That was then… “Crumpets face inwards” …was stamped on my toaster.
How come the most mundane domestic appliance comes with instructions but midlife doesn’t? Midlife. A small but loaded word.
Look in the mirror right now. For a whole minute. Really look into your eyes. Are you the person you thought you would be? Are you the person you want to be? Am I the only one looking at my midlife reflection thinking, “Is this it?”
It can hit you with a smack or it can sneak up behind you. The catalyst that makes you realise things have irrevocably changed. You have reached midlife and there’s no going back. The boom gate is lowering!
For me it was a perfect storm. The hurricane of finding myself lost in an increasingly toxic marriage followed by divorce and the death of my mother (my father and sister were already gone), while juggling two teenage children, getting back into the workforce and dealing with spiralling blood pressure – along with the gentle poke from the god of small things. Like letting the aeroplane seat belt out longer than I ever thought possible (there must have been a very, very small child sitting in the seat before me).
And seeing a multi-chinned Shar Pei photo of myself. And having the words “dementia” light up, the size of the Hollywood sign, every time I forgot something. And being reduced to tears by the Christian the lion YouTube video. And becoming a foul-mouthed harridan in traffic. And then there’s the hair thing. Chewbacca on a good day.
Grey hair doubling as fuse wire. And not just on my head. In my eyebrows, on my chin. Marvellous. I have become The Bearded Lady.
But this is irrelevant as I am officially invisible. A whole generation of midlife women wearing Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. (My personal best is being ignored by five, (five!), shop assistants at one counter in a Sydney department store.) Who’d have thought? Midlife has crept up on me like a body snatcher. Midlife at the oasis. I watch the top of my arms taking on a life of their own as I wave goodbye. A fruit bat in drag. Bits keep moving after I’ve stopped. I hear the siren call of elastic waists, of Birkenstocks, bifocals, naps and Crocs. But I still feel thirty inside. I need to find a way out and back to myself.
Shifting from automatic to manual
We live the first part of our lives on automatic. Childhood, university, job, marriage and children all march in line like soldiers. This was vividly illustrated at my daughter’s school’s open day when she was seven. The children had to write the story of their lives. One of them caught my eye. It went along the lines of “I‘ll go to school, then to university, get married, have children, then die.” Super.
So I guess we’re in that sliver of time between having children and dying! Better make the most of it then, and I’m not sure if doing it on “automatic” will cut it. If the first half of our lives is dictated to us, the beauty of the second half is that it is in our hands. To use a plane analogy, we finally get to have first dibs at the oxygen mask, putting ourselves first. We are in control of our destiny, not the other way round.
We are the conductors, the ringmasters, the captains of our ship. The past is irrelevant and I just don’t see the point of pulling at the threads of it. Throw the bad stuff in the river, like Winnie the Pooh and his friends did with their Pooh sticks and watch them float away.