No One Told Me

IMG_5462I 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…..IMG_4369

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.