I recently got an email that stopped me dead in my tracks. It started like this:
Since you are a prominent blogger among middle-aged women…”
As soon as my eyes hit that “middle-aged women” part, I thought: What the? Middle-aged? I’M NOT MIDDLE-AGED, PEOPLE. What do you mean, MIDDLE-AGED? I am YOUNG!
And then I realized this categorization was not a mistake. No fail of a PR-pitch. I did the math, and it’s true: 41 is middle age, if I’m lucky enough to get a good run, to say, age 80. That puts me square in the middle of my life. Middle-aged. Damn.
I don’t feel middle age.
At a very athletic, active…and dare I say…vibrant 41, I am blessed that my body and mind don’t feel middle-aged. In fact, the only thing I feel is kind of offended, in spite of the truth.
In my mind, “middle age” conjures images of salt-and-pepper-haired men with paunches, who cling desperately to their youth through reckless sex and reckless purchases. In my mind (and often in reality), middle-aged women are haggard, tired from a life of child-rearing and boredom. In my mind, to be middle-aged is to be disconnected from pop culture, to be a little clueless. As stupid as these generalizations are, they are what I truly think. Or thought.
So, in my mind, I am NOT middle age, because I am agile and free and aware. I do not long for another’s life because I did not sacrifice my own dreams and desires. I have time for pure vanity, unscheduled drinks, and impromptu sleep-ins; I can choose shoes that aren’t sensible, but I don’t need to be reckless to convince myself I’ve still got “it,” because I’ve never felt like I lost whatever “it” is.
I don’t even have kids!
This is by design. I have deliberately chosen to avoid unnecessary stress (and aging) by being childless by choice.
This is middle age.
Aside from the fact that I just can’t bear the thought of bringing a child into this absolutely insane world, I’ve always felt that if I had a child, I’d feel old. It would mean I’d have to be a real grown-up. A full-fledged, 100% responsible adult. I’m not saying I’m not a responsible adult, but when you have a life to shape, an adult-in-training—and you’re the teacher for the next 18 years—it gives the term “responsible” new meaning.
When you have a child, you are no longer really you. You’re a mom (or a dad), and if you’re a good one, you really should lose a lot of yourself in the process, because selfishness and parenthood just don’t mix. Despite my own fear of parenthood, I have total respect for those who have chosen to sign up for it, for those who get what it really means to parent.
While many of my peers are balancing multiple children, birthday parties, soccer practice, dance lessons, jobs, and a home, Hubby and I still have the freedom of doing whatever we want to do, whenever we want. Our new little fur baby has restricted us somewhat, but as anyone with a child knows, the commitment to and requirements of a dog are not those of a child. I’m not responsible for anyone but myself, so I just don’t feel old. Old enough to have children. Or old enough to be called middle-aged. And yet I am.
But I do feel pretty good about my life.
If being middle-aged means having order in your life and achievements under your belt, then yes, I am. If being middle-aged means living a life with purpose and consciousness and honor, then yes, I am. Middle age is the break-in point, like a car humming at its optimum, engine well-oiled and able to handle the hills and valleys of life. I never felt this sure twenty years ago. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s if you paid me to.
The mileage of life gives you clarity of character, the courage to follow your path, no matter what other people think, and the wisdom to teach what you have learned. Now that I am officially middle-aged, I realize it may well be the best time of life, because the absoluteness of your soul is never more profound. Who you are—and who you aren’t—reverberates inside like the grounding vibration of a tuning fork, that deep hummmmmm pulling you closer to your true self, your true path. I…all of us…only need to listen.
Yes, I am middle-aged. Halfway between here and there, and loving it.
PS: Thanks, Debra, of Pretty Cool Woman, for inspiring this post.
What does middle age look like to you? Are you in it? How do you feel?