I’m Still Here

Sometimes it seems as if middle age is all about coping with change.  There are the physical changes:  fading eyesight, graying hair, spreading mid-section and facial hair where it absolutely doesn’t belong.  Then there are the changes in our families:  children growing up to become independent adults, aging parents (if we are lucky enough to still have them) who become increasingly dependent on us, and relatives we knew as babies having babies of their own.  And finally, there are the changes in the world around us:  new and confusing technologies, strange new fads in food and decorating (with all due respect to HGTV, who really needs a barn door in their house?) and global politics that are shifting so quickly we can hardly keep track of it all.

Still, I have finally realized that there really is one constant in my life, and that’s…..me.  Obviously,  I’m not talking about my body, as that’s much more saggy and wrinkly that it ever was, and of course I know that I have grown in maturity and knowledge as I’ve lived my life.  But I do believe that, underneath it all, I am still basically the same person I have always been.

Ann and SandyI can’t remember a time when I didn’t love animals, particularly dogs and horses.  One of my earliest memories is watching Westerns on our family’s old black and white television set, and how frustrated I’d get when the cowboys would get off their horses and the cameras would follow the cowboys, not the horses.  Because I didn’t care about the cowboys; I wanted to watch the horses!  So it’s no surprise that one of the nicest gifts I ever got in my life was my very own horse, and I still love horses, even though Prince died a long time ago.   And one of the saddest times in my young life was when we had to give our family dog away because we were moving to an apartment where she wasn’t allowed.  We gave her to family friends who I knew would take good care of her and let us see her often, but I still cried about it for days.  And if I had to give up my dog today, I’m pretty sure I’d react the exact same way.

I loved to write stories when I was a child, so it was natural that I became an English major in college and worked hard at a free-lance writing career as an adult.  My favorite color is still blue; I’m still an introvert who spends way too much time day-dreaming; and I still hate loud noises and seeing anyone’s feelings hurt, even the feelings of people I don’t particularly like.  I know the reason why I can go years without seeing a close friend and yet feel instantly connected and comfortable when we do meet up again.  It’s because both of us still have the same basic personality traits that first formed the friendship all those years ago.

It may sound odd, but at a time in my life when I seem to be dealing with so many changes, I take the time now and then to remind myself that essentially, I am the same person I have always been, and probably always will be.   Because I think everybody needs something to stay the same.

I Don’t Want To Sound Old, But….

As a middle-aged woman, I don’t really think of myself as “old.” There are moments when I feel my age and think the nursing home is just around the corner, but that’s mostly when I forget what I’m talking about in mid-sentence, or I’m being pulled along by a big shelter dog and find myself telling the dog to remember that there is an old lady on my end of the leash.  But mostly, I don’t think of myself as being old yet, and I don’t want other people to think I’m old, either.  Which is why I make an effort to keep certain opinions to myself.

I know one of the quickest ways to sound old is to talk about how much better things used to be.  Phrases like “kids today just don’t understand…” or “we never had that when I was young, and we got along just fine without it” are usually uttered by actual senior citizens.  And I don’t mean that as a criticism.  The world has changed so quickly and dramatically that I understand why older people might prefer a time that is more familiar to them.  Still, I don’t want to talk like an old person when I’m only fifty-seven.

So it’s hard for me to admit that I do sometimes long for “the good old days.”  Especially when it comes to technology, and most especially when it comes to cell phones.  Obviously, they are wonderful devices and I do like their ability to keep me connected to my friends and family (even those far away), to take and share photos almost instantly, to easily access the internet, and to summon help in an emergency.  There’s a reason almost everyone has a cell phone.

DSC00209But that doesn’t mean I want to look in my rearview mirror and see the driver behind me is looking down at his phone rather than at the road ahead of him.  Or that I want to hear the loud, boring conversation of the person next to me in the check out line. Or that I enjoy traveling with a friend who is busy scrolling through her cell phone rather than talking to the other people in the car.  And there is nothing so creepy as sitting in a roomful of people who are all ignoring each other as they stare intently at their cell phones, their faces slightly illuminated from the reflection of their screens.

I admit that I’ve pulled my cell phone out in the middle of a restaurant dinner with my husband, just to make sure I haven’t missed an important text or email, and I can only imagine how special that makes him feel.  Although I’ve never done it, (and never will do it) I have been tempted to check my phone when I’m stopped at a red light and hear the little “ding” that indicates a new text.

It seems to me that my cell phone, handy as it is, is also robbing me of the ability to just live in the moment and simply deal with what and who is right in front of me.  I may be with a person who is special to me, but I’ve just got to answer that text or check for that important email, right?  Sure I do….  I’ve come to realize that I have a love/hate relationship with my phone.  I love what it can do for me, but I sometimes hate what it does to me.

So at the risk of sounding old, I admit that there are times when I think, “we didn’t have cell phones when I was young, and we got along just fine without them!”  Even so,  I doubt I’ll be trading my cell phone in for an old-fashioned rotary phone anytime soon.