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January 15, 2016

What Nobody Tells Us About Middle Age.

 

_MG_7851, Brian Roberts/Flickr

Time speeds up.

When you were seven, a year seemed like forever. Adulthood was impossibly far away. Now, the years seem to float past.

We wish we could press pause and stretch out certain stages the way we would taffy, sticky and sweet.

You will often feel surprised by your own age.

You sometimes still have that dream that you’re in high school, and you can’t remember your locker combination. Or you’re in college about to graduate, but oh no! You forgot you needed one more class to graduate.

These dreams feel so real, so vivid, that when you wake up, it feels like you’re falling off the edge of one reality into another, losing a decade or so.

Your body will change—on the inside.

If you’re a woman, PMS might take over your life for a week each month. You wonder if instead of a red tent there should be PMS Isolation Booths, filled with chocolate, wine and Netflix.

And absolutely no children.

You take up yoga or running or biking.

You need to know that you can still surprise yourself, still carve out muscles, still learn to be fast and sleek, despite the small aches that crop up from time to time. Despite the bones that are older than they’ve ever been, you can still be so strong—maybe even stronger than you’ve ever been before.

You might be attracted to people of almost any age you’ve ever been.

You might one day, just for example, drive past a high school track team. And without your permission, find your head doing a double take that gives you whiplash.

Because inside of you, beneath the light lines on your face, is a 16-year old. And a 24-year-old. And a 30-year old.

You sometimes still struggle against your body.

You still have moments of doubt, little hisses of self-loathing from time to time. But more and more, you also have soft moments of gratitude, tiny whispers of love. You realize that though you’d love to spend a day in your 20-year-old skin, to get the chance to enjoy just how painfully young and gorgeous you were, you wouldn’t want to spend a day in your 20-year-old mind.

Your eyes, now crinkled around your temples, are full of wisdom and heart. Your body is strewn with the story of your life, the scars and loves.

You are a miracle of regeneration, of cells and blood.

You are stardust and impermanence.

Friends are the best.

You might see your friends less than in earlier decades, but they still play a sacred role in your life. You’ve learned a vulnerability that you didn’t possess when you were younger. You are less afraid of your own imperfection, because you’ve lived enough to know that we all brim with them.

You talk less about the externals, and you share more from the heart. You trade secrets, expose your messes, and make each other cackle.

And you’d cut a b*tch for any of them.

Your hands and heart are full.

This is an era of abundance and exhaustion. You’re balancing more than you’ve ever balanced before. You are literally and figuratively always holding something—your kids, your phone, your worries. You realize that later in your life, you might think of this as the one of the best parts of your life.

You wish you weren’t so busy so you could enjoy it more.

You let some dreams go, but replace them with new ones.

You admit that some of your dreams will likely never happen, like becoming a rock star or marrying a member of Pearl Jam, or really, any of your fantasies that involve rock stars or models. But other dreams, more realistic and fulfilling, can take their place. You might dream of becoming more present. Of writing that book that’s been floating around your head for years.

Of softening towards yourself, and then towards everyone else. Of learning the long, lingering lesson of letting go.

You still feel 12. Or 15. Or 22.

As the years click by, deep down, you still feel like you’re much younger. You sometimes wonder how you can be trusted with life—with performing your job, raising your children, doing your taxes—when you feel so un-adulty.

We find that most of us feel this way: our boss; our parents; the elderly woman puttering through the grocery store.

In this way, as in so many others, you are not alone.

 

 

 

Relephant: 

The Discrimination No One Talks About, Even Now.

How to Get Through a Mid-Life Crisis: 5 Hints from a 73-year-old Woman Who’s Been There.

 

 

 

Author: Lynn Shattuck 

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Brian Robert at Flickr 

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