I can’t remember feeling young.
I was that kid who seemed to have an other-worldly shift about my drooped shoulders. At University I was the go-to for deep and meaningful conversations about life, the Universe and everything.
And yet now, I even type in old age into Google and I don’t get a sage old woman brimming with sense and wisdom. NO, I get that pic of a Bedouin woman, all dried out.
Dried out? And now I embarrass my children – dried out, really?
I have been wise for as long as I can remember, and that’s OK. It’s just, recently I’ve been feeling old.
It’s not about the silver wisdom streaks I have painted in fire red at the hairdressers’ every six weeks or so. It’s not because of the silver streaks across my expanding flank, or thigh. It’s not about the lack of attention…I was promised invisibility in my forties and yet I still seem to enjoy the cheeky smile or cursive eyebrow that suggests something…
No, it’s not those typical markers of age and stage. It’s these, these new-age versions, of the same.
About two months ago my 40 kg puppy (it’s a mindset, not a body frame!) thumped into me side-on and dislodged my knee cap. Amongst the doctor’s whistles and gasps, he murmured about orthopaedic surgeons and on-going physio. I feigned deafness. (An old age sign if ever there was one).
I muttered and swore all the way, the entire 200m from my car to the x-ray rooms but when the elderly gent offered a kind arm I smiled and said ‘no thanks, all good.’ The x-ray results were good and bad.
I don’t have a torn meniscus (yay) but I do have arthritis.
That means, of course, that I can never again run-off the excess from a weekend of wine and pork. Does anyone know if Pilates can have the same calorie gazumping effect?
Following the arthritis diagnosis, which was by no means a small thing, there was the continuing discussions with my Mum who has been more than a little unwell. We’re not sure how old she is – she says 78yrs, my birth certificate suggests 80 years.
Does it really matter?
What does matter is that she has become increasingly unwell. Oxygen reliant, unwell. Prayers in the 2 am dark, unwell. My elegant, vivacious, character of a Mum. And yet in the midst of the stress and the drama I haven’t reacted well. When asked to transport her to A&E I freaked. Barely breathing (me as well as her) I drove like a nutter through the Brissy traffic to the private hospital. Except, no one told me that there are two hospitals side by side in North Brisbane. I’d arrived in my mercy chariot at the wrong one. In the end, I had to wheel the patient in her chair in 26degs heat from one hospital to the other.
Surreal. And sweaty.
To be fair, I didn’t behave well. I tried, but actually, I didn’t manage to pull it off. I was not Florence Nightingale under fire. More a sweary Nurse Ratchett in need of a drink.
I felt old then.
Tired. But then, as far as I’ve observed old and tired are somewhat the same thing. Tiredness can be physical, mental, spiritual. Sometimes, it can simply be all three.
The patient recovered enough to go home and maintain her independence, as is her raison d’etre. I ring when I can. It’s not easy.
I recovered from my sprained knee, but just this past week I’ve been feeling so terribly weathered.
One child (are they really children now?) has gained a boyfriend, one a ‘proper’ job and another a tertiary future she cannot wait to begin.
This week with the wind and the rain whipping at my heart and mind I’m feeling nest-empty-useless. Oh sure, not working every hour God sends has meant that I can reach out and help those around me, and there have been a few, but in my quiet moments, I wonder ‘what next?’
What’s my mission now? Another book? Sure. But what? What next? What should I be doing?
At 49 years old I don’t feel invisible at all. Perhaps that’s because I have never relied on my physicality, my sexuality. Instead, I’ve relied on my intellectualism. But I’ve never felt physically faded because in reality I never had that physicality at all. Yet, I feel weary. Will a holiday fix it?
My toy-boy husband, six years younger doesn’t suffer the same fate. He wears his wisdom streaks like armour. He should. He’s earnt them. Life’s not been fair to him and he is no longer the carefree young man he once was. I stand by him, and yet, and yet my arthritic knee aches…
Or is it a simple truth – my kids, my parents are moving on. I am no longer the Queen of my environs. And no matter what I do, I have chin hairs and a bloody good starter-beard. I am staring down the reality of an empty nest. Me, my arthritis, exhaustion, and all.
Middle age is a bitch. And no amount of oils, and smoothies and wellness retreats will make it better.
Some women enter the menopausal age with defiance. They are proud crones. Am I? Crone is my second to least favourite c-word. There’s no respect there.
What will make a difference, is a sense of purpose. I’m looking for mine, right now. I’m fighting back the urge to grab a backpack and go save the children. Or fight for the freedom fighters, or to slip the homeless a tenner, or to simply answer the dulcet Facebook Messenger tones when one of the womb fruit need me.
I need a purpose.
Do you have yours? Tell me about it. Inspire me. I have about forty more years on this planet, what should I do with it?