Monday, July 23, 2007

Life in the middle

It may be the effects of my fortieth birthday. It may be my own reflection in the mirror, which unbeknownst to me overnight has taken on the appearance of someone who should be addressed as ma'am by the supermarket clerk, regardless of my mussed hair and flip flops. Most likely, it is the effect of being witness to death, since I have been one of those lucky people to live my life up to this point without too many close brushes with death, at least not in my own close knit circle. My father-in-law's passing has now led to the eminent passing of my dearest Granddaddy, who has never quite recovered from the loss of my grandmother several years ago. He is wasting away from his own very old age, and I suspect a certain desire to join his beloved wife, as well as a bone deep tiredness. We are awaiting the call that he is gone, which may come today or may come in two weeks.

All of this leads up to my pondering of life in the middle, which is where I feel I am. Writing about life in the middle seems pretty banal, like something from a shallow women's magazine. But to me life in the middle is a mystery. I have no desire to go back, but going forward seems a tad scary. I often find myself thinking that I just don't feel my age, as if there is some way that my age is supposed to feel. At other times I feel content and at ease, like I've finally reached some kind of ephemeral peace, where all the trials and tribulations of youth seem like dramatic fluff.

There is also that part of me that feels an intense need to hurry. Hurry up, or life may just pass you by! When I am able to actually see that part of me in action, I can't help but think how stupid she is. What a fool, running to nowhere. Missing the colors and smells along the way. Thankfully, that part of me makes herself known less and less as I age.

There is also the vain, senseless part of me that misses my youthfulness, not in thought, but only in body. I went out to dinner in a busy restaurant the other night, and the waitress was circling around trying to find who was missing the ceasar salad. When she finally found me, she said, "Oh, there you are! They told me to look for the pretty lady at table 8!" Well, never mind the lady part of that phrase, or the fact that everyone else at the table were men... it was that pretty comment that made me glow! Being called pretty used to be such a given that it didn't matter. Now that I'm living life in the middle, those compliments have become gold... not something I'm proud of, but it's the plain truth.

There is also the fretting, ignorant part of me, that has to give in to the idea of aging, and finally death. Death is our neighbor and bedfellow, no matter what our age, but the farther along the road of life I get, the odds continue to sway in death's direction. That's just life, after all, the ultimate irony.

The longer I live, the more books I read, the more I think and ponder, the more convinced I am that I know basically nothing. Nothing in the best sense of the word. Life is a mystery, surprise, box of chocolates, passing of a loved one and birth of a child. It is only when I feel that irrational need to know that life in the middle becomes unbearable.


BBC said...

Colorado hey, been there, done that, some very nice country there.

My first visit to your blog, I like it, but I may not have time to return again.

Still seeking after all the brainwashing they gave you as a child are you?

Hang in there, it will come someday. Hugs.

Carol said...

So incredibly, beautifully stated. I know exactly what you mean, but could never have expressed it so eloquently.

At 50, I feel the same restlessness. Not that I've felt it SINCE 40. It's relatively new. And yes, it's scary at 50, too. 60-year-olds probably experience it too.

Thanks for being able to so wonderfully express what many of us feel.


sognatrice said...

With a little bit more on your background added (how you recently moved back from Italy, etc.), I think you should submit this to Newsweek's My Turn.

This is just beautiful.

Jen said...

I agree with Sognatrice - this is wonderful, Jennifer. I don't really agree with Carol, though... I'll e-mail you my thoughts. I've found life in the middle to be challenging, but an amazing gift, nonetheless.

Jenn in Holland said...

Do I gush enough over your writing when I comment at your blog? How can I help but do so?
This is FABULOUS. And so true, and so telling and so very much everything I want to say too.
I am sorry to hear that Grandpa is leaving soon, you know I will be here for you for ANYTHING you need.
I can't wait to show this piece to my husband. I know he too is going to feel like you pulled the thoughts right out of his head and put them on the screen.
You are incredible.

anno said...

This is perfect. Just beautiful.

I'm also jealous because I'm working on something similar (you scooped me!); when I finally post it, I'll link here.

Tricotine said...

Don't worry, be happy now... :-)
You are a wonderful writer!

Happy WW! :-)

jennifer said...

I can't tell you how many private comments I've received from this post- must have tapped into a common nerve.
Thank you all for your comments... I'm... I'm... well, touched.

Gattina said...

This picture is very special ! Don't ponder too much about mid life, when you are 20 years older you will laugh about it !

Rebecca said...

and you are such a WRITER.

No desire to go back but fear of what is ahead - so so true! I've certainly no desire to be young mentally again (wouldn't mind the physical so much, though) but, but...old??

Keep on reading....because I'm quite sure that knowledge (even if it is just the knowledge of our extreme ignorance) is the best way to face old age...and the best way not to become a tedious old fart!