August 10, 2017

I had No Idea Middle Age would Feel Like This.

“Hold this,” my son says to me, shoving his football into my hands as he darts off into the front yard.

A few minutes later, my daughter presses a sticky popsicle wrapper into my hand so she can make chalk art with the neighbor kids.

As my kids run off to play, I scowl at the weeds taking over a chunk of garden in front of our house. Didn’t I just weed, like, yesterday? I think.

A neon orange trickle from my daughter’s popsicle wrapper runs down my wrist. I sigh, drop my son’s football to the ground, and head inside to throw the gooey wrapper away.

On my way in, I stumble over a pile of shoes and almost slip in the slick of sunscreen that coats the mudroom floor. When was the last time anyone mopped in here? I wonder.

“Mom! What’s for lunch?” I hear one of my kids hollering from outside. Dudes. I have no freaking idea, I want to say. How about for lunch, mommy is going to take a nap.

Most days, I feel like I can just barely handle my life. And I’ve set up my life to support my easily overwhelmed, introverted self—I work from home, so I save time and money on commuting. I can toss a load of laundry in the wash between work assignments, and I’m here in the mornings to get my kids off to school, and in the afternoons when they get home.

But life still feels so full. Full of footballs and wrappers, worries and work, playdates and meals—it feels like there’s too much to hold.

Sometimes, I envy my 20-something self. I had so much wide, sweeping time, and I wasted it. I tossed away months to grief and depression, to numbing out with television and video games.

When my dad was about the age I am now, I was sitting next to him at a Christmas party. “How are you?” a friend asked him.

“Good, but man, does the time go by quickly.” I looked up at him, curious as I’d never heard him say this before. “You know in those old black and white movies where the calendar pages fly away to show time passing? That’s what it feels like,” my dad continued, smiling and shaking his head in disbelief.” One day just blends into the next.”

I stared at him, having no idea what he meant. Still a child, time seemed impossibly slow. It felt like it would take forever to grow up, to be able to make my own choices and live how I wanted to live. Like it would take forever before I would be able to eat ice cream for dinner and stay up as late as I wanted to read or watch TV, with no nagging parents to tell me to turn off the lights and go to sleep.

But now? Now, I get it.

I still don’t feel like an adult, not really. I shudder when the kid working at the grocery store calls me ma’am, and I realize I’m actually old enough to be his mom. Inside, I still feel 13, or 16, or 22, but with an endless list of chores and not enough time or energy to do them.

I have a sneaking suspicion that later in my life, I’ll look back on these days, these crazy busy, overwhelming days, and I’ll long for them. For my kids, so young and round-cheeked, still orbiting around me. For this time of working so hard, of overflowing calendars, when most of the people we love are still alive and healthy. For my strong body, only just beginning to feel the slightest aches and pains of age.

One of the biggest lessons of my life is that we can hold multiple truths at once. I can be holding so much that I feel like I’m always on the verge of dropping it all. And I can squeeze it tight, taking in the warmth and texture of this season of my life, so rich and ripe and rushed.

I can remind myself that it won’t always be this hard, but it also won’t always be this good. This harvest, this time of holding, so sweet and so hard.


Author: Lynn Shattuck
Image: Ben White/Unsplash 
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Travis May

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