On Being Middle Aged

Where did it go?  My energy, my sense of invincibility, my style and sass…where in the world did I leave my youth?

It was right here.  Just the other day (or was it 1994?), I was walking around with my head held high and my back straight, a corona of red-hot confidence blazing around the crown of my head.  I may not have been sure where I was going, but my strides were long, and determined; they were the sure steps of youthful ambition.  I was headed into the unknown, a place unexplored and exciting – and I just knew it was going to be good.

I had a few bumps on my path, a few real world hiccups proving I was no longer a kid.  Instead, I was a “young adult” – and were there ever two words that went so perfectly together?  I had reached, at last, the age of responsibility, and yet I still possessed the vigor of adolescence.  Life was sweet.

I was the “cool mom” at my son’s school.  Other, older mothers, drove battered mini vans, with their hair scraped back in pony tails, and their faces devoid of makeup.  Not me!  I drove a newer model car, wore knee-high boots, and trendy jewelry.  I worked all week, attended college full-time, played tag in the evening with my five year old son, and went out dancing every weekend.  I stayed up until dawn just to watch the sunrise with my boyfriend, and then I went to work all day.  I had it all – no, that’s not right.  I did it all – effortlessly.

But today, when I rolled out of bed, my leg aching from the sciatica that kept me awake all night, and my eyes dim as I reached for my bifocals, I could not help but notice…I don’t feel like that anymore.  I feel a tad worn, and ever so slightly creased, like the pages of a favorite book that has been read too many times.  I don’t feel old, but I certainly don’t feel young.  Where my body used to stretch, it now pops.  My mind no longer snaps at new ideas; it now prefers to mull endless opportunities.  I still enjoy an optimistic outlook, but with expectations tempered by the reality only experience can offer.  And what in the world is the story with these threads of gray that now streak through my hair?  Who can explain these crinkles around my eyes?

The frustrating part is that I don’t know how this happened.  Where did I leave my youth?  I can’t seem to remember when I had it last…

Is it here in my dresser hiding under a stack of Mom jeans and demure turtlenecks?  Where did my trendy jeans and funky boots go?  Look at these old belts, balled up in the back corner of my closet.  I can’t remember the last time I wore those.  Of course, I’m not sure they’d fit anymore…what happened to my waist line?  I had it, I think, after my second pregnancy, but lost track of it after the third.  Is it here under this stack of diet books and unused hand weights?  No, better go check under that box of doughnuts instead.  Nope, not there either…but these sprinkle topped pastries sure do taste good…

Maybe I just need a trip to the beach.  I seem to always be young when I'm there.
Maybe I just need a trip to the beach. I seem to always be young when I’m on vacation.

Maybe I left my youth in the basement, boxed up with my old running shoes and my vinyl Van Halen albums.  I seemed to still have it in these old photos, the ones of Brian and me at the Jersey Shore on my 29th birthday.  Here is it again, in this snapshot of us vacationing in Mexico, holding hands and sipping margaritas while the ocean crashes behind us.  What did I do with it after that?  I can’t remember – something that happens to me all too often nowadays.

How could I lose something so important?  I’m not usually so careless.  I’m sure it’s here somewhere.  I know I can find it if I just keep searching.  But first I’m going to sit down for a minute or two, and swallow a few Ibuprofen.  All this bending over and moving stuff around is murder on my back.

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