In the Middle

Navigating middle age is almost as tricky as puberty, y’all.

It’s like I blinked, and shit just got crazy. My hair is turning white, my hormones are whacked out, my laugh lines are deepening. This isn’t throwing me into a tailspin (yet!) because I know there is so much more to me than how I look. This 48-year-old heart has been shattered and battered, but it has also learned and grown wiser.

My children are still living under my roof, and I watch them grow into young adults every day. This part is really cool. I can sit with my daughter and talk about anything, and as I listen to her, I see that she is thoughtful and hopeful and kind. I watch my son navigate his autism and learn new ways to self-advocate and communicate with others, and I know he’s going to be OK. Each day, though, I am reminded that my time with them is limited, that they will blossom into self-sufficient beings who will leave my home and have their own lives. And while I know that’s the goal, it’s bittersweet. It prompts me to put down my phone every time they walk in and want to talk. It reminds me to be patient when it’s hard to be their mom.

On the other side of the coin, both my parents are still living. And as I watch friends lose theirs to dementia and cancer and old age, I recognize how lucky I am to still be able to pick up the phone and hear my mother’s voice on the other end. She doesn’t always remember exactly what I’ve told her, but she is there, a willing listener and giver of excellent advice. My father, when he picks up, still has a joke to tell or encouragement to offer. I know with them, too, that my time is limited. It prompts me to make the travel arrangements and visit them. It reminds me to be patient with the signs and symptoms of their aging.

I found myself, after a 20-year marriage, single again. I was terrified of “getting back out there” after all that time, but I think I had some Karma Points saved up with the Universe because after only a few very mediocre dates, the most amazing man showed up. He is one of those people whose mere presence makes my heartrate drop and my stress levels plummet. Because we have three teenagers between us for whom we are the primary caregivers, our time together is pretty limited. It prompts me to be fully present when I’m with him. It reminds me to be sure he knows my heart each day.

My friends are navigating illnesses, deaths, kid issues, divorces, all manner of shit that hits the fan in middle age. They are all kicking ass (even if they don’t feel like they are) and surprising themselves along the way. No one knows what they can effectively deal with and manage until they’re forced to, and the grace and compassion I see in my friends time and again is nothing short of inspirational. It prompts me to remember that I’m not the only one with challenges. It reminds me to reach out and help where I can.

There is a magic that occurs in middle age if we let it. It’s the realization that our lives pass quickly. It’s the realization that it’s not the house or the car or the job that matters. It’s the people and the relationships we form along the way. Our time is so so precious, and we waste so much of it concerning ourselves with bullshit. Here’s the thing:  bullshit ain’t ever going away. But you, and they, and every last one of us WILL go away eventually.

Middle age is life’s bittersweet reminder not to squander what’s left of our time.

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