Friday, January 7, 2011

Mamahood, Middle Age and Menopause

I’ve got two school age kids, a new puppy, a rabbit, a fish, a husband, a part time teaching career, a full time writing career and a 49th birthday coming straight at me like a comet hurtling through space ready to collide with my Capricornian stars and burst into the resplendent colors of a cataclysmic planetary shift. Teetering on the precipice of my 7th 7, I feel the last of my cells regenerating, reconfiguring me into the latest version of myself. On this birthday I officially become Middle Age Suze complete with the Hot Flash, Night Sweat Dream House, and the Midlife Crisis Convertible. (Maybe I’ll be the first to market Middle Age Barbie.) While I agree to succumb to being a middle-aged woman and all that entails, I hate sticking the label on myself. And it’s not because I’m vain. Well, maybe a little. I do get all puffed up when people gasp when I reveal my age. “Oh my God, you don’t look 48 at all! You look amazing!” I know it’s shallow to be proud of holding gravity at bay but any port in a storm. The real reason I don’t want to be middle aged is that I was supposed to be a lot further along in life than I am. I’m supposed to be slowing down and getting ready to retire, learning Spanish and how to play the guitar. I’m not supposed to volunteering in my daughter’s second grade class and wondering where my next job is coming from – that’s for the 30’s!!!!

Math isn’t my strong suit but I do know that I’ve been middle aged since my 39th birthday. I just couldn’t think of myself as that as I was pregnant with my first child. The two didn’t mesh. Then I had my second child at 41 and tandem nursing wasn’t something a matron did so I just wasn’t one. Now that I’m actually on the downside of my mortality, I feel compelled to take on my middle age status. Something to do with claiming the second phase of my life. Second phase - even though living to 98 seems highly unlikely but I entertain the thought because my children are young and I’d get to see their lives unfold. Another 49 years. I don’t know if I have the stamina.

I’ve been awake since 2003. And I don’t mean enlightened. I mean actually awake. My daughter never slept, still doesn’t much and she’s nearly 8 and then I reinvented myself as a freelance writer, a career path I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I’m either up trying to find work, worrying about finding work or working on a deadline. And now I am even more awake from menopausal hormones. I can’t stop thinking of that old joke…”How do you make a hormone? Kick her in the shins.” Someone or something’s kicking me in the shins all night these days. Kids in our bed, finances, obsessive thought loops, a whining puppy, deep questions like, “When will everyone I love in the world die?” “Why aren’t I a better global citizen?” “Why can’t I keep my house as clean as I used to?” I’m dying here. I know, we all are. But really, my eyes are gritty and I had to get reading glasses, and I can’t remember words like refrigerator when it’s right in front of me and I’m a writer! My usual vim and vigor has vacated leaving me with a kind of sloth like quality and a persistent longing for my bed, which is always just around the corner since I work from home. It’s not the vibrant life I envisioned for myself. I mean obsessing about my bed constantly and it’s empty. No hot hunk or husband with a come hither look calling me toward it, just a blistering exhaustion. So there’s that.

And there’s how not asleep at the wheel I am. It’s like I’m on a triple espresso, Red Bull, crystal meth high, I am so awake, uber-conscious of every emotional landscape, every vibe, every buried thought, possible thought, that I swear I can feel a cell divide. I feel the intensity of each moment, every event locally and globally, the plight of the homeless under the overpass, the Mamas and children in Afghanistan, the pain of my aging parents and the elderly neighbor who seems so lonely. Being so awake makes me even more tired. I thought middle age meant letting go easier, not caring so much about what people think or feel, chilling out a little. But my middle age is a kind of revving engine that’s racing towards applying to graduate school, buying a puppy, inventing new classes to teach and planning new exercise strategies for me and my children. On this birthday as I boldly take the throne of middle age, I will say a prayer for myself to embrace all that I am, all I have done and then promptly send myself to bed to get some sleep for god’s sake.

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