With a 50th birthday comes a colonoscopy. The medical community has found a way to mark your entrance into middle age with a bang. I don’t care what anyone says, it is awful. All of it. Not one part about it is not terrible.
Now that that is out of the way...
I feel like I have aged exponentially since my birthday in November. Like aging has taken on new meaning. Like aging has sped up. It isn’t that I hurt more or can do less but I notice it in my face. My skin sags in ways that it didn’t before. The elasticity leaving me wanting for my youth.
It is hard to look in the mirror everyday and see yourself slipping away. The younger more vibrant person becoming more of your past and this new, saggier person in her stead. It is not easy to accept the downward decline.
I know there are things to be done about it all. The medical intervention, the creams, the lotions and potions. But none of them can stop time. They can only delay the inevitable.
I know from watching others age, it only gets worse. There is less and less your body and mind can withstand and more and more it will fail. It is again inevitable but still hard to accept.
It seems like this middle part of life asks a lot of us. We stand in the middle of birth and death. Watching with each passing day, our own vitality slip. Some of us move along that path more quickly than others but move we all do.
For me, standing in the middle is an irritant. I resent the medical procedures. The time it takes to care for myself. The delay in the bounce back. I know it can and will be so much worse...That is not comforting at all.
But I don’t think it is about comfort anymore. I think that is a luxury of youth. We are able to live our lives in relative comfort with an arrogance that only youth can possess. In these middle years, we are faced with the discomfort of our minds no longer being able to project a positive spin on mortality. It is no longer something that happens to others, it is what is happening to us and we can, try as we may, no longer avoid the signs.
There are all sorts of mental gymnastics that one can do to delude oneself into thinking that you will be the exception to aging:
deny your actual age
creams, lotions and potions
get a younger, hotter partner
buy a sports car
have another baby with the younger, hotter partner
But those are all just bandaids. They cover up the issue from view. Hide it until the day arrives when you can no longer hide it anymore. One colonoscopy prep outta do the trick...
In middle age, we all get to decide how we are going to navigate the slowing down, the sagging, the effects of gravity. We all get to decided if it a battle or an exercise in acceptance. I think we all do both in varying degrees. The mental and physical struggles becoming more real and less theoretical by the day.
For me, I am working on acceptance while I struggle. It is not easy to watch yourself slip. Even when you have watched your friends and loved ones pass through all the same stations. Somehow you don’t really believe it will happen to you. But it happens to all of us lucky enough to live this long.
So on this most auspicious day, I am going to be grateful for the invasive medical procedure. I am going to think positive thoughts about my life. I am going to focus on all the things that I have gotten to do, all the ways in which despite years of abuse, my body and mind are still relatively in tact. I will be grateful for my journey as only one who is forced to contemplate the end can be. I am going to walk forward into this next chapter, embracing it for all it has to offer. I am going to try really hard not to engage in all the middle age methods of denial. Because youth is not the glory of life, it is only one phase. Seeing it as the crown jewel of our existence seems oddly short sighted since there is no way to reclaim it or re-experience it.
As with all things, there is some good and bad to all parts of life regardless of where we find ourselves on the continuum. Seems like my best use of my time is to be grateful for all that I have, had, and all that will come. Being present seems like the best use of my middle aged time even if today, I have to be present for something that is highly suspect and avoidable. It is my life after all, I get to choose how I live it. And that is comforting because it has always been this way, and will always be this way. My life, I get to live it like each day will be my last or carelessly like I have an endless supply of life. The choice has always been and will forever be mine. Today, I choose an invasive medical procedure designed to help me make it to old age. Despite the prep, the inconvenience and laughter, I accept this is my lot here in middle age.