Wednesday, December 31, 2014

THE 50'S SUCK SHE SAID



 
Some time ago my sister in law began telling me “the fifties suck”. She’s nearly sixty and has nothing good to say about her fifties. I was there for my sister in laws fifties. They really did suck.
Recently, at fifty, a woman I went to high school with died of cancer. We barely knew each other. Mary was simply a kid in a small town in an Idaho high school who was kind to me, the new girl. The outsider. Teeny tiny, blonde and beautiful. She was a hellacious arm wrestler.

A week before she died I thought of her for the first time in decades. Wondering what her life had become. Her life was over. Weird.
One of my closest friends got cancer in her fifties. Diagnosed the weekend before she was scheduled to start a new job in a new town. The pink slip from the new job came six months later. In that time she’d undergone one major surgery, one less major surgery, chemo and radiation. The entirety of it left her unable to absorb nutrients or gain weight and leeched her energy. Much of her fifties was spent wondering. Wondering if the cancer would come back, if she would be employable, if she was living her life well, considering she might not live it long.
Last spring a neurologist informed me he wanted to keep an eye on my symptoms to determine if they were “indicative of something worse”. Looking slightly embarrassed he followed with “because your middle aged”. Although my friend Jerri laughed out loud when I referred to myself as middle aged. “You’re not middle aged anymore honey” she said. Like I couldn’t live to be a hundred and two.
Even if you don’t get cancer and live or get cancer and die, have your second child die, or have a neurologist want to keep an eye on you… Shit just might get real in your fifties.
Like menopause. Whether you suffer the severe symptoms or not, it’s a strange thing to know the hormone associated with being a juicy female (don’t pardon the pun) has disappeared from your system. Your skin changes, your hair starts going gray, and all the things you thought happened to other people are happening to you. An older friend of mine told me ten years ago that dying the hair on her head was one thing. Finding gray pubic hair was another level of horror altogether.
I started writing this blog because I turned fifty. Figuring it was a milestone of some sort; that there would be changes. I knew my sister in law thought it sucked. But women’s magazines would insist “the fifties can be one of the best times of your life”.
So which is it?
A year into my fifties, I’d say it’s a combination of the two. My health has fallen apart. I haven’t been free of illness more than six weeks since July. That sucks. Without a doubt. I hate every single thing about it. The lack of energy, the black circles under my eyes, the fucking up of my workouts. The workouts which are keeping my butt up where it belongs and my self-esteem semi intact. I doubt the fifties are to blame for my health though. It was just the luck of the draw. There are plenty of people in their fifties who aren’t unwell this often.
On the other hand, I’m not lonely anymore. My younger years were gut wrenchingly lonely. Not only am I surrounded by love and people I love back, but something has changed internally. I can be alone for days at a time and not feel at all lonely.
From twenty eight ish to forty something I spent a giant amount of time obsessed with whether or not I’d sleep at night. In my forties I gave in and took sleeping pills. I was uber cautious with them and never got dependent and they helped. I could write a book about insomnia and anxiety and what came first. The anxiety or the insomnia.
 In my fifties I just sleep. Beautiful, incredible sleep.
I think I sleep because I’m not scared anymore. I’m just not. Until my almost fifties I was always scared. The DSM, a tool psych professionals use to make diagnosis would call it “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”. No tangible reason to be anxious, nothing logical about it, just in general anxious. I still get anxious on planes, and boats and in a handful of other situations. But in general, the anxiety I lived with most of my life is gone.
There are dozens of blog entries I could write around each of these things: loneliness, anxiety and insomnia. But for now let’s just say the fifties don’t suck. So far, logically and like everything else in life, it’s a tradeoff. I’ve traded some of what was good about my youth for things that are good about my fifties.
I would like to keep my ass up where it belongs though.