“Confession is good for the soul,” said Ghandi or the Pope or Judge Judy. At least I think, somebody important advised that confessing is a good thing to do. So taking that advice, I feel the need to confess something I have learned about myself: I am getting old.
I’m not yet padding to the fridge in my orthopedic shoes to slurp on a refreshing glass of prune juice before depositing my teeth in a jar on my bedside table. I still wear pants with buttons and zippers – no elastic waistbands yet. But I’m at that phase where my childhood friends on Facebook are starting to look like their parents, my joints are a smidgen achier, and I’m finding a peculiar enjoyment in reading the latest issue of Consumer Reports. In other words, I’m creeping dangerously close to the age of 40.
It was Hurricane Irma who brought this aging business to my attention. To be fair, it’s not like she blew in with an air horn shouting that I was about to stagger over the hill leaving me to pig-wrestle a mid-life crisis while secretly enjoying early bird specials. Irma simply provided circumstances that led to this self-discovery.
Like a good therapist, Hurricane Irma successfully orchestrated events to open my eyes to the truth about my age. She didn’t start out looking like something that would impact my life in any significant way. After all, the tracking models shown on TV looked as though the National Hurricane Center let loose a deranged three-year-old inside their mapping room with a large box of crayons. Since no one could really predict where this storm was headed, I didn’t particularly worry. There were several lines that showed Irma following a path that would take her back out to sea without hitting land. I think that was the pink line. Or maybe it was the sepia line. I’ll fact-check with the toddler later.
However, when local news channels gave more and more air time to the weather people, I started to pay attention. South Florida weather people usually don’t have much to report on. It doesn’t matter if it’s Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, or Halloween, a typical weather report reads as follows: today will be mostly sunny with a chance of scattered showers; highs in the upper 80’s; lows in the mid 80’s. As you can imagine, a South Florida weather person’s job is highly unimaginative and dull which can lead to a brain-numbing weather coma. Therefore, when I heard “Irma Updates” delivered by energetic weather people speaking with barely-suppressed glee, I knew Florida was in danger and it was time to evacuate to safer terrains.
It was during this hurricane evacuation vacation (or “hurrication” as many Floridians called it) that signs of middle-age started cropping up. One by one, these evidences popped up like over-enthused gophers cheerfully chattering the message that I am getting old. If you recognize any of the symptoms listed below, there is a strong chance that you too will be joining me at the local Sizzler during the early-bird specials to discuss product reviews in Consumer Reports before heading home to catch the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars.
Evidence #1: I printed out my Hurricane Checklist document to get organized for Irma. The fact that I even have a hurricane checklist is suspicious enough; however, reading this list (first drafted 10 to 15 years ago) showed me how much life has changed. I was delightfully pleased to see that I no longer needed to stock diapers, Pull-Ups, and baby wipes. After all, my oldest child is now 14 and my youngest is in kindergarten. What joy I had crossing out those supplies! Then I was slightly sad at the thought of no longer needing to stock up on diapers and wipes. I’m not a young mama anymore.
Evidence #2: When calling friends to stay with during our hurrication, I realized how many of them own very nice houses with guest rooms and such. I remember traveling in my early 20’s. I was lucky if my friends owned a real couch to camp out overnight on. As I sat in one home eating breakfast, that reality hit me. My friends own nice things because they’ve been working at careers long enough to be able to afford nice things. We are no longer young college-age or just-starting-a-career age. We have long since arrived into full adulting.
Evidence #3: Because Irma interrupted my date with my box of hair color, I had the privilege of staring at gray hairs all through my hurrication. At every morning’s face wash, every evening’s shower, those stubborn gray hairs stood out with pride. They banded together like a proud workers union, thrilled that their true selves could fully be on display.
Evidence #4: For part of our hurrication, we stayed with friends in North Carolina where there is this mysterious season called fall. Fall in North Carolina brings cool, crisp air and leaves that change color. This contrasts greatly with Florida’s “imported fall” consisting of orange and red plastic leaves, ceramic pumpkins, and whimsical signs broadcasting that your home really does celebrate this enchanting season like the rest of the country. I thought we should take advantage of this gorgeous weather and do a little hiking. About half-way up a picturesque mountain trail, my children were leaping like fairy-winged mountain goats from rock to rock. I, on the other hand, kept looking for reasons to stop and catch my breath. “Come look at this, kids,” I’d cheerfully call out in between gasping breaths. “Mom,” they’d eye roll, “that’s a dying mushroom that got stepped on.” Then they’d continue their scamper while I pressed on with achy hip-flexors.
Evidence #5: When I’m in my own habitat, I don’t always notice my idiosyncratic behaviors. When I’m in someone else’s home, however, I become overly conscious of my personal problems. Spending time in various homes made me painfully aware of my nocturnal potty habit. I must have a bladder the size of a walnut. In my own home it’s no big deal. Get up, walk the familiar path to the bathroom, pee, return to bed. I barely wake up. In someone else’s home…I became a stealthy rhinoceros ninja. Rhinoceroses are not stealthy, you protest. You are absolutely correct – and I was even louder. Maneuvering creaky stairs, tripping over sleeping cats, and stumbling through dark rooms that I am unfamiliar with was how that midnight pee went down. Curse you, middle-aged bladder!
Evidence #6: One of our hurrication stops was the Smithsonian Museum. This was the most disturbing revelation of all. Our family was meandering through a section showing inventions and technology through American history. It was fun looking at colonial furniture, Depression Era communication technology, and then…gasp…there were games, computers, and toys from my childhood. Why was my childhood gently illuminated behind glass? When you see your childhood in a history museum, I think it’s safe to say you’re old.
Now that I’m home and “rebuilding” this almost 40-year-old self, I’m realizing that there are parts that are tough to handle. Getting older has some uncomfortable, embarrassing, and painful adjustments to tackle; but I’m also discovering that there are some pretty cool things about it as well. My goal is to navigate the middle-age years gracefully; not be hauled through them screaming and clawing like a feral cat at bath time. Hopefully I will succeed.
See you at the Sizzler!