At some point, every person looks to the left and the right of the number line and plots their current position. Some feel there is much more life to live. Others are tired and ready to go home. Then there are those right in the middle–their minds squatting on the left of the line.
That was me. I was a squatter. I lived in a house my name wasn’t on, and I had no idea when the Sheriff would come knocking to evict me. I can only imagine all of my things strewn across the lawn, about 90% of them sensible cardigans and flats. The other 10% packed haphazardly in a too-large tote bag parading as a purse. When did that happen? Where are my heels? Where are my ripped jeans and short skirts? I would look at the lawn in shock.
He/She would tell me I don’t belong or have worn out my welcome. “This place,” the Sheriff would say, padlocking the door, “doesn’t belong to you, Miss. It is time to move along.” I would stand there, too shocked to cry. Move along? But to where I scream clearly in crisis. Where?! Shrugging, he/she would say, “Back to 40, ma’am.”
TBH, I have been super lost these last 3 years. Actually, downright depressed. At one point, I was drowning myself in Nothing Bundt Cake and murder porn, but after about the fifth time seeing the same girl at the bakery, I realized the lack of eye contact wasn’t because she was shy. She recognized drowning when she saw it….a sad and sorry at that.
I didn’t think it would happen to me, you know? Mid-life what? Please. I know me. I love me. I’m good. But after 3 years of new aches, exhaustion, and loathing the thought of one more dish/menu plan/bill to pay/person, I realized mid-life was creeping and dying salt and pepper hair purple wasn’t going to fix it.
I thought quitting my job would help. The purple hair might have been a good step, albeit apparently dying gray hair is not recommended (le sigh). Moving to another state was an option. Being a beach bum and seeking the real meaning of life was a thing. I even bought a pair of shorts, but the thought of anything without elastic is torture, soooo…nope. I spent hundreds of dollars in Ulta on creams, scrubs, conditioners, and face paint, but I didn’t find much under that rock either. The only thing changing was my age…and my attitude. Well…and perhaps my chin hair (I now have 3 gray ones–Yay).
God probably got tired of the ambling and ridiculousness, so He shut it down, locked it down. “Cut it out,” He said as I stood at the table, burning from everywhere. Apparently, no one else was hot (le sigh…again). There were signs of 40 along the way–the radio dial staying on classic R&B stations and then morphing into talk radio, always finding the words “back when I was…” or “you young people…” or (the worst yet) “this is music?” spilling out of my mouth with ease, and, daggumit…not being able to read small letters (pill bottles are the devil). But staring at my amused GYN, praying His “cut it out” moment wasn’t what I thought it was, shake her head and say, “Yea…it sounds like you are starting the next phase, girl,” cemented it. F$&#.
I came to terms with it, along with all the other stuff. My hair would stay gray, one margarita was enough, and the aches were what they were. Slowly but surely, I came to 43, even if a part of me was still hanging on to 23. I sat at the table and watched as the 19-year-old turned 20–thin, beautiful, vibrant–laughed and joked with the other 20-somethings in their far-off land just feet away. This place, I thought, looking around at the restaurant of the new 20-something’s choice, is for young people…and I am not a young people.
For the last 1,000 days (give or take) I have been searching for 40. I have been searching for a sort of elegant wisdom–an Oprah ah-ha moment if you will. It came slowly. It came with hot flashes and a crotchety attitude (‘Mommy, can you not make your eyebrows look mad?’). It came with stubborn gray chin hair and a little cellulite. It came with itchy c-section scars and blurry sight. It came, sitting at the end of a table practically on fire, mixing raw meats and thinking more of salmonella and catching on fire and less of the adventure. It came without bows, boxes, or bags. 40 came…I found it.
I gathered my sensible dresses and cardigans off the lawn, folded them neatly, swung my too large tote purse over my shoulder, and moved along. Maybe now that I have found 40, I can settle in and start having some fun. Skinny dipping, anyone?