I am one of the most optimistic people you will ever meet. Unless of course we never actually meet. In that case you will just have to take my word for it. Some people find blind optimism annoying, but I like to think of myself as a ray of sunshine, on an otherwise lackluster day. So just go with it.
Being friends with an optimist is kind of like having a puppy. Everyone loves a puppy. They make you happy. Their squishy faces offering cheer in a sad world. But after a while, the puppy’s zest for life becomes suffocating. So you put the puppy in the laundry room and close the door. But after some time passes, you miss the puppy. You go and let it out. The puppy isn’t even mad that you put it in the laundry room. Because it’s a puppy.
I can describe myself as having the puppy effect. All that and the fact that I also tinkle at inopportune times. Like say, after the third sneeze. Clearly my bladder checked out after the fourth baby.
My optimism has served me well. It has helped me through the darker times of my life. We all have hard times and everyone has to find their own way to maneuver through them. Believing that something better is always on the horizon has worked for me.
I have noticed a shift lately though. You hear people talk about a mid-life crisis. I wouldn’t say that I am having a crisis. I would say rather that I am experiencing adjustments. When you are young, you only think of being young OR old. You never consider all of that stuff in between. You never ponder the process of getting from one point to the other. From the moment you are born though, you begin aging.
The physical part of aging is tricky. Although I do have a good attitude about it most times, sometimes I stare at my face in horror. The subtle changes that occur. The gradual downward slide of your face. Curse gravity. My chin has started doing this weird sag thing. And I am not stupid enough to think that any cream in this world is going to stop it.
I don’t think you are ever prepared for aging physically. At least it happens so gradually that you have time to adjust to each change. I remember being a young girl and seeing a picture of my grandmother, when she was twenty years old. I was stunned to see her youthful face. To me she had always just looked like Grandma.
One solace in the whole aging thing is that when my husband looks at me, I am not even sure that he sees all the things that I see. I think he still sees the woman he married thirteen years ago. Or if he doesn’t he certainly isn’t dumb enough to tell me.
Another thing about being here in the middle, I have started to feel less relevant in some aspects. I no longer know all of the current songs on the radio. Most of pop culture is lost on me. I see young men turning their heads to look at younger women as they pass. And that is more than fine. I just wish everyone would stop calling me Ma’am.
I no longer feel that youthful oblivion where you have your entire life ahead of you. I feel like I am actually in the throes of life right now. I don’t feel a sense of urgency exactly but rather a sense of seeking purpose. I should probably start figuring this life thing out.
Being in the middle is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But I have discovered that the middle is also sprinkled with freak out moments, here and there. And sometimes sadness for things long gone. Life is both wonderful and bittersweet. Never in my life have I ever felt so at peace. I am completely immersed in the things that truly matter. Raising our four children with my husband is almost too fulfilling to articulate. Sometimes I get nostalgic because they are no longer babies. I miss them following me around, with arms raised, wanting Mommy to pick them up.
Now is even better though. Now our kids are four very different people. Actual people with opinions, interests and personalities. Watching them find their way in this world is even better than baby coos and tiny baby toes. My heart literally feels like it could burst sometimes. I am not saying that I never want to strangle them because I totally want to strangle them sometimes. At least once a day.
In the middle you also gain a new respect for friendships. The saying that it takes a village is for real though. But that village isn’t just about the kids. You need people who understand you. People who love you. If you are sitting at a table,laughing/crying/venting with a group of women who just get you, then you have already figured it out. To all my ladies, we will get through anything together.
If this seems like a confusing stream of consciousness that is because it is. I don’t know if I typed this for you to read or if I just needed to say it. I may have wrinkles and gray hair. I probably do need progressive lenses in my glasses. And maybe my face is migrating to the underside of my jaw. From this point forward I probably will always be referred to as Ma’am or Mrs. Bell.
But I love life. Except on those days when I don’t. And on those days at least I know, tomorrow is a new day.