Adulting: Reflections of a youngish old person

I’ve read a lot about “adulting” these days, and I laugh (and cry inwardly) at the tweets that  speak so much #truth about the experience of aging.

I’m younger than some, but feel “old” creeping up on me, and never more so than now as I recover from a serious injury, which has made me fully aware of my own frailty. 

c8b846eec8044acad2a656af85c41ec0c05b818b780a0f10d177e154cedb123a_1I had similarly aged friends over this weekend, and noticed something interesting: When grown ups get together, we often find ourselves competing to see who is the most tired, or the most sore (I win); according to the Internets, our favourite childhood memory is of our backs not hurting. We welcome those to the Over 40 Club with phrases like, “I hope you like Advil,” and it’s funny (and sad) because it’s true. After nearly eight weeks convalescing from my first broken bone, and fielding comments from my weekend friends who placed bets on how long it will take to heal, “now that you’re old,” and who asked about whether I broke my ankle due to “low bone density,” I get it. I truly get it. 

We make noises now when we stand up after sitting, when we bend low to get something from a cupboard, or when we have to reach high (for the Advil). Our joints click as we walk down the stairs, or when we yawn.

Last week, when I saw the surgeon for what I hope to be the last time, he stared at me sadly when I asked about my recovery, and my swollen ankle. I enquired about whether or not I’d ever see my ankle bones again, or those adorable small bones in the top of my foot that I had always taken for granted. 

He met my question with a sigh: “It’s never going to be the same, Danna. I don’t want to lie to you, but as good as it might get, it’ll never be the same. You’ll always have your left ankle, though.”

So now, as a youngish old person, I finally get it when I hear others speak of their good and bad bones and joints — their bad knee, the one in which they can feel the change of weather. I now have a bad ankle, and it will also likely predict the future.

The surgeon seemed to be about my age. In the exam room, in that moment of shared sadness, we were literally speaking of my ankle, but I felt we were figuratively speaking about all the things: Our energy levels, the foods that we can no longer eat, how often we have sex, how late we stay up at night (or how early we go to bed), the way our clothes fit, the type of podcasts we listen to (because talk radio is for old people and music is for kids), and the type of documentaries that we fall asleep in front of every single night.

But it’s not all bad. Like the doctor says, there’s still plenty of life left in parts of me. And becoming a youngish old person provides a new perspective, and allows me to focus more on the important things — the things I can control.

Like flossing.

I am older, wicked tired and pretty sore most days, but I have healthy teeth and gums.

And stretching.  

At first, going to yoga was just a way to escape my toddlers for an hour at a time, and to give myself the mental space to avoid a breakdown when they’d get out of bed for the 12th time to ask why we even have mountains. Or Spanish. 

But as it turns out, stretching is important, and never more so now that I’m a youngish old person. Trust me, youngish young people, someday you’ll feel silly going to your chiropractor or massage therapist and telling them that you “stepped weird and felt something pop,” or that you “sneezed once and now you can’t take a deep breath.” I know how foolish these words sound because I’ve said them.

Be smarter than I was.

 

A social life, curated

Social media is such a lie, and I am such a liar.

It has been nine months since I posted to my blog, and it’s not because I ran out of things to say.

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that I have two super powers, and one is never running out of things to say, ever. In fact, I can carry on both sides of every conversation without even pausing for breath.

I talk everywhere, and to anyone. Trying to get some work done? Big deal! I had a hilarious thought! Just about to make an important phone call? Yeah, but wait until you hear this!

I’ve always had a lot to say, but what I say, and what I share (especially on social media) has always been carefully curated. The moments in which I’m absent or silent are the moments that I don’t have the capacity for curating. If I had posted to my blog three or four months ago I would have shared thoughts and feelings that I would have immediately regretted.

I would have risked opening myself up to sympathy, pity, and criticism at a time when judgement was the last thing I needed, and pity would have driven me insane.

And I’m not that brave.

So I stopped writing because I didn’t want to run the risk I’d write something I’d regret — something I couldn’t delete.

But then I looked back over the past several months of my social media posts, only to realize I had been talking. I had been talking quite often, but the conversations I shared were so carefully manufactured that they were almost outright lies.

“Look at my life,” those posts cried out, “it’s full of sunny days, big smiles, fitness, family, friends, vacations, and very merry Christmases.”

Truthfully? That’s garbage. This fortieth year has been the most difficult of my life.

Brick by brick, I’m putting myself back together. But the trauma this year has brought has forever changed the way I am, the way I see myself, the world, and probably the way I write.

The lies we tell on social media aren’t intentional, or malicious. We’re all just constructing the stories we want to read. The stories aren’t always true, but we want them to be, we can imagine they are, and there’s comfort in that.

Here’s to 2019. A year of great stories, and greater honesty, openness and bravery. And to greater recognition that behind every perfect and hilarious social media post there is someone with an untold story who is working very hard to build herself back up again, brick by heavy brick.

 

40 is the new 30, and other lies we tell ourselves

I’m so close to 40 I can smell the wine on her breath; near enough to reach out and stroke her stray chin hair.

I’m at the age when we begin to placate one another with lines like, “you’re only as old as you feel.” I’m at the age when Susan Sarandon quotes begin to resonate; when I’m told I should stop obsessing over my appearance, and be confident in my own skin, and in the woman I’ve become.

I’m “aging gracefully.” I’m over the hill, but I’m “picking up speed.”

When I crest the hill I’ll look around and realize that I’m at the top of my game, I’m who I was meant to be. I’m self-assured. I’m poised. I’m intelligent.

I’m still waiting.

Am I aging gracefully? Two days ago I tripped over my dog and wrenched my back. I’ve been hobbling and gasping around the house, ever since. Advil and Robaxacet rattle around in my pocket like spare change, and I’ve spent more time with my acupuncturist, chiropractor and massage therapist than I have my own husband.

Aging is hard, it’s painful and it’s expensive. There was a time when I would go to the salon for fun. Now I go to the salon to camouflage my grey. I’m earning more than I ever have, but spending more on serums and hair removal — for my face.

I’m digging in to my thirties, (whitened) tooth and (manicured) nail. At some point, I’m told I’ll be confident enough to let go of the eroding bank of my youth and just slide right into the babbling brook beneath, but I figure I can hold on a little longer. I’ve got this.

As long as I don’t look ahead. Or in the rearview.

I recall a telephone conversation that took place about a month after I became a mom. I was talking to my sister, and was near tears. My life had been cataclysmically altered by this bawling, needy, swaddled thing. Everyone was shouting at me, “BE GRATEFUL! ENJOY! YOU’RE SO LUCKY,” when all I really wanted to do was sleep.

“I just miss it,” I said to her. “I miss being able to drink a whole cup of coffee before it gets cold, or to sit down and read more than one page at a time. I love my baby, but I miss my life!”

She laughed at me. She laughed, and she laughed, and then she laughed some more. Then she said: “Danna, just forget about your old life. Just forget it. It never happened. If you don’t forget it, you’ll go insane.”

It was tough, but I managed. I managed to forget what time to myself felt like. Then, when those brief golden moments occurred, they were unexpected, and glorious.

Vegans have to forget bacon. They can’t spend a lifetime picking through their chickpeas and tempeh and thinking back to the last charcuterie tray they ate.

So, they forget. And then, one day, they’ll sit down, chase a slice of vegan cheesecake with a glass of vegan wine, and realize that it is possible to find new, delicious things to eat. They’ll find that life is still worth living, even without bacon and dairy cheese.

Such as it must be with aging.

I have to forget the woman I was. I have to stop standing in front of the mirror and remembering how I used to look. I need to stop thinking about the calories that I used to be able to consume without consequence, and how late I used to be able to stay up at night without nodding off into my cup of herbal tea.

That girl with the flat tummy and the great ass? She was a character in a TV show that I used to watch. I think of her with fondness, but her show was cancelled a long time ago, and there’s never going to be a reboot.

And soon, I hope, if I forget for long enough, I’ll find that grace that comes with age — that confidence and poise they say is headed my way.