Middle Age, I Surrender

canstockphoto0220269I stood in the checkout lane yesterday, getting groceries in anticipation of the polar vortex reclaiming the metro area. My eyes scanned the covers of magazines, trying to land on something of interest. I didn’t recognize any of the people on the covers. You know the jig is up when you realize that you’ve just been reading magazines for the coupons. It’s begun. I’m in a battle for personal relevancy, timely quipping and hip, in-the-know conversations at bus stops.

It isn’t the shape-shifting gravity of aging that gets me. I won’t whinge on about a drooping neckline or expanding belly or wrinkles happening as my body sinks into itself. I have never been at the top of the aesthetic food chain, so in that respect, I’ve come to terms with whatever my body feels it needs to do.

canstockphoto1568459I’m still running, practicing martial arts, starting up ice skating again – I can still do most things that I want to do physically at the moment. I won’t go on about sneeze pees or random hair growth or receding gum lines. Really, none of that bothers me as much as it bemuses me, like some sort of corporeal circus. I’m just curious about what is going to happen next.

canstockphoto8101605My memory and focus are still at my disposal since I’ve followed the “if it’s not written down, it doesn’t happen” rule most of my life. I’ve attained black belt list-making status and can still juggle a zillion tasks. I’m not depressed about the state of my life, trying to hook up with grade school crushes or getting myself injected with paralytics (yes, you may read judgment into that).

Overall, things are good and I have plenty for which to feel gratitude. And apparently it won’t be a heart attack that kills me, as my Toyota Prius will get the job done long before hereditary genes and poor lifestyle decisions wend their way through my system.

Over the last week, I read about thigh gaps, texting racists and more incidents of bad journalism. The corners of my brain began drying and curdling and prepared to lapse into manic humming as I try to hold on, try to engage. Information streams through my brain without getting processed, filling it until I am drowning, while inanities like Tweets bob up and down, detritus of a social media shipwreck. I made few comments on blogs last week, because it seemed that whatever the subject was, I managed to relate it to the sheer joy of comfortable socks.

canstockphoto7136037I listen to the radio, but all the inane chitchat drips on my forehead, drop after torturous drop. Music sounds computer-generated, modified and inhuman. Men’s and women’s voices seem similarly reedy, melodramatic and too sensitive and precious to sink into my psyche. I play AC/DC to shake myself out of torpor. It may be misogynistic, incoherent screaming, but at least it doesn’t make me want to huddle up in a ball in the corner, weeping softly to myself.

I no longer care. I’m going back to the kiddie pool. Relevance was always a bit of a pipe dream anyway. I was never cool or hip or awesome, dude. I’ve always been a bit of an old lady – cautious, oblivious to the cutting edge and unfashionable. Growing older, I never imagined that the information age would cause me more angst than gravity.

Always hungry for knowledge, I’ve begun to recognize that while I continue to read indiscriminately, listen to music on the radio, try to understand what the hell people are talking about at proverbial water coolers, I’m quickly losing ground. I read and overhear just enough for my brain to check out. Pop culture lacks a depth that holds my attention, especially since the stars of the moment either look and act like 10-year-olds, octogenarian lotharios or cartoon caricatures with overinflated body parts.

I wandered between public library shelves yesterday, marveling at the sheer amount of knowledge available at my fingertips. Part of me mourns that I will never live long enough to take in even a small fraction. The potential for knowledge is pleasure to me, but like any pleasure, must be indulged with discretion, picking and choosing the when and the how and the what. The aftertaste counts. Is it satisfying or does it, like a diet soda, just make me feel hungrier?

canstockphoto8756646I need complex ideas, rich words and sumptuous music and there is simply no more time to pay attention to fads or self-congratulatory awards shows or whatever it is the media has decided to be excited about for the next five minutes. I’m starting my apprenticeship for old lady-hood. I’ve got skills. And comfortable socks.

53 Comments

Filed under Humor, Personal, Uncategorized

53 responses to “Middle Age, I Surrender

  1. Ice skating rocks! Good for you…

    I’ve started to notice how much I don’t remember, short-term…and suspect it’s a little deliberate and also related to stress and fatigue. I really have only so much bandwidth available for me, work, husband, friends, life. I do now tweet (and am actually enjoying it; discovered an awesome journalism fellowship through it last week for which I am now applying) and Facebook, but also make more time to read books, even (!) fiction.

    The whole aging body thing is…gah. But I’m doing 3 jazz dance classes a week and even learning choreography — where my 43 yr old fellow student (who performs) — finds my dancing expressive and graceful. So there, middle age!

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    • I’m not going to get too excited about ice skating yet – somehow it’s NOT like riding a bicycle for me. Lots of wall clinging and clumsy recoveries!
      Since I have such an acute awareness of what I don’t know, I’ve come to realize that I have to make a deliberate choice not to fill my brain with inanities. Any memory issues for me are related to lack of focus, but the one that will drive me over the edge is whether or not I’ve closed the garage door. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to drive back down my street to double check!
      I’ve returned to reading longer fiction and there’s something so lovely about sinking into a book for hours. It’s much more satisfying than the rapid eye movement nature of online reading.
      I feel very fortunate physically, so I think it would be ungracious for me to complain about the creaks, groans and muscle aches of middle age. I remind myself constantly of the things I’m still capable of doing. Congrats on the dance classes! I have no bodily coordination that doesn’t involve a punch or a kick, but I’m trying some new classes, some of which will not find me expressive or graceful. But what the hell, I’m just glad to be moving!

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      • NO clinging!!! The way Canadians teach tiny tots to skate…they take a light-weight chair and have the kid push it in front of them around the ice. That way, you have to lean forward and get used to that stance. Don’t be scared to fall. It’s just ice!

        It’s such a fun sport and so nice to do with friends.

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        • I skated a couple of hours this evening, not a single spill. I did however break the rink rules that said “No swearing on the ice.” That’s what happens when a 5 year old speed skater cuts off a tentative 46 year old. She was too fast to hear me mutter “little shit”, so I wasn’t booted from the rink, fortunately.

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        • LOL!!!!!! That is THE worst goddamn thing. It happens a lot here as well and it’s dangerous as hell.

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  2. Snoring Dog Studio

    I like this. A lot. Take it to mean that you’ve just developed a sensitive and sensible filtering system. Because that’s what’s needed to navigate this world filled with superficialities. Decades ago, when I was considered to be still young, I decided to stop trying to keep up with the latest music. I knew that I couldn’t devote the energy or time. When you decide to let some things slide, it’s much more relaxing. I like comfortable socks, my Boston Terriers, and my older friends.

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    • Thanks – I think I’m developing an acute awareness that I do need filters, if I’m not subconsciously using them anyway. Books and music are very important to me, but I do hear my grandfather’s voice in the background, talking about how awful music is these days. I find gems here and there, but the auto tuning drives me nuts as does the similar sounds of so many performers.
      I really had to laugh at myself when I made a comment on yet another person’s blog post about socks. They’ve been on my mind lately, because in the middle of winter, I find nothing so comforting as cozy socks. Sometimes it’s good to recognize the little things, but it’s a new fetish on my part, apparently!

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  3. Luanne

    Woo hoo, this is a great post, Ms. Michelle. Linking it on my FB page . . .

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  4. I understand every single word you wrote. Sigh. Color me baffled with the ‘younger generation’. I’ll grow old gracefully, my way.

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    • I try not to start sentences yet with “In my day…” or “this generation of kids”. I’m still raising a youngster, so I can’t quite give up on the newer models of human yet! We are often told to age gracefully, which is a bit of an assumption. It assumes that we were, at any given time in life, particularly graceful. I am going to age clumsily, erratically and with a slight degree of awkwardness. It will make you and anyone else seem graceful and gracious by comparison!

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      • hahaha! If anyone can make me look graceful and gracious it will be a miracle. By ‘aging gracefully’ I meant I will let my body and face age the way it wants too. I will take care of myself the best I know how. As for the younger generation, I haven’t given up. I’ve met some pretty awesome ones lately. There is always hope for the future, there has to be. My body may be aging, but my mind is forever questing new things. That I think is the secret to aging.

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  5. The aging thing – will not go down without a fight! It’s not about looks – I care less and less. It’s about agility and fitness and stamina. I’m appalled by the thought of becoming sedentary, of not being able to have full use of the body – probably have a little letting go to do here!
    As for the endless stream if inane “info” chatter – I’m appalled by that too. Haven’t watched TV or listened to the radio for years. I’m only on FB to keep up with family. Twitter? What *is* that? I don’t get it and I don’t want to. I look at magazine covers at the checkout in the supermarket and wonder “Who *are* these people?” Way too much information! All of it. Let me just curl up in my own little traveling/blogging world. All the rest of the noise is tuned out. I too have skills and comfortable sox :)
    Great post as usual!

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    • Thanks! I’m all about maintaining functionality for as long as I can. The trick is trying to balance it with this idea that some things are simply inevitable, so that I don’t make myself miserable thinking about what I used to be able to do. I’m a bit of a zealot when it comes to movement, although my personal inclination is often to grow roots in my reading chair.
      I think the word “endless” is what is key to this whole mess – it is a constant, movable feast of empty calories. And maybe I’m just finding it too difficult to sort the useful and edifying from the filler. And I’m discovering that not knowing about Justin Bieber has no apparent effect on the quality of my life.

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  6. I am surprisingly fine with middle age (so far). Last week I noticed it looked like someone dumped flour all over my head. Guess my body’s decided to kick the gray hair thing into high gear this past year. The best part is I’ve always felt like an “old lady” in personality my entire life, so now at least my body’s finally catching up to that status.

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    • I am too, except for this overload of inane information. My family inheritance was white hair starting in my early 20s. My brain is likely malformed due to my ongoing relationship with L’Oreal. Not ready to go white-haired quite yet. I suppose that makes me a little hypocritical for judging the use of Botox. Somehow though, paralyzing one’s face seems just a shade creepier! It’s all a matter of degree, I suppose.
      I always thought I’d make an awesome old lady – the one who lives in the house that kids dare each other to touch the front steps. Of course, I thought I’d be a little less healthy, armed and angrier, as I patrolled my flower beds, cigarette in one hand and shotgun in the other. Turns out, I’m likely to be the one with cats who bakes cookies, but I’m sure I’ll still yell obscenities at the kids walking across my lawn.

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  7. C

    Old-ladyhood the way you describe it sounds pretty awesome. Not caring about pop culture, kicking butt in martial arts or another physical activity, AND comfy socks? I think we should all have a little bit of that, whatever age we are.

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  8. I only hope I can be as graceful when I finally admit how old I’m getting…

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  9. Setting aside the term old ladyhood, it seems to me that, “complex ideas, rich words and sumptuous music” could define its own cool crowd especially compared to the five-minute media fads. The incredible freedom of not caring so much leads to interesting places.

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    • As someone who likes to be “in the know”, I’m finding I almost need to give myself permission to let go and turn my attention towards quality. Then I think about all the inventors and writers throughout history and wonder what wouldn’t have been created if they’d all been on Facebook.

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  10. I have hard time keeping up with pop culture, too. I give up on it! I don’t have cable TV to keep informed, so I feel kind of excused from the whole thing and I’m no worse for wear. As for social media, that is another story. There is so much meaningless information in your face, isn’t there? Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. The best thing I can do is check out.That’s great you’re exercising. I do boot camp and I never regret it! It’s always hard and makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

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    • Twice in the last couple of days, someone has referenced a funny commercial. Since I rarely watch TV, I had no idea what they were talking about and had to bear retellings which I can only assume were funnier to watch firsthand! More and more this is happening and I’m finally feeling less left out and simply trying to let it happen.
      Exercise has always been critical to my sense of well-being, but I am having to respect my limitations a little more these days and am getting away from contact sports, since I’m not bouncing back as quickly from injuries. Still, so grateful for the things I can do.

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  11. I’ve been feeling this same way, though not nearly as eloquently.

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  12. This has nothing to do with getting older (in my opinion, of course). It has to do with discernment. Media will always present a warped view aimed at attracting advertisers and consumers. That’s not knowledge.

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  13. OK, so at almost 42, I am right there with you, “I need complex ideas, rich words and sumptuous music…” everything else is just noise… I think rather than old lady-hood, our brains just ran out of enzymes to digest all those empty calories we have been fed for a while now, so we are being selective of what we see, hear and do… great post!!! Alexandra

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    • Thanks, Alexandra! There is certainly an element of impatience and lack of energy for listening to inanities. Just the passage of time and seeing how quickly things come and go makes it all seem a little pointless. I’m hungry for things that require some attention span and focus – sinking into them, rather than skimming the surface.

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  14. This post just left me with a bemused smile plastered on my face. I think I was born 40-something, so never having been hip or trendy in any regard I don’t miss that nattering pop-“culture” sound in my head. I don’t hear much of *any* sound in my head except my own surreal nonsense, and that seems plenty. As for you, I’d venture to say that you’re far from the aging crowd if you’re still marshaling your martial arts chops and putting on skates. Heck, until the random hair growth is *on* the receding gums, I’m not going to concede to aged irrelevancy. Cheers!

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    • I think it’s a little less concession than it is a conscious decision to let go of some things – if only to make room for information that has more meaning, more depth and a longer expiry date. I’ve never been caught up in mainstream trends or info, but I’ve been a spectator for years. Lately, I find myself completely disinterested in even paying attention peripherally.
      I’ll be the first to admit it’s early days for me to be whinging on about aging, but changes seem to be more noticeable, both mentally and physically.

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  15. I’ve learned that so much of growing old gracefully is accepting who we are. And that we are never going to be perfect. Instead of reading the crap I see on the magazine stands and at the cashiers in the grocery stores, I usually have my kindle with me. Nothing so delights me as a good story by Alice Munro, William Trevor or Chekhov. And when I am not reading them, I pick up my copy of “The Prelude” by William Wordsworth. As far as radio, I listen to a few NPR shows on my way home from work. Mostly I have Spottify on my tablet and listen to Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Jane Oliver or fifties and sixties rock and roll. If I paid attention to all the crap going on in the world around me, I would probably be miserable. And I got to tell you, I am not miserable. Oh, and I spent fifteen minutes today looking at an Edward Hopper painting. I got more wisdom out of that fifteen minutes than I get from overhearing conversations of passers-by.

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    • Don, you are likely a little more highbrow than I! While I do many of the things you mentioned, I also get easily distracted by the less edifying. I just have less inclination to keep up and it’s become more apparent to me over the last year. Reading blogs also seems to speed up how quickly issues come and go – maybe that has added to this sense that so much of what passes for “content” these days is knowledge-light and heavy on time consumption.

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  16. Great post Michelle. Recognized a lot although I’ve not analyzed my middle age that carefully. I’ve been “there” for a while now and don’t want to leave. Somehow it all evens out and becomes less dramatic, I am who I am. I filter a lot too and keep only what feels right to me in my very comfortable socks.

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    • I’m telling you – socks are key. Although I could do an entire post rhapsodizing about comfortable bras and underwear – and sensible shoes! Comfort is another theme I feel emerging, but only in a very basic sense. I’m more likely to do uncomfortable things like public speaking than wear uncomfortable clothes for appearance sake. Less caring for the outer trappings and more interested in the inner workings and personal growth. It’s a good place to be, I think.

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  17. Given my appreciation of comfortable socks, the fact that at this point the best time of day for me is crawling into bed, and I prefer hot chocolate over a beer – middle age has quite possibly come for me prematurely. Is there such thing as a quarter life crisis? Because I could well be having one.

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    • Ha! Is it a crisis or are you just happy being comfortable? I joke often about a midlife crisis, but mine is more a mellowing of expectation and course correction. Plus, I’m tired! I love crawling under the covers and letting out that big sigh of contentment.

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  18. I agree 100%. If you can’t be comfortable with your looks and body at our age, you never will. So we might as well get close. ish.

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    • I have elderly relatives (in their 80s) who are just as miserable with their external trappings as I was in my 20s. I take that as a cautionary tale, especially for women, who have to fight external influence and expectation just to feel okay. I’ll take my okay right now, thank you very much!

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  19. As teens we rebelled in our right but as a middle-aged person we find a lot of that to be like struggling against the wind. We may go with the wind and find a new path or be mired in quicksand.

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  20. I hear ya (after I turn up my hearing aid, that is).

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  21. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    I so enjoyed this. Several years ago I started noticing older folks whom I admired, and I asked myself what made me so fond of them. One friend, her face was always set towards the future, even when she was 90 years old. Another set her style and stuck to it (I’m afraid I do love clothes, the odder the better.) Another just decided to look with gratitude on what was good in his life, period. I think what I’m doing is drawing a roadmap for growing old happily, for if the traits make me happy when I see them in someone else, maybe they’ll make me happy in myself as well.

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  22. Loved the post, the writing, your attitude, the comments, and your replies. Since I live in Botox-burbia (L.A.) and am dating a guy 15 years younger, I’m bookmarking this to return to should my self-confidence show signs of sagging along with the rest of me.
    I like that this wasn’t just about aging–it really applies no matter how old you are–it is just bullsh#t to try to live your life sucking on every social media and advertiser’s teat, or all you have is that virtual life, in lieu of a real one. (Unfortunately for bloggers, I guess this also applies to keeping up with reading all of these interesting and well-written posts : (

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    • I don’t think I’d survive LA (or likely a younger man), so kudos to you. Mostly because gloomy and extreme weather suits my temperament. Also, I rarely look at myself in the mirror, much less try to work up some concern about what others might see.
      I think it’s a challenge to maintain balance as a blogger and sometimes I simply have to take a break and bury myself in books. On the other hand, it’s a fabulous medium for longer form writing that other social platforms fail to support.

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