Recently I was talking with a friend about my injuries. I have my torn rotator cuff, which I've mentioned before, but I also have something going on with my hip. I think it's to do with my psoas. It's annoying, and both force me to modify my life more than I would like. I joked with her that it's my 'mid-life crisis.'
And it's true. I'm realizing my injuries have really brought on a mid-life crisis of sorts for me. They're forcing me to recognize that my body is changing. My hair is graying, my skin is thinner. I've put on a few pounds that reasonable effort will not remove. I get a little stiff and creaky. I can no longer do some of the high-intensity exercise I enjoy, or at least, not as often. And my cycles have changed--a lot. I'm pretty certain there will be no more little darlings pattering about the house.
Some of these changes are fine. I have no particular longings for more darlings. The two I have occupy my time and affections quite thoroughly. I don't even mind the aesthetic changes... at least, not too much. And my darling husband loves me just as I am... he's a true Mark Darcy in all the best ways, and for that, I am thankful.
I do miss the workouts. I miss the daily lala fix. I don't like being stiff and creaky, and I struggle with what to do with it in my mind. Is this the 'new normal?' Or can I get back some of that youthful vitality with lifestyle changes? If it's the former, then that's fine. I could make my peace with it, but I struggle. Not knowing if improvement is even possible makes me long for it.
But a funny thing happens when I discuss it with others. When I point out to people the obvious: that I am no longer a 'young woman,' that I am firmly within the stage of 'middle age,' they often react very strongly. "You're still young! You're not middle aged!"
Seriously, I've had people say that to me. Um, yes, I am a middle-aged woman. I am no longer young. I may be 'younger than' plenty of people, but if life expectancy has me living into my eighties, then my mid-forties puts me firmly in the middle of life.
Yet as a culture, we seem to be terribly uncomfortable with that truth. A young woman is vital, sexy, full of life and fecundity. A middle-aged woman... even the sound of it conjures an image of a frumpy woman past her 'prime.' We worship youth, we pursue it at great cost. The anti-aging industry is enormously profitable, and they have made it such at we deny the fact that youth is fleeting. The simple fact that we reject the reality that youth has passed reveals our ambivalence about it.
Anyway, this blogger wrote a somewhat controversial post speculating about reproductive technologies used by celebrities. She had no inside knowledge as to how these stars had conceived their children, but based on their ages and other circumstances, she guessed who might have used donor eggs. Realistically, a 45-year-old woman bearing a child has almost certainly not used her own eggs. By our mid-forties, our chances of conceiving on our own are pretty slim. (Maybe you know someone who did, but that's not the norm.)
Many of the comments criticized the blogger for digging into these people's personal lives, that they were entitled to some measure of privacy. While that's true, the blogger held her ground. She pointed out that many celebrities have nearly unlimited funds to pursue the latest in assisted reproductive technologies, plastic surgeries and other enhancements. They live in a world where failing to avail themselves of these opportunities means career suicide, but in doing so, they promote the myth of eternal bloom and fertility. She felt they had a moral obligation to own up to the extreme measures they took to extend their youth and fecundity well past the age when it would naturally be gone.
We live in an age of possibility, and particularly for us Americans, we tend toward relentless optimism. We're told with hard work and hard cash we can extend pert freshness indefinitely. But when we try to tap into all these possibilities, we lose something... that quiet contentment that can come from just... accepting. We're all aging. Time is moving on, and with it's passing we gain some things, and lose others.
Over the last few months, I've been grieving these changes I see in myself. And I'll be honest, all the assurances I get from people that I'm still young! do not help me. The more we deny this reality, the more we entomb the idea that middle-age is this terrible, terrible thing. One that must be denied and battled and beaten into submission. It reminds me of a commercial I saw for face cream years ago. The woman said, 'People talk about aging gracefully. Not me! I'm going to fight it every step of the way!' Good grief. Does this strike anyone else as silly?
I can't help but think I have more important things to do than deny reality and fight the inevitable. Even though I struggle, I must say, for all the vim and vigor I had in my younger days, I realize I wouldn't go back for all the world. I was a neurotic mess at twenty-five! No, thank you. I'll keep my wit and wisdom, and leave the fast-paced burpees to the young.