Category Archives: Aging

No Whiners

I’m wise enough and old enough to walk away.

My first time was when an uncle who tells big, blowsy stories, always the victim, started in at a family gathering. He was mid gripe about some jerk in a store when I looked vaguely in the other direction and excused myself, walking off to another room without proper explanation.

We’re not close. I owe him nothing more than a discreet exit, perhaps the assumption of a needy kid in another room and the general agreement of the family that I am not an asshole.

It was liberating, to walk away. To choose something else.

Another time in a gelateria I ran into a guy I’d casually dated, back in the 90s. He’d mattered more to me than I to him, but all these years later I was happily on the arm of my husband. He and his date struck up a conversation that turned quickly to construction in our shared neighborhood and its unfortunate impact on them.

When this topic stretched on a little long, I interrupted with something that went like “if you’ll excuse me, there’s a man over there with an espresso waiting for me.”

It was true, and a hot coffee was more important to me than listening. To him. To rambling complaints. I was proud of it, like I’d mastered some last phase of assertiveness.

Life’s too short to be overly polite in such situations.

I listen to people who matter to me, people who have real problems, people who need compassion and humanity. I will always make time and emotional space for them.

With years I have gotten better at separating drama and self involvement from true need. With the coming and going of friends and acquaintances, I’ve gotten better at assessing who matters and better at editing.

I will always be there for friends just as I will complain to them about things that bother me. With time and maturity, I am learning what pain points to share and what perceived slights and small indignities to bear quietly.

And some shit just doesn’t bother me as much anymore.

Like some people overshare, some complain indiscriminately, to people who do not care. If we are lucky, they are witty and clever about it. Either way, their complaining tells you more about them than about any injustice, real or imagined, that they might share.

Parking tickets suck. Post offices are inefficient. Planes are delayed. I know you’re busy; I am too.

In my 40s, I find I am wise enough to avoid negativity. Pettiness. Other people’s shit.

I am old enough to have seen real problems and pain. I am old enough to feel entitled to a prompt, unexcused exit. I urge you to do the same.

(Hey, wait a minute. Where are you going?)

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Domestication

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We retreat to the mountains for Memorial Day, our Prius silently easing into a parking spot at the mountainside timeshare condo. We have to shoo away the deer as we unload.

We all have our roles to play.

It happens gradually. We get comfortable in our job. The mortgage kicks in. A couple extra pounds. A drink each night. A quiet release of expectations.

The deer loiter out back, inches from our deck rails. They periodically retreat into the shallow woods behind our unit, more out of boredom than fear.

Our 20s were bold and transient, lived on instinct. Our 30s were sensible and fruitful, laying foundations. The 40s are routine and comfort.

The neighbors fling kibble and the deer gather.

Birds built a nest in the hanging plant on our back patio. There are strollers and squirrels and SUVs and the near constant hum of a lawnmower from somewhere.

Cardinals fly past, brown females or males the color of our throw pillows. Bunnies eye our garden with envy. Hedgehogs dodge cars and we build fences.

Deer dash through our backyards there.

I envy their determination.

A List for All Seasons in Life

I never understood those kidless 20-somethings who went to Disney World for vacation. I mean, if you thought you might procreate later, why not save it for then and go to Prague instead?

To everything, turn, turn, turn…photo (10)

Pixar movies
The zoo
Harry Potter
Tree identification by bark and leaf
Bible stories
An all-inclusive resort vacation
U-Pick produce
The constellations
Little House on the Prairie
A pet
Origami

This is a list of things I’ve always been curious about, but things that I chose to put off for my parenting years, so I would have something to look toward to. Seriously. I was mindful of this, as if I were budgeting the new and interesting.

The thing is, there have always been so many things that interest me. It seemed prudent to explore things like theater of the absurd and day drinking first. I couldn’t imagine any child of mine waiting for Godot.

Live jazz
Wine tastings
The Fringe Festival
A regular yoga practice
Art galleries
Spicy ethnic food in funky restaurants in not-quite gentrified neighborhoods
Spicy ethnic food with expensive ingredients and protracted preparations at home
Subtitled films
Creative sex
International travel
Origami

All of these things were better experienced in the pre-parenting years. The DINK years. The years of wine and roses. And creative sex.

Maybe I should think ahead to the empty nest years, track where I have burgeoning curiosities. What might be better with the gifts of age and time and quiet, conditions that seem unimaginable to me now?

I’ve told Randy that when we retire, I will cultivate orchids and he can tend bonsai trees. Of course retirement age will likely be so late, his hands will be too weak to hold those cool looking scissors.

What else might be good to save for later? Maybe some interests I have had for decades but never quite gotten to. Or a few deferred treats to soften the blow of aging…

Tropical fish
Long baths
Knitting
The New York Times crossword puzzle
Birding
Minimalist decor
Sewing and/or quilting
River cruises
Pilates
High maintenance plants and gardens
Origami

The Lion King at 20: Reject Cougar, Choose Lioness

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In the circle of life, it’s the wheel of fortune. -Elton John (Tim Rice)

The circle of life is a wheel that gets stuck in a rut. -David Wax Museum

On a rainy day, Robin and I picked through the kids’ movies at the library. Nothing good on the shelves, aside from Nick Parks claymation. I wanted a movie to lose myself in.

Enter a 20-something library employee with a stack of returns. I rushed him, and he held out spines of his stack for inspection. “The Lion King! I’ve never seen this.”

Robin groaned. Neither had he. “It’s part of the canon,” I told him.

“It is the canon,” the library aide smiled. “Can you believe that movie is 20 years old this year?”

“Wow,” I answered, more to myself, but aloud. “I could drink legally when The Lion King came out.” (Sigh.)

And there you have it: The Circle of Life.

When I heard Elton John belt those lyrics, um, 20 years ago, I rolled my eyes. Always cynical of public swells of emotion, I was unmoved by this idea, this circle of life. Vanna White was in her prime, turning letters on Wheel of Fortune and all I could think of was the absurdity of game shows and the uncritical stupidity of a nation.

So I was surprised to enjoy the movie so much. It resonates as I consider my own aging, the generations, and mortality. I couldn’t have fully appreciated its themes when I was finishing college. Now, I find its message of responsibility and succession profoundly moving.

As I face middle age, things like legacy matter to me. I am over 40 now. How did this happen?

I think about the conversation with the library aide. Did my remark sound tawdry? I was 21 when the film was released. Now I am an aging woman with a young kid.

I want to be OK with my advancing age. To wear it honestly and embrace it. Even without Robin in tow, I am often mistaken for younger.

The first time I dropped the 40 Bomb was inadvertent. I chatted with the carpenter who repaired our porch rails. When he admitted to being a Luddite, I told him “I didn’t really start using Facebook until I turned 40.” His jaw dropped. Literally.

It’s better when I get the look of shock from someone younger than me, like a bouncer at a bar. I don’t want to love these moments as much as I do.

I have almost no gray hair, though I would likely dye it if I did. I don’t wear make-up, though I marvel at how my face looks more like my father’s with each passing year. My glasses hide bags and crow’s feet.

I hesitate to wear certain things, even when they still flatter me. The C word lurks in the back of my mind. I want to look and feel attractive, but I never want to look like I am trying too hard. I won’t be mistaken for what some asshole would call a cougar.

I hate that word. Absolutely. Hate. It.

I hate people who use it. I hate the idea of it. I hate its sexism and implore everyone, especially women, to not use it. Not even in jest.

There is so much to embrace in this stage of life. All the hard work and pleasures of family. The challenges and accomplishments of a developed career. The wisdom that comes with making mistakes, living mindfully, thinking critically, and forging a life.

It’s been 20 years, and I’ve made the most of them. I’ve lived in 3 cities and traveled to 11 countries on 4 continents. I’ve also reached some common but profound milestones: marriage, home ownership, childbirth. I have ridden waves of excitement and boredom along the way, and my sense of self has evolved.

I want to think big. Forget concerns about a sagging chin and consider legacy. What am I teaching my child? What kind of world will I leave him, and what tools will I give him to navigate it?

What does he see when he looks at me? A strong woman who is comfortable in her own skin?

As I watch animated scenes of Africa, I marvel at the strength of The Lion King’s heroines. All hail the lioness! She hunts. She protects. She cares and provides for her pride even and especially as she ages. She is mighty. Regal. Powerful.

I am a middle aged woman. I am not immune to vanity and pride, but it is a small part of who I am and what I do. I have learned much on my journey of life. I am beautiful. Wise. Strong. I provide for my family and raise my young. I am a feminist who reluctantly likes Disney movies.

And I implore my peers: Embrace the Circle of Life and enjoy your aging.

Reject cougar. Choose lioness.