What “middle age” means to me

The idea of aging was brought home to me in a big way a few days ago when one of my sisters told the rest of us that she had taken our brother to the hospital and that he was in congestive heart failure. My immediate reaction was no, he is too young, he’s my BABY brother.

I remembered that the fact of my age has been in the front of my brain for a while now, perhaps since Wayne asked me to marry him. I am obsessed with the idea that, at 44, I am middle aged. It means my siblings are also middle aged and, as my mother pointed out a couple days ago, my parents are senior citizens. And I guess middle age is when things start to fall apart, like my brother’s heart.

But. I often feel that I am in the process of rebooting myself, and surely one cannot start anew and be on the down slide at the same time. I exercise regularly, I have almost eliminated fake food* from my diet, I’ve stopped smoking and cut down on my beer drinking (I love a good craft brew, sorry), and I am a newlywed. I have a great idea of what I love and I spend as much time surrounded by those things as I can. I have awakened to the fact that I am one of those people who, while I have a career, will stay at my current level until the bitter end. And I am fine with that, because it means I can do my best and be a lot more relaxed about work.

Basically, at 44 I feel like I am the best me that I have ever been. I’ve forgiven myself for mistakes I made in the past, I’ve surrounded myself with the things that make me happy, and I concentrate on being healthy and strong.

But when it all comes down to it, this new and improved me is inside of a biological machine that has been on this earth for forty-four and a half years. It is no longer perfect. My right rotator cuff is messed up and will be forever. My hair is fading from red to something else as more of it turns gray. My knees pop and crackle. Those things I called laugh lines are there all the time now, so I probably need to consider calling them what they really are (wrinkles). I have various little ailments and maladies, many of them rather scary the first time I encounter them (they become normal after a while). I guess you could say that the improvements are staving off the total breakdown. That’s how my bright-canary-yellow optimism is choosing to see it, anyway.

Spending a couple days in the hospital really pushed home how we are all aging. My mother is slow and gray-haired. My brother is looking at spending the second half of his life on a heart disease diet. My sisters (both older than me, I am the third) are dressing more age-appropriately and are dying their hair. We no longer talk about our children, except to speculate which will be the next parent. We are becoming grandparents.

When did all of this happen, I wonder. Did I wake up one day with chicken neck and paper-dry skin on my hands? I think I did. At least, this me did. If middle age means I come out of my cocoon as something lovelier, different, and stronger than what I was before, I will age gladly. As I try to do everything.

 

*Fake food is stuff that has ingredients I can’t pronounce without sounding out. I am trying to rid myself of such things but I so love soft-serve ice cream and cereal bars that I still have them occasionally.

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