The art of aging when memories aren’t enough
Notes from the epicenter of “Ouch!”
So, I’ve been rolling with the “forty-something” crowd for what seems like an eternity — but isn’t at all. When I was kicked into initiation — a part of me was ready to just get the process over with — and then the other side was helplessly trying to delay the onset of doom.
I can confirm that the trials of turning forty has very little to do with the actual number. I mean, yes, it does take some adjustment to the fact that an enlarged number “4” seems to be stuck to other numbers that threaten to surpass the scary one in front.
But, what what makes getting older frightfully torturous — is the acute awareness of how much time has passed — and the growing fear that you don’t have enough of it left to scrub away the mistakes.
Suddenly, you don’t wake up from a nice long sleep — feeling refreshed and ready for battle. The blissful long rest with periods of quick lucidity that rocked you back to bliss — have been replaced with sweaty hours and blurry vision — egging on the iPhone and the alphabets that permeate through the nothingness.
How does Kylie stand up straight with all that shit in her body — I mean — her lips must weigh a ton! These are the things I contemplate as a woman residing in her wet bed — with the fan doing the most — and me hopping from Twitter to Instagram with rapid speed.
When my forties were approaching, I did the research and concluded that the first half would be the fun part. I seemed to be closing out my thirties with the same gusto that started out the decade. I was still in great shape, my hair was still jet-black with very few strands of gray, my period still punished me with its relentlessly regular schedule — and I was still struggling to make my “dream job” a reality.
Fast forward— and I’m stuck in a place that doesn’t give me permission to declare the beloved adage that insinuates how: “life begins at 40.”
The unclogged highway to middle age — has been a straight shoot to the cabana of mental and physical mayhem. This isn’t a “woe is me” campaign for the woman who stupidly believed she would always be thirty-two — until thirty-seven forced her to wake up.
Yes, when the time came for me to admit that the day I would forever be labeled as “the oldest person in the room” was literally within my grasp — I rejected the burden of accountability.
I wasn’t ready to be judged on contact for not having it “all together.” Your twenties are meant to cushion your “fuck ups”, your thirties are for the period of “getting your shit together” so that when your forties arrive — you can celebrate the occasion with your husband, kids, envious relatives/friends— and co-workers from the job that you love more than shit — that not only righteously compensates you— but also guarantees a long and happy union — past your retirement.
My memories of turning forty aren’t filled with anything close to what I described above. It appeared like any other day — the only difference was hearing or reading the words “Happy Birthday” — and feeling the stigma of being single, motherless and more confused than ever about my journalistic pursuits.
I had spent the best years of my life — working to survive while pining for the opportunity that would validate my creative tendencies. And now, I had to deal with social media platforms, hosting the raging success stories of Millennials while doing the cripplingly-maddening calculations — at my expense.
To anyone with a dial on what constitutes the blue sticker near your profile pic— I’m a failure.
I failed to meet the man of my dreams during the peak of my childbearing years. I failed to land the internship of a lifetime — that would’ve led to the job of a lifetime — where I would spend a lifetime — loving my life. I failed to make enough money to outshine competitors and detractors with the material things — that justify why elevating the American Dream with snapshots of proof — is the only way to be “Fabulous And Forty.”
The truth is that I did want to be fabulous and forty — and in fact there was really no reason to doubt my prowess — based on my track record. But, life has a funny way of upstaging all your assumptions.
There are women who enter their forties with good intentions and end up surpassing their guarded expectations. I’m not that woman. What I am is a theatrical mess. The kind that you mop up clean — and then turn around to see the edges linking again.
I’m still job hunting and embarrassingly believing that the day I move into my own home is closer than I think. I no longer control my body to the best of my ability. My new body pretty much shows me how it feels and I can’t say that I like this switch in functions. I keep getting the raw end of the stick — every time!
All the reinforcements that gripped me lovingly — each time I entered a space — abandoned me with generic coherency. I’m basically left to comprehend these changes — without a manual.
You never contemplate the rituals of youth and its comforting benefits until you’re plagued with symptoms of quiet depletion.
Before you have the respect of familiarity — wiry gray strands replace the gorgeously epic mane — that cuddled you didn’t notice. Your flat belly — juts out on cue — to signal the volcano in your body — as your cervix and ovaries battle it out with the other vital organs that once kept you sane.
All that adherence to a healthy diet — all that walking up and down the blocks and beyond — the exercising that started the day with an early bang — the nagging period flow and the access to the areas of my body that did the most — all that discipline — didn’t help as much as I thought it would.
The hustling that carried me all over the streets of Manhattan and beyond — didn’t propel my career into the appropriate slot. I was truly caught between two worlds. My desire to dominate the editorial realm would’ve been a better option in 1977 or 2017. I say 1977 — because that was a time when printed words carried more weight than the people proudly holding the product could imagine. 2017 — comes from the realization that you can literally land a movie deal — just based on your tweet.
The art of aging demands that you relinquish all the rights to what you used to control. Your knees will scream out when you try to mindlessly hit the toilet seat for the 3:37 am peeing session. You will have to play around with your diet in an effort to tackle the pockets of flesh that seem to erupt overnight. The weird stuff peeking out of your side is another indication of how the years can turn against you without reason. Rolling out of bed no longer carries the same meaning. Your face looks the same even though your features have been rearranged. You are more sensitive. Any reference to the days when you’re whole life seemed like a mighty long stretch— reduces you to sand. You are trying to define what happens when we leave this world because you can’t afford to be caught off guard. When old people walk by you want to hug them so they know you care. When young people walk by — you want to hug them so they rub off on you. When people your age die — you notice if they were married with children. You envy that they left a legacy behind. You freak out because you have no legacy. You really don’t have much at all. If you died, the only ones that will really miss you are your parents and a handful of friends. You’re not sure your siblings will be distraught long enough for sufficiency. You have no property in your name. You can barely maintain $1,000 in your bank account. You don’t own anything of value and you might die unexpectedly in the shower after attempting to shave your legs without losing your footing.
You slip and fall and hit that head hard. The warm stuff floating around your back is bright red and as you strive to hold on — you quickly assess what you’re worth.
These nightmares don’t keep me up at night. They storm to sleep.
I’m grateful to have the years pile up — but I won’t pretend that the transition has been easy or remotely effortless. I want to be the forty-something woman who magically gets it together just in the knick of time!
But, what I am is a human being — who is being offered the privilege of facing her fears without filters or the shield of made up stories to help smoothen the bumpy road.
I’m not hiding anymore. Getting older is hard as fuck — but it’s also empowering as fuck.
I’m stronger in spirit even though my physical template is slowing down its loyalty. I will never again be the thinnest and youngest girl in the room, and I will never amass the same confidence that entered before me.
But, that’s what aging is all about. You become someone else and you have no choice but to make the effort to bond with this curious character — that unapologetically overwhelms the host — staring back in the mirror with oozing disdain.
It’s humbling and often times disconcerting. I constantly try to keep my feet stuck on the ground so I don’t fly away in disbelief. I’m officially old as fuck — and even though I’m still trying to adjust — the epicenter of “ouch!” won’t have me screeching for long.
It’s the “alive” part that makes aging — life’s blood. Just proceed with caution.