Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spring Chicken Turning Into An Old Crow

(SPOILER ALERT: I don't think I have any males out there reading this, but in case I do, you might want to skip this one, it's not for the faint of heart.)

You begin your family with an expectation that you will raise your kids, they will move on to begin their lives and you will have a little time to yourself before you have to care for your parents. I always knew that timeline was a little off for me because my parents were already in their 40's when I came into their lives. But, I held out hope anyway because Mother was so stubbornly independent. And, trust me, she would rather me not be interfering with her life right now, but it's not a matter of choice for either of us, so here we find ourselves. However, I missed that little window, because I could have used it to explore and come to grips with my own rapid advancing clock. I could have learned how to accept that life is a hard teacher, the hardest of all, and one of the biggest lessons she has to teach us is that "Never" is one of those words that is hard to live up to. And I used it a lot when I was younger. I was pretty sure of myself and how I would approach my own old age. Of course, all those "I'll never" statements were made from the comfort of my own youth. One thing about life, it's not black and white, it's all shades of grey, really quite literally.

What brought me to this post is what I saw in the mirror yesterday while dressing to go to a movie. I saw a total stranger. The woman, the much older woman, looking back at me was someone I didn't know. When did I become this old? Suddenly, with a crashing thud, I understood exactly what makes a midlife crisis a crisis. It's not easy to wrap your head around the reality of the mirror and the image of yourself that you carry around in your head. In my head, I'm the nerdy teenager who gets giddy over movies like Avatar and has only been beaten once at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. I like clothing that looks like it could be at home at Woodstock. I'm NOT the grandmotherly type that stared back at me. But, I've had to make some concessions to my age finally, many of which I said I would never do, and the most visible is I have to cover my grey.

I had spent three hours in the salon yesterday morning getting partial highlights. This was only the second time in my life I had ever colored my hair, the first being on Black Friday last November. I always liked the color of my hair, brunette with a touch of Celtic red, so I never wanted to alter it other than let it bleach in the summer sun. I watched my mother dye her hair from it's natural brown to an ash blond since I was little. As a matter of fact, I only know she had brown hair from photos, I have no actual memory of seeing her that way. It seemed a high maintenance, vain way to avoid accepting a natural progression. I always told myself I would just embrace my grey and let it happen. Yeah, right. Actually, I was luckier than a lot of people whose blood lines hail from the British Isles. I had random sightings of a silver strand in there now and again for a long time, but it was not until the last few years that they began expanding their hold, and it wasn't until this past year, with all the strain and the stress, that they began to make their play for domination. The result was that my hair became mousy. And that made my naturally pale features seem even more drawn and sallow. I considered my options, but among the things I had to legitimately think about is my marketability. Would an employer look at me and think there's no way I'd have the energy to get the job done? In the end analysis, there was a lot of other ways I would have liked to spend my money and my time; I'm blind as a bat without my reading glasses, my teeth need work, I want a Mike Wallace jersey and wouldn't mind having a Sidney Crosby one, but I did think it was important to at least look like I was a good bet in the work place, so the hair do won.

Which brings me to how the rest of me looks. It's harder and harder to fight the battle of the bulge. I had finally gotten back to a point where I was happy in my own skin after a long regimen of consistent exercise when Mother had her accident. Within a few months where I could only exercise on a spotty basis and ate when the opportunity presented itself, it all went lumpy and bumpy again, only in different areas. I feel almost like someone added a tire around my lower half and then overinflated it! With Mother in the nursing home and finally to a point where I don't have to be with her everyday, I am trying to get back to where I was, but my body has other ideas. My body won't obey me they way it did when I was younger. If it was on a staff of mine, I would fire it!

I realize that a lot of this is because of the biggest mid-life event of all: menopause (and, any gentlemen still hanging around, this is your cue to leave now). I know full well that I really have no reason to complain. In terms of how my personal struggle with the change of life goes, I've had it easy. Two years ago, I began to suspect my body was getting ready to travel down that road when I would skip periods for months at a time, only to have one massive, messy long one, then go on hiatus again. Finally, at some point they started to lessen in intensity, sort of like shutting a rusty faucet off, and then the hot flashes began. And that's when I knew this was for real. You spend your ovulating life thinking of the day when you can stop. Every time you're using a heating pad because you're cramping so badly, you can't stand up straight, or you turn the car seat heater on in 90 degree weather to soothe your aching back, you pray for it to come soon. Well, when it finally comes, you realize you're just trading one issue for another. Irritable? You have no idea. My sleep patterns changed, my metabolism is all but dead, I'm constipated a lot of the time, and the worst of it is my body still goes through cycles, just with no period to show for it. I liken it to what people experience with missing limbs. My body keeps trying to have a period, so I keep having PMS, only it's PMS on steroids. Take last Sunday, I had the period migraine and it put me in a murderous rage. I was completely out of control pissed off at every little thing, from Tony Romo's pouty little face to Brett Favre in purple, to the dogs breathing. The rational part of me felt trapped inside this monster, struggling to get out. I saw it for what it was, but was still trapped by it. But, it's like a ripple on a ocean compared to most women, I know. I've had women I work with literally have to go home and change clothes because they've soaked through their outfits. I've watched women in the middle of the sentence have to stop talking because they are so overwhelmed by the sensation of a hot flash coming over them. I overheard a woman in the salon yesterday talk about her menopause and how she's been on medication for years. I don't take anything. I don't need it. I haven't had a hot flash since this summer. Thank God, because there's no way I'd remember to take it every day and then who knows what would happen. But, the hardest part of it was the day I realized this was really what was happening to me. That it wasn't some false alarm caused by too much stress or just because my body never did get a smooth rhythm. That was a bad day because you realize something else. You're about to cross through a door that is slamming just with no way back. Youth is officially over, and there's really no denying it. Men just don't have any idea what we women go through. The bottom line is, with everything women have to contend with physically, there is simply no way we're the weaker sex. What a crock! See, now I'm totally irritable!

Bottom line is I wanted some time to grapple with all of these issues first before looking at Mother and worrying that all too soon it'll be my turn to be just like that. Oh well. Maybe it's better this way, I don't have too much time to worry about all of it.


  1. Just so you know....I think you are one the most beautiful women I have EVER met :)

  2. I admit, I was laughing while reading this, but
    I am allowed. I too spent Saturday in the salon getting my gray hair hi-lighted. And I can more than relate to the severe head aches and PMS with no period. It sucks!
    Just wanted to let you know, you are not alone!!!