For some reason, middle age has been nagging at me. I have no idea why. I am certainly not middle-aged. That’s what I thought anyway. And then a couple years ago, my husband said something to me about being middle-aged, and I was highly insulted. Because I had already embarked on my forties, my husband asked me the logical question: Just how long do you expect to live? Hmmm….He had a point. I just don’t feel like I am in mid-life yet. I am healthier and in better shape than I have ever been. I still like to stay active. I guess I always pictured middle age according to the previous generation’s version of middle age.
When my mother was in her forties and fifties, she just didn’t seem to have much fun. She spent her days cleaning (every single centimeter of our house – not a dustball in sight), and (despite hating it) feeding her family. She was fortunate that she did not have to work outside the home, but I also think that for her, that wasn’t necessarily best for her. She might have been happier had she gotten out amongst people. She didn’t do a lot with my sister, brother, or me. She rarely attended my sporting events or band contests. I love my mother, but, Lord, she was boring. I don’t want to be boring. I will try just about anything – except rides that spin. That would make me puke.
Now my <older> friends are beginning to turn 50…50? When I was in my twenties, I thought 50 was old. Now I look around at those embracing mid-life, and I am so impressed. Our generation is in the gym, both taking advantage of classes, and leading groups and teaching classes. We’re out running 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and marathons. We’re biking an incredible number of miles, swimming, and dancing. Most of my friends are also in the best shape of their lives. My friend Debbie just turned 50. Over the past year I have observed as she has worked her tail off to get in shape and lose weight. She looks absolutely incredible. She has always been beautiful, but now she has confidence, and radiates grace and contentment. She not only rocks the classes at the gym, but she is also a runner! What an inspiration.
My friend Jackie will turn 50 in January. She has been one of my running partners and best friends for years. She, too, is in amazing shape, and one would never suspect her being near 50. She is a strong runner, who usually drags her sister and me along, and we are both younger. She is setting such a great example for her sons by showing them that she is worth the time she takes to be healthy. Our kids might not buy into this yet, but someday they most certainly will.
I have also seen a few people who are around my age who seem to be caught in their parents’ mindset. They move slowly, avoid much activity, and just seem older than their years. I suppose that is the life they choose, and it’s their business, but it makes me sad. We only have one shot at this life; I don’t want to waste it being unhappy or boring. In all I do, I try to live without regrets. When I am at the end of my days, I want to bask in the memories of all I did, not regret all I didn’t do becauses I thought I was too old.
As for me, if someone had told me even five years ago that I would be able to run over 13 miles, I would have cackled. And teach fitness classes? Heck, no. I didn’t even like to exercise. Don’t get me wrong; I was never lazy. I ran a business with my good friend while raising three daughters, and then returned to college full-time, while still working. During my thirties I earned a bachelor’s degree, changed careers, and got remarried. In my early forties I earned my master’s degree (and stayed married). Exercise never fit into that schedule. I did well to shower daily and make sure the kids were fed. Take time for myself? There was none to spare. I couldn’t even pee without a little girl’s voice screeching, “MOM!”
Then the girls got old enough to stay by themselves, and I began to take some time for myself. What began as wanting to get some exercise and lose a little weight, became a whole new life. As I was driving to the gym last night, I thought about how much time I would have if I didn’t exercise. Seriously. We do some type of workout five to six nights a week. Last night we were at the gym from 6:00 until 9:00. And I loved every second of it. I was with my husband and daughter; I was with my friends; and I was working my butt off. I am sore today, but as I tell my friends, it’s a good sore. I don’t want to imagine my life without exercise. It is a part of the middle-aged me, and I rather like that part.
Middle age? It’s what you make of it. As far as I am concerned, these are the best years of my life. I love the relationships I have with the girls; I love being a nana; I love my marriage to a pretty terrific man, and I love the person I have become. I am comfortable enough in my skin that when someone speaks badly of me (imagine that!), I can let it go (okay, sometimes I dwell on it, but I eventually let it go), and I know what I stand for and whom I want to spend my time with. I know now that the trials in my life have made me a stronger person, as well as given me more compassion toward those going through their own trials. I am not afraid to take risks, knowing that sometimes I will fail. I know it’s okay to fail. Am I perfect? No way. Far from it. I make mistakes (almost daily), and I make bad decisions. I am – and always will be – a work in progress. If we stop growing, we stop living. Why would I want to do that?
Of course, middle age brings some friends: gray hair (that’s what hair color is for), wrinkles (earned every one of them), saggy skin (no amount of exercise can make my skin look good during a plank. When in a plank position, don’t EVER look at your legs or belly.), aches (Ibuprofen in bulk), hot flashes (avoided those thus far), and out-of-control eyebrows (no one bothered to warm me about those). It’s part of the process, so there is no sense getting my panties in a wad over them. The only alternative to aging is dying, and I surely am not ready to check out just yet. I have more races to run….more Zumba to teach….more friends to make….more kids to teach………more life to live! Now get out their and live yours! What have you always wanted to do? Do it! Live with no regrets.