Category Archives: Middle Age

Smack in the middle, like a slice of ham

This showed up in my email inbox yesterday.

Reading this list made me sad. Well, not the entire thing; several of the items made me chuckle, in fact. But looking at some of them, I couldn’t help but think: “Oh, no, what a shame to think this is gone forever.”

Why is it that we get so upset when we hear of creatures like polar bears facing extinction, but things that have been important to our own personal existence can just disappear, never to return, and we don’t give it a second thought?

It goes without saying that each item is values-neutral: neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. But that doesn’t mean each of us won’t see these 50 things — and there are a lot more than 50, as we know — through the lens of our own worldview.

Which makes hard to look at each one and not say either: Yeah, good riddance to that, or, Oh, it’s too bad that’s not a part of our everyday life anymore. We just have our opinions, right?

This may be more true for my generation than the ones above or below us. We remember how things used to be and can compare them to how things are today. So we look at a list like this and maybe get a little nostalgic, remembering how fascinating it was to thumb through the family encyclopedia. On the other hand, we’re thankful not to have to go down to the DMV to register our car.

That’s when I got curious and conducted a little experiment. I went down the list and said “Yep” or “Nope” to each one, and you know what I found out? I was split exactly 50-50 between Things I Don’t Do Anymore and Things I Still Do, Even If Only Sometimes.

Which tells me that I really truly am the Sandwich Generation. Because most of the things on the list are things to which my kids would say “Nope” or “Huh?” But, my parents would most certainly say “Yep” or “Of course, doesn’t everybody?” to almost every single one.

So, for the record, here are some of the ones that made me sad to think are gone forever: 7, 11, 26 (because in my opinion, memorizing phone numbers and other things like poetry and Bible verses is a good idea for brain health. Personal quirk), 28, 34, 41, 45 and 46.

Notice how many of those have some sort of relationship to writing or the written word, and/or the idea of a discrete, tangible thing that you can see or hold, keep and carry. I don’t quite know how to articulate it — paper vs. ether? — but that quality seems significant somehow.

There are others that I suspect are not fully extinct and never will be. Like #38: I try on shoes at the mall all the time. I do that to see what size I am in one brand or another, then I go home and order them on Zappo’s. And #39 is something — well, if you’re female — you can’t get around, because retailers sell lots of clothes with labels that say “Hand Wash Only.” Just maybe not, you know, with one of those washboard thingys.

And #48, hanging laundry on a line, is making something of a comeback these days, what with all the emphasis on living a “green” lifestyle. Not to mention saving on your electricity bill by not using the dryer. And let me attest: getting into bed when you’ve washed your sheets and hung them to dry in the fresh air? Sheer ecstasy.

But as for #47 — I’m never giving up my newspaper. Because that’s where the New York Times Crossword puzzle is, which I do faithfully, every day. In pencil. Call me old school, but some things are just sacred, you know?

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Back in the saddle again

This horse feels impossible to get back on, but it must be done sometime, I suppose.

The problem is, I seem to have forgotten how to ride. And a horse is not exactly a bicycle, so there’s that.

Some of it feels familiar. The laptop, the coffee, the desk, the dark room. The space in my head that’s empty except for the voice that whispers: “You’ve got nothing to say.”

I sort of don’t, actually. I suppose I could just fill the space with a riff on The Bachelor or Downton Abbey or something. But a lot of bloggers are doing that, so it’s probably better that I pass.

It’s not completely true, either, that I’ve got nothing to say. There are all kinds of things I could go on about. For one, the fact that our master bedroom is utterly demolished at the moment because we’re going to be getting a “new” one. I even have pictures I could post of the holes in the floors, and the one in the back wall where the builders have put up a bridge-like thing to go in and out of what used to be The Coach’s closet.

Or, I could start to talk about the big, albeit temporary, move to the mainland we’re planning to undertake in the fall. There’s an issue that’s been taking up space in my brain lately. I haven’t lived on the mainland for any length of time for the past 32 years, so this will be kind of major. For one thing, I’m going to need real shoes. I don’t even know what kind of shoes people wear on the mainland. I’m sure shoe styles have changed a bit in the past 32 years; that will have to be included in my research.

Do you know I have a contract to sit here and do this? I do. Not that you can tell by my output, which in the past 24 days is nil (I know; I counted) so I’m not exactly doing a very good job at it, but I’m trying. Sort of. Plus my contract is sort of expired; my “mentor” and I need to sign a new one.

Here’s an ironic thing: recently I’ve read two books that have the word “happiness” or “contentment” in their titles, and yet lately I feel farther away from, not closer to, happiness and contentment. But at least my coffee is hot — thanks to the little cup warmer I keep on the right corner of the desk — and rather delicious. It’s local coffee; 10% Kona, is what the label says. Did you know that Kona is the only place in the United States where coffee is grown? Back in 2008 when Obama was elected the Kona coffee growers all got a little, shall we say, assertive, and made it clear what a travesty it would be if Kona coffee — ahem, American coffee — were not exclusively served, all the time, in the White House. Good for them.

Another idea I’ve been struggling to put into actual words is the story of how exactly one year ago, I underwent an emergency appendectomy. Talk about a wild and unexpected ride. It turns out my experience of one’s appendix rupturing in one’s mid-50’s is fairly uncommon. Who knew? Yes, well, that whole episode did have an uncommon feel to it, I must say.

But I’ll have to fill you in on that later. It’s 7:30 a.m. and I can hear that the builders just got here and let themselves into the house through the big hole in the back wall where the closet used to be, so I’m just going to leave us all hanging here, with me more or less on the horse, sort of walking, maybe?

I’ll try to work up to a trot tomorrow. Or next week. Whatever.

Body Heat

Me, in the prime of life

So yesterday I had my annual appointment with my OB-GYN. He’s the same one I’ve had since I got married, he delivered my babies, and he has calmly has seen me through all sorts of wacky female issues. Which, now, in my 50’s, get yet wackier, as together we navigate … dun, dun, duuunnnn … menopause.

I’ve seen my mother and other older women deal with the Change of Life, but you never really get what it’s all about until you’re experiencing it firsthand. And the one thing that has been hardest of all to wrap my head around (not to mention LIVE WITH) is hot flashes. Very difficult to explain to someone not familiar, as it were, with the idea, but let me try it this way:

Back in my 20’s I joined a health club, sort of a precursor to the 24 Hour Fitness concept, which hadn’t yet come into being. Thirty years ago it was sort of a novelty, with its lap pool and hot tub, and steam room and sauna. I didn’t care much for the steam room, but I sort of liked the sauna; I’m not sure why. That intense dry heat was kind of hard to take; you had to force yourself to sit there on the wooden bench and just stand it for a certain amount of time. Drawing that hot air into your lungs, you might feel as if you were suffocating, but you knew you should stay and bear it because somehow it was good for you.

That’s kind of what a hot flash feels like. Only without the reassurance that it might be good for you. The other night — well, it was morning, actually; 3:00 am — I woke up to an unbearable heat that was coming not from the outside but from the inside. The inside of me, that is. It was as if I were some sort of human radiator. And it didn’t stop. When I first started getting hot flashes, they reminded me of being in labor: you know, when you have a contraction and it builds to a peak and then gradually subsides after about a minute? Your average hot flash is like that, lasting altogether a couple or three minutes. Not this one that night. I just lay there and radiated for about 20 minutes, soaking my pajamas and the sheets, while I pondered the possibility of death by elevated body temperature.

And remember, here in the tropics where I live, it’s still basically summer. The thinnest cotton sheet anywhere on me, even a toe or two, feels like I’m being smothered under a down comforter.

Anyway, my doctor couldn’t really tell me how long this nifty little phase of my life is going to last. All I know is nowadays I won’t go anywhere anymore without a little fold-up fan, and tissues to mop my brow (and neck, and upper lip, and ahem, decolletage). He did suggest that the next step might be hormone replacement therapy, which sounds a bit scary to me, even though I know countless women have opted for it and lived to tell the tale. I decided to hold off for now, but the more I think about it the more I suspect it won’t be very long before I’m calling my doctor back: “Ya gotta DO something, Doc! I can’t TAKE it anymore!” Maybe a bit less desperately than that. Maybe not.

Growth(s)

You know how older people are always saying things like, “If I didn’t look in the mirror, I’d never know how old I am. I feel just the same as when I was in my 30’s.” Or that old quote from Satchel Paige: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

Good question. As I transition from my “mid-50’s” to my “late 50’s,” it’s getting to be almost a daily thing, this taking inventory of how you feel, and whether or not your physical self is going to be able to take on the day’s various challenges. Because sometimes you don’t know.

But sometimes your body speaks loud and clear, with tangible reminders as to just how old you are. You never used to get these sorts of reminders when you were younger, so at first they’re somewhat disconcerting. Like when you start to get age spots. Or growths.

I’ve had a few growths in the past couple years, and I’ll tell you, they’re not only unexpected, they’re also annoying. Like last year when I had this wart that showed up on my shin. Weird. So I went down to the CVS and bought some wart remover, which is basically a little adhesive patch, loaded with salicylic acid, which you stick right on to the wart and then leave it there. After 24 or 48 hours, whatever, you take the little sticker off and presumably the wart comes with it.

Since I just said, “presumably,” you may have guessed it didn’t work for me, and you would be right. That wart was right at home there on my shin, and not only decided to stay and hang out awhile, but also invited a friend to join it. That’s right: I now had two little warts side by side on my leg, on board for the duration.

So on my next visit to the dermatologist — and by the way, the dermatologist is someone else you’ll get rather well acquainted with in your golden(ish) years — I told him to kindly do away with my two warty friends; he was happy to oblige. With a process that involved a certain amount of local anesthesia and the smell of burning flesh. I smelled rather than saw it, because I didn’t exactly want to watch.

So now I have a nice smooth leg again (albeit with a teensy little scar), but as luck would have it, another growth. This one’s on my tongue. Which I have to say: yuck. So yesterday I met with the oral surgeon to discuss getting this latest intrusion out of my life, er, mouth. He wasn’t terribly concerned about it, more than likely just a benign fibroma, easily removed, blah blah blah, so he told me to set up an appointment to come back and give it the old permanent solution. Oh, and eventually I might want to do something about the little tiny one that’s starting to show up on the other side of my tongue.

Dude. Seriously? When does it all end? Do we just accept that senior citizenship is going to be one big carnival of growths in various places both mentionable and un? Because I kind of shudder to think where the next one(s) will show up. And how I’m going to have to deal with it/them.

This so isn’t what I thought they meant when they said, “You never stop growing.”

Sorry if this is too much information. I know it kind of is for me.