I am not, and have never been, what you would a call an optimistic person. I tend to not only expect the worst, but to prepare for it as well. So I’m still trying to figure out how I managed to be be so completely clueless about what exactly was waiting for me when I reached middle age. Because honestly, I had no idea….
I thought that being middle aged meant I wouldn’t worry about my children any more, because they would be grown up and out of my house. I also thought I would have much more money and time at my disposal, because, well, my children would be grown up and out of the house. And while it’s true my grocery bills have gone down significantly since I stopped having to feed my son’s insatiable appetite, I’m still waiting for all that extra time and money to arrive, and my level of worry about my kids hasn’t gone down one little bit.
I knew that I would eventually hit menopause and that some women experienced “unpleasant” symptoms, but I was still shocked when I had my first hot flash. I didn’t realize that having a hot flash meant feeling as if someone had stuck me in a microwave and turned it on high, and that I would have those feelings at least ten times a day and three to four times every night, for years. And that constant, bitter, complaining didn’t help at all (as my husband regularly and patiently reminded me).
I didn’t know that that one morning I would wake up, decide to make pancakes for breakfast, but be completely unable to read the directions on the box of Bisquick. I mean, how could that be? Literally, one day I could read small print, and the next day I could not. That mystery is right up there with why the hair from my eyebrows (where I wanted it) suddenly decided to migrate to my upper lip (where I most certainly did not want it).
Logically, I knew that as I aged, my parents and other relatives would also be aging, but sometimes I am still surprised when my mother walks into the room and I realize that she has turned into a bonafide, cute, little-old-lady. Because when I’m not with her, I tend to picture her as she was twenty-five years ago, which, of course, is pretty much the age I am now. I try not to think about that too much.
I now realize that middle age has its own set of problems and its own gifts, just like every other stage of our lives. And I don’t want to sound as if I don’t appreciate the positive aspects, because I do. I know I have a stronger sense of self now, and I appreciate the good people in my life so much more, and I don’t waste nearly so much time “sweating the small stuff” or worrying what other people think of me.
Still, I wish that I hadn’t been caught quite so off guard by my middle years, and that I had more of a chance to prepare, if only mentally, for all the changes I was going to be facing. And then I realize that I also don’t have any real idea of what is waiting for me when, in the not too distant future, I become an actual senior citizen. Maybe it’s time I had a long talk with my mother…..