much worse.  I can forget a word in the middle of a sentence, and in casual conversation I find myself interrupting people far too often.  It’s not that I’m trying to be rude, it’s just that I know I’ll forget the point I want to make if I wait for the other person to actually stop talking.  Recently I was having a conversation with another middle aged friend, and we were desperately trying to think of the word for “kennel,” as in a canine breeding facility.  There we were, two college-educated, somewhat intelligent women, and the best we could come up with was “dog farm.”

So, while I have no doubt that Still Alice is a great movie, I’m still not so sure that I want to see it.  Frankly, it scares me.  And I’ve never liked scary movies.