Today’s blog is about the mid-forties which are, from what I can tell, the middle school of mid-life. Replace zits with cysts, braces with dental implants, and school dances with school auctions and there you have it. Middle schoolers get callbacks for the school play; forty-somethingers get callbacks for mammograms. Middle schoolers obsess over their hair color; we obsess over our hair color.
But the forties don’t stop there! Weird medical things start happening that doctors have no cure for, like giant squawking hiccups, or an allergy to coffee, or your right nostril deciding to always have a tiny something peeking out of. The therapists of our 30s start retiring and we get new ones that are younger than us and don’t understand why we keep wanting to talk about chin hair.
By the forties, our kids’ problems are bigger than band-aids and we’ve already been to all the fancy restaurants.
And then there’s the thing that happens at the end of the forties.
Fifty looms ahead, dark and heavy and shapeless—like that thing from Neverending Story that freaked us out of our high tops in the 80s.
(Perhaps all Atreyu had been running from was a premature midlife crisis?)
Fifty is a number that makes you look back and evaluate whether you accomplished everything your teachers said you had potential for. The number fifty is coming, and it wants to see your work.
The OCD Workbook 2.0 I’m reading says to live in the present. Anxiety and worry only apply to the future. It’s when we think about things that could happen that we feel anxious. The solution is easy: Stop thinking about the future.
(I’ll wait for the laughter to die down.)
For those of us who are always balancing on our tippy-toes, trying to see a little farther, it’s impossible not to think about the future. But maybe we could look ahead a little less often. Maybe, optimistically, a lot less?
So when I was cooking dinner the other night I took a moment to enjoy the rhythm of the chopping, the sizzle of the butter, the smell of chicken browning in the pan. I soaked up the feeling of my boys gathered at the dinner table, complaining good-naturedly because Kevin put the soccer channel on in Spanish again. I lived in the moment and mmmm. It was better even than the smell of chicken Parm.
I did it! I thought. I’m doing it!
Then I accidentally peeked ahead to the future where it’s just me and Kevin at the table for dinner, alone night after night after night. The future where this kind of cooking and gathering and teasing only happens on holidays.
Oh great, here we go again, I thought.
But we didn’t! We didn’t go again, because my thoughts took a different turn. Instead of being saddened that the good times will end some day, I was happied* by the thought that I get to have a holiday every day for a very long time. Boom, I was back in the moment, where the boys were now seeing who could eat the most pistachios in a minute and Kevin was asking, “Donde esta la biblioteca?”
Maybe if I can’t stop looking to the future, I can at get better at bringing myself back to the now. Or I can hang onto the happy thoughts about the future and toss the sad ones away instead of latching onto them like it will save me sadness in the future if I go through it all now.
Wait, where am I? What was this post supposed about? What was my point? (This is what happens when I don’t think about the future.)
So the 40s are awkward.
So 50 is coming.
WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Italian wedding soup
Hard dough bread
Lemon garlic beans
Chocolate cake a la mode
*If saddened gets to be a verb, then happied should be one too.