As we sat around Friday night, discussing constipation, spinning vinyl, and indulging in salty snacks in the form of Velveeta and such, I knew we had finally made it…that point in life we hear about when we are young…promised to be full of excitement, chaos, and dramatic decisions. We are here. It’s midlife. And it’s all true. There have been short bursts of those promises of excitement, chaos, and dramatic decisions…but mostly in the form of what snacks we should eat.
Nostalgia and Good Friends
If there is one thing lockdown has made me appreciate, it is good friends who love to just “hang.” Let’s face it – there aren’t many other choices right now except hanging out on a Friday night. Personally, when this all passes, it will now be my new choice. I am not hanging up my dancing shoes just yet, but I have found a new appreciation for just sitting around with like minded people, discussing life. (even if it’s constipation)
I looked across the table at my dear friend – the one who helped me get through some tough, confusing times, just by being there. We ate, drank, and spent way too much money numbing our early divorce pains. Now here we were – all grown up. I asked him, “Did you ever think we’d be sitting around discussing bowel movements?” He just laughed and smiled in a way that let me know…he’s very happy to finally feel some normalcy in life.
I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw the stack of nostalgia on the shelf of my friend’s beautiful, vintage style buffet. It only seemed appropriate to ask, “Do you have a record player?” I did fail to ask, “May I sit on your floor and dig through all of your records…squeal with joy at each one I recognize…and possibly smell them?” (remember the smell of an album cover?) But, alas, there I was rummaging through their albums.
Anne Murray brought me back to sitting right next to what I remember to be a really big speaker in the living room of my childhood home. I was a fan of whatever mom was a fan of. I grew up on Barry Manilow, Anne Murray, and old country. As time went on, and I turned my adoration toward my cool older brother, I tried out tougher emotions through Air Supply, Loverboy, and Foreigner.
One thing led to another and suddenly we were talking about the good ‘ol days of rotary phones, tape recorders, and no screens. Like I said, we made it. We are Gen X, and we are professional middle agers. We’ve got it down – from pairing wine with a fine Velveeta dip, to complaining about technology – we are portraying our new role quite well.
It isn’t all about reminiscing. Middle age is a time of self discovery – whether we want it or not – a sudden awareness of who we are or who we used to be seems to thrust itself upon us without permission. We can either stay in the confusing panic it often sends us into somewhere around our 40th birthday…or we can take that panic and start fighting. Fighting for who we lost, should she need to return, or fighting for that person we dreamt we would be. That fight makes us strong.
If we are lucky, as we near the end of our 40s, and 50 begins looming, we end up in a comfortable place. Not comfortable in a boring way, but comfortable in an understanding sort of way. Not only do we finally understand what makes us tick and what our boundaries are, but we hopefully have gained an appreciation for the really good stuff in life…stuff like a night of laughter with friends, the sweet emotions of old songs, a great meal, a stolen hour with an excellent book, or time with our family.
Yes, coming to the end of my 40s is weird. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s a little shocking. Except for the aching joints now and then, I still feel like I am 20. However, I really quite simply, like it. I love this age. I even love my laugh lines – because ladies, that’s what they are – signs of laughter. I won’t be erasing them, and if anyone doesn’t like it, I won’t care. Losing concern for how others judge you is another privilege of age.
This is Us
So I guess this is us now. We will continue gathering with friends, talking like silly middle aged people, and reminiscing about the good ‘ol days. We will celebrate goals and dreams fulfilled, and cry over love and lives lost. As long as we can, we will be there for each other. If life has taught us one thing, it goes by quickly and anything can be around the corner.
If we are blessed enough to carry on for several more decades, we will most likely look back and laugh at how we thought we knew it all, ten or twenty years ago. Maybe we will miss that fight we had to fight to get where we are. But I imagine, most likely we will happily settle into lives of gratitude. With greater age comes greater wisdom and appreciation. That’s beautiful – as long as we can still eat Velveeta.