I remember my mother during her 40s. She was working, cleaning, remodeling, raising 2 kids and 2 dogs while Dad came round on weekends (travelling salesman). And I also remember early mornings and headaches and biofeedback naps. She was having it all and set the bar unreasonably high.
What I realize looking at her life, and everyone else’s in this age group, is that we’re all in that stage of life where we’re constantly moving. Much of it is self imposed bullshit and some is not, but teasing out the must dos from shoulds and wants often feels like just another obligation.
What struck me today while talking with a friend (see, I have time for THAT) is that the constant movement at this age is a formula. Something about opportunity meets middle age divided by obligation and magnified by perspective. I know, I know. That’s not a formula.
Opportunity: This is IT. The kids love you and want to be with you. The extended family loves you and wants to be with you and the kids. The career is set, often peaking, along with income potential. You’re in the homestead you’ll probably be keeping for a long time. You’re healthy and wiser and still cognitively holding shit together. You’ve got good friends now, not just drinking buddies, and you want to see them. And you haven’t given up on dreams.
Middle Age: Chop chop. Tick Tock. That really says it all.
Obligation: Each one of those opportunities is also an obligation. Those kids have their own lives, but need all kinds of facilitation. The extended family (often 2 of them) demands time and attention and you can’t always deliver. You’re healthy, sure, but notice that now is the time you have to work on keeping it that way. That career is a constant drum beat, which sounds a lot like, “new opportunity, new obligation.” The friends go away if you don’t reply to their calls and texts. The damn house falls apart around you and don’t talk to me about weeds. And the dreams. Those bastards can be sheer torture as they ooze their urgent “do me to justify your time on the planet” message into every crack of your time.
Perspective: It’s all irrelevant and yet . . . is it? We all know that if your family is healthy and you have basic needs met, then the rest can fall away for a walk in the sunshine, a snuggle on the couch or a really nice loaf of bread with butter. But go ahead and try and make a life out of that list. I mean TAXES. Am I right?
The Answer: Please insert one here. Mine would be, “Balance,” But damn it’s difficult, especially here in the land of 40. I try and keep the long view, but, you know, some days are just IEP struggles, breast biopsy joy and Quickbooks Reconciliation woes. The dying people all say to slow down and enjoy each day. So I try to prioritize walks in the sun and lots of laughter. I also try and take a long view and put the humans (and pets) before all the other noise — noise like blogs and platitudes about how to best live your life.
Which leads to . . .
The Real Question: Seriously, how did my mother do it all so much better than me?