For years, age has never really entered my consciousness. I was always firmly routed in the “age is just a number” camp. That is, until now.
As I approach the ripe age of 43, all I feel is sadness chopping away at my insides. Sadness that somehow I am now “old.” Maybe these new feelings are because of the spate of tragic celebrity deaths recently; I couldn’t help but reflect that if I die at the same age as David Bowie and Alan Rickman — both 69 — I only have 26 Christmases left. That’s it.
Life suddenly, inexplicably feels beyond fleeting. I look at my kids and start fretting — will I be around to see them finish school, fall in love, travel the world, get married, have kids? Because in 26 years, my daughter will only be 31!
Recently I went out in London, where I lived until I was 35, and told my friend, “Everyone looks so young!”
She replied, “Yes, because they are!”
Right then and there, it struck me that I was no longer that young 23-year-old — desperate to climb the career ladder, filled with unyielding ambition and a thirst for hedonism. That in a blink of an eye, my time for an irresponsible, child-free life has flown past.
All of these thoughts are probably exasperated by the hysterectomy I had in January — an operation my mom had when she was 37. As an 11-year-old at the time, I remember thinking how “old” she was. And now here I am 5 years older! Then there’s the fact that since December, so many friends have lost parents or have had them diagnosed with cancer. It’s made me more acutely aware that my parents will not be here forever.
Vanity has played a role, too. Suddenly crow’s feet have started appearing around my eyes and my eyelids hang droopy like a dog. Weight that used to just drop off me if I dieted for a few weeks refuses to budge. It’s like my body has said, “Oh, you’re over 40? Your metabolism is now ruined, along with your hormones – enjoy!” I’ve lost my youthful looks — or whatever looks I vaguely had. When I enter bars or parties now, no men look at me like they used to. Now I’m just an “invisible” middle-aged woman. Every morning when I glance in the mirror, I see myself looking older, aging before my very eyes.
While I wouldn’t call this a mid-life crisis (I’m not running triathlons or having an affair with a younger man or trying to find myself at a spiritual retreat), I am realizing that half my life is gone (maybe almost two-thirds if I only make it to 69), and yet there is still so much I want to do.
Fear grips me at times that I haven’t done enough, traveled to enough corners of the world, or had enough wild and crazy moments. I’ve become obsessed with moving and getting the “forever” home, complete with a fourth bedroom and heated floors and wine fridge. And I’ve always wanted to travel across America and learn Italian. Am I too late for these things? And then there’s the realization that there are so many spontaneous moments I’ll never get to experience again. Recently I watched Before Sunrise where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet and flirt all night as they stroll through Vienna. I wept because I realized I would never have that sensation of meeting someone new — showing them my best self, gazing at the stars, and living in the moment — ever again.
The treadmill of raising children has meant days fly by, then weeks, and now years seem to have gone by in a flash.
So here I am, a less attractive, older, more tired version of my former self — bound by my responsibilities and financial constraints. But if I take a good long look at myself, I’ve ended up somewhere I never thought I’d be — content. Still in love with my husband and in awe of having two such amazing kids. My life — one filled with love and fun and friends and wine and a sheer joy for what I do — is pretty ace. I don’t need that fourth bedroom to make it better. I just need to remember to make every one of my next 26 Christmases totally utterly ace.