Unfamiliar

feature image by Jez Timms on unsplash

My friend and I were walking our dogs one morning when we started talking about what it means to be in our forties. We laughed about the subtle changes our bodies are going through and the unexpected aches that only present themselves in the winter. I joked about my new reading glasses and she about the various oils she now rubs on different parts of her body.

We weren’t bitter or longing for our youth. Truth be told, we admitted to finally liking the skin we’re in. We feel more settled into our personalities while at the same time want to remain open to many of life’s lessons. But there was a moment when we fell silent, lost in our own thoughts about the irony of aging. Because it is ironic: by the time you finally learn to cherish those unique traits that make you you, and you finally have the confidence to show the world who you truly are, everything about you begins to change. Involuntarily.

We can will a lot of things into existence by dogged determination, but aging happens. Regardless.

Sometimes, I feel like the person staring back at me in the mirror is new. Like, perhaps, I’ve seen her only in passing. It’s not the lines or the odd gray hairs that feel so unfamiliar, it’s how I have begun to relate to people and the perspective shift I find myself having now that I’m officially “middle aged”.

image by Megan te Boekhorst on unsplash

For example, my relationship with sleep has always been a tenuous one since having children, but now, even when a kid isn’t waking me, I find myself up at 3am for no reason at all.

It’s a tricky thing to try to resolve, because if you stress about it, you make it worse, so I often find myself wondering what to do? The meditation app, which used to guide me gently back to sleep, no longer works. I grab The Scarlet Pimpernel off my bedside table, but reading seems to wake me even more. During this, my mind is quietly calculating the number of hours before my alarm goes off and I have to wake up “for good”. Sure, I eventually fall back asleep, but I awake tired and a bit anxious about my lack of quality sleep.

I’ve read this is quite common at my stage of life and it will most assuredly worsen as I grow older, which has left me feeling a bit confused and somewhat frustrated. The articles have logically explained why this happens to women my age (decrease in certain hormones), but I am still left somewhat flummoxed about the importance (or lack therefore) of what I want in all of this.

It’s not that I mind aging, it’s just the lack of say I have in it.

My husband made a joke and said that perhaps women wake up in the middle of the night more frequently at this time in our lives because we are nearing the end of our fertility and want to “have one more go” before it’s all over.

I didn’t know how to explain to him that he couldn’t be more wrong. The thought of being pregnant again causes tears to form. It’s not that I don’t love my children—obviously I love them more than anything—but the fact remains I don’t want to have to start a l l… o v e r… a g a i n. And “starting” for a woman isn’t the moment they’re born. “Starting” is the moment of inception.

Now, what I want is

Peace.

Quiet.

Patience.

When I was younger, I valued intellect and initiative. Now, kindness and wisdom mean more to me.

I want to be surrounded by other women who are along the same leg of their life’s journey as I.

My definition of friendship has even changed. No longer is it all about people who like the same things, but now it includes women who seek to understand, who don’t feel the need to prove their worthiness, and who are interested in building one another up instead of watching them come apart.

image by Shamim Nakhaei on unsplash

Some days, so much of my everyday life can seem so unfamiliar that for a moment, I feel stuck, unsure of where to go and what to do next. But then, after a little while, I remember to exhale and take that all-important, single step forward. Into the unknown.

image by William Daigneaut on unsplash

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