How do I feel about this gradually changing me? It’s easy to forget that no life transition is easy. Teenhood, adulthood… Teething problems to say the least! But unlike those other times, ‘midlife’ conjures up
much less little excitement for a life unwritten, especially from an agecentric young person’s perspective. I must accept this reality, this is true, but I’ll be honest, it isn’t an easy new landscape to live in.
Midlife is a term that didn’t apply to me “a few years ago” still in my 30’s; you’re talking about someone else, right? Someone greying, unpolished around the edges, struggling to propel themselves off a chair perhaps. And if a friend dared to utter the M word, I’d be like “put that down right over there!” But now, as I leave the dawn of parenthood rubbing the sleep out of my eyes (yes, another layer of complexity), I slightly reluctantly own it. Just. I’m still not grey and neither do I struggle with chairs yet (thankfully), but I’m in Early Midlife. There, I said it.
There’s no point denying it anymore. My brain’s not computing quite so fast (without lots of coffee or something stronger!), I can’t wear heels anymore like I did, and the nail in the coffin was a few months ago when my optician informed me that I’m now slightly long-sighted. Nice. It will gradually worsen over the next 10 years, he said, we suggest these glasses as a halfway house to bifocals. Sigh of resignation. I’m in that halfway house.
Now that may all sound a bit depressing. But you see, and I think this is a common feeling: in my lucid moments, I don’t feel unyoung! I like to think ageless. But it’s not really that either because in the end, it’s hard to forget about age; people make age assumptions all the time. I’m lucky in a way because people often think I’m younger than I am. I’m fortunate to have a small frame, and I’ve not put on weight. I’m reasonably healthy in that i have no medical issues. I can chase my toddler about and be silly, and I don’t care for having to dress to cover my legs or otherwise.
Also, I’m a mum to an active toddler. (I’m kidding myself if I think I’d have kept up with him 10 years ago!) I don’t know the young slang anymore but neither have I suddenly changed my outlook or politics or acquired a penchant for gardening or baking. Not that there’s anything ‘old’ about these things in themselves, but I guess it’s the change you feel and I don’t feel a lot of them yet. I still love socialising when I get the chance. I don’t moan like some people my age seem to start doing and I certainly don’t say ‘they don’t make them like they used to’! I can chat to someone 25 or 65, that’s one of the joys of midlife to me. Just don’t treat me like I’m a student! As soon as you do, I know my age!
So, it’s not been an easy transition to navigate, thus far. But I’m also teetering on the edge of something new, something else. A tipping point. Yes, I’m soon in the right place financially and psychologically for branching out into Life 1.2. My stars are aligning… I’m working on my savings rate and Little Firelite will start school next year – a new level towards independence for him too! Exciting times!
I can’t think of a much better antidote for entering midlife than a gap year, if I’m honest! In a previous post, I’ve referred to this time as a rebirth. Or maybe it’s a midlife crisis?!? Well, if it gets me moving forward without the recklessness of spending loads on a motorbike or a killer designer wardrobe, then fine by me! 😀 Besides, maybe I should add that midlife is apparently the opposite of a crisis. Does that make me feel any better? No.
I read something today in an academic text that chimed with me:
Play is characteristic of immature members of the most recent species on the phylogenetic ladder, i.e. mammals and birds… but it is in primates, and in the human species in particular, that play is most highly developed in terms of frequency, variety and complexity. Play permits the young brain to remain flexible, enabling it to react to an immense variety of potential stimuli…
That’s so true! The real function of play. Not for sheer entertainment or learning how to be in the world, but to exercise the mind so it can remain open to the possibilities! And that’s what I’m kinda seeking… to explore, to learn, to play, to use my brain in unfamiliar ways, to shrug off the rigidity of work routines and after/pre/during work coping routines!
Day in, day out. That’s what’s ageing me; habits turn the brain rigid. The brain becomes one big habit. On the other hand, Life 1.2., well that’s a great opportunity to do what I want, what I value, and that’s what’s been preoccupying me. But, this is a great reminder that it should also be… Fun! Even the journey should be fun, right? (Okay, even I have my limits with mindful spending…)
Despite an occasional melanchony for the years gone*, I’m understanding more and more that midlife really does give you the ‘best of both worlds’ – the confidence, self-knowledge and trust in your own intuition that you tend to only really gain with age, oh, and the financial set-up – can’t forget that! …while still being able to do the things you’ve always wanted to do while you can still do them, still appreciate them, still consider them a possibility. It’s a truly remarkable time, one you can capitalise on if you invested earlier. Besides, I can say hand on heart that high heels are mostly over-rated after all; I’m a true convert to barefoot shoes!
So, yes, while transitions are not comfortable, they are essential for growth. One day I’ll look back and be glad I wrote that paragraph above; future me acknowledging Now Me noddingly; ‘that’s my girl‘. (Hi back!)
So, this is how I’ve come to use the word ‘midlife’ in my tagline (to this blog). I’ll admit, I do wince inside occasionally when I see it, but it’s also a badge I own – that is that and This is Me. A gap year student of life 🙂 , midlife.
Your thoughts much welcome. Writing this has been a journey.
*I seem to have an acute sense of my mortality at times. Anyone else the same?