Tag Archives: middle age

Fierce

10 Dec
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photo credit: Kay Bess


Forty-four years ago, an insecure twelve-year old named Jessie stepped foot onto the campus of her junior high school and instantly realized the outfit her mother had bought for her at Sears was all wrong. She nervously tucked a strand of frizzy hair behind one ear before scratching at a group of pimples threatening to erupt on her chin. She felt like crying.

Her previous elementary school friendships had faded away over the summer and Jessie’s main concern that day was that she would end up eating lunch by herself. As noontime approached, her fear intensified. Then something wonderful happened. A pretty, brown-haired angel named Julie sat down next to her in English class and struck up a conversation. She invited Jessie to each lunch with her group.

It was the beginning of a miracle. A miracle that has continued to this day.

After graduation from high school, our friendships ebbed and flowed. Back then we had no social media, making it more difficult to stay in touch. We attended each other’s weddings and baby showers, but as a complete group we didn’t really bind to each other until my mother threw me a surprise 35th birthday party and secretly invited my nine best girlfriends. I don’t think we’ve ever laughed as hard as we did at that party, pouring over old yearbooks and reminiscing about our high school days. I believe it was then that we decided to make it a priority to meet up at least once a year near the holidays. What began as a dinner out eventually turned into an annual three day vacation trip.

Today we are closer than ever, mostly because of our shared history. More importantly, as we age, we find we need each other more. As our marriages end, as our children grow up and leave us; as our bodies begin to fail, we know that we can rely each other for love and support. No one knows me as well as these nine women do. We are free to reveal our true selves without fear of judgement or recrimination. Our secrets, once spilled to the group, are tucked away into the “vault” for all time.

This December, we traveled to Avila Beach and stayed in a lovely house. We had massages and facials. We cooked incredible meals together. We went on walks and bike rides together. We sang, some of us off key, some of us forgetting the words. We laughed so hard we cried.

I still find myself in awe of this unbreakable bond of friendship. When that nervous and insecure twelve year-old Jessie rears up inside my head I sometimes feel lost and afraid. But as soon as I’m with my girls, my strength returns. Because of them, I feel anchored. Because of them, I feel loved.

Because of them I feel fierce.

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Lunch together at Avila Beach, California

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Middle Aged Bliss

29 Aug

img_3203These days, my head is in the clouds. I’ve completely lost my motivation to get anything done. I’ll sit down at the computer to write, and the next thing I know, I’m on Facebook, sobbing over clips of returning soldiers reunited with their dogs, or the smiling faces of babies fitted with hearing aids for the first time. I’ll put on my tennis shoes to go for a walk but before I even get out of the yard, I’m busy picking a bouquet of flowers for the dining room table. If I glance at my phone to check the time, I may lose thirty minutes scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. Don’t even ask about watching CNN at the top of each hour. I mean seriously, the day will be gone in an instant.

Some days, I lie on the couch listening to James Taylor snuggling with my two dogs. Other days, I’ll spend three hours binge watching a British detective series. I crave sweet and salty snacks. I get cranky and pick fights with my husband. I press my thirteen year-old daughter for stories of junior high drama, but damn her, she’s above all that teenage gossip stuff. I long for weekends away with my girlfriends. Nothing pleases me more than having the house all to myself.

Oh, Lord. I’m heading toward sixty and I’m turning back into a teenage girl again.

Perhaps my behavior is in response to getting older. In my head I count how many more years I have left on this earth. Thirty, forty? However many, I’m afraid it’s never going to be enough. I’m having so much fun being an adult. Even though my knees ache as I climb the stairs, even though white hairs snake up out of my head like Medusa, and even though I have actual jowls, I truly love my life.

Here’s the thing: I’m so much happier now than when I was as a teenager. My body may have been perfect back then, but I was an insecure wreck, always caring about what others thought of me. Today I have the luxury of not worrying about what I’m going to do with my life because I’ve already done it! I have an awesome career. My husband adores me, my kids love me, and I have so many wonderful friends who like to go out to lunch with me.

Middle age rocks.

So I’ll take an Advil or two and plop my butt down on the couch. I’ll text a girlfriend and arrange a lunch date. Maybe I’ll daydream about my future grandchildren. And then there’s that new Netflix original movie based on one of my favorite novels (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, if you must know.)

It’s time to watch it for a third time.

Turning Fifty

15 Jul


When I was a young girl, I remember thinking how very strange it would be to enter a new millennium. My adolescent mind pictured the year 2000 like a Jetson’s cartoon, where people lived in colonies on the moon; where jet-packs were the norm and people flew around in domed space cars. How ridiculous that this all seemed plausible to me. Never once did I imagine anything as miraculous as the internet or smart phones.

I was born into the very last group of Baby Boomers and to be honest, I was quite comfortable hanging out in the twentieth century. The thought that the date would someday turn to the year 2000 seemed unfathomable to me. Once, during my seventh grade Social Studies class, I was so bored that I began doodling the numbers 2-0-0-0 on my beat-up Pee-Chee folder (right next to “Jessie X Brian = LUV”). I did the math and figured out that I would be thirty-seven years old when the date changed from 1999 to 2000.  This flabbergasted me—thirty-seven was ancient!

As did many of the young girls of my generation, I began to resent the sluggishness of time. Back then, the days seemed to move by in an unhurried fashion, drifting slowly along like the carefully crafted origami boats that I folded with precision and let float down the neighborhood creek. The air was pure, the skies were bright blue and the earthy scent of blooming algae drugged me into a state of lazy repose. Only the shock of the icy water on my curled-up toes kept me from falling into a deep sleep under the shady sycamore trees that lined the creek.

I was too young to understand the beauty of those sweet and languorous days. I soon became swept up in the tumultuous time of the early 1970’s and I got caught in the rush to grow up. I became bored with the slow passage of time, and in my impatience I began to long for something more—something better than what I thought I had.

I ached to be older; I wished to grow up as fast as possible and become beautiful and desirable—I wanted to be wanted. I prayed nightly for my body to look good in a bikini, for my period to start—to finally reach sixteen so I could go out on dates with boys. I was more than ready to leave my childhood behind; I wanted to grow up and be a woman. Damaging words began to form in my mind and their weight grew heavier as each year passed: “If only (fill in the blank) happened, then I would be happy.”

If only I could grow up, then I would be happy.

The joke’s on me though, because 2012 is here and today I turn fifty years old. I’ve finally grown up. How did that happen? I only looked away for a second and the years blew by me like the Santa Ana winds that gust through the dry canyons in September. I want a do-over! I want to climb into that girl’s nimble twelve-year old body and run and run, the wind whipping my long mane of wavy hair as I gallop to nowhere.

I wish I could go back in time and shake some sense into that silly girl and tell her to slow down and relish those days when her body was firm and agile and life was simple. I’d tell her to leap off the high-dive into that cold clear water and feel the bubbles tickle her body as she rises to the surface. I’d tell her to stop worrying so much about what was to come, but to spend her time savoring the simple and uncomplicated moments that make up her life.

My obsession with chocolate cake started very early.

I’m now a middle-aged woman living in a fifty year-old body—one that is tired and sore at times, but inside I’m still that girl who wants to run free. What has changed is that my many years of experiences have given me wisdom, and I now realize the significance of the so-called “mundane.” I’ve lived a long fifty years, and I’ve learned that it’s not some intangible future destination that holds the key to my happiness—it’s the “right now.”

Lucky for me, I still have time to learn to be deliciously present in every single moment. It won’t always be easy, but as I take that deep breath and blow out those fifty candles on my double layer, dark chocolate birthday cake, I’ll make a wish for the strength to continue to be grateful for all that I have—right now, at this very moment in time.