Funny how middle age creeps up on you and before you know it you are on the other side of that line. Yet, far from recoiling in horror from the whole ageing process, I find I am embracing it and welcoming the transition. I remember when I was younger how old I thought people in their twenties were. Then as I grew older myself the boundaries were extended, some people I meet are somehow old before their time whilst others seem to be forever youthful. I have come to the conclusion that you are literally only as old as you allow yourself to feel, it is a case of finding the right mindset.
But what is middle age? middleage.org talks about how to decide about when it begins. They say in their definition essay about this subject that middle age is a situation and not a number, which I think I agree with.
I read an article which got my back up a little called "11 mistakes women make in middle age" and this is a response to that particular article. I don't consider getting older a drag or that middle age as a period of our life fraught with tension. I can assure you my younger life was equally fraught in different ways and so I have found the older I become the more at peace I am finding myself dealing with my life, challenges and situation. Also, this article says middle age is a move into frumpy town, which is a ridiculous statement, in my opinion. So what are these "mistakes" the article says we are all making?
- Not realising we need to change
- Not spending enough on your clothes
- Comparing yourself to you in your 20's
- Skipping Exercise
- Not getting enough sleep.
- Ignoring your teeth
- Overdoing anti ageing efforts
- Thinking there are "hair" rules
- Using the wrong make-up
- Wearing the wrong bra
- Settling for a boring sex life.
Now, I need to clarify, not all of this article wound me up ~ there are some valid points too. So I shall go through each point in turn.
"Not realising we need to change" ~ okay so some women wear the same make-up and clothes as when they were younger, but who is anyone to say this is wrong? I still wear jeans and trainers now as I did in my youth, I don't wear make-up so can't really pass comment on that. My opinion is that I dress for my own comfort, practicality and budget. I know some people (family included) despair at my penchant for man jumpers, comfy boots or trainers and jeans and refusal to dress in skirts, cardigans and smart boots to look more feminine. I choose to dress this way because I am happy to, I know that the jumpers are often shapeless but I don't care. I don't dress to impress other people ~ why should I? If there are special occasions then yes, I make an effort, more to please those around me than myself. But for everyday, forget it. In my humble opinion life is for living, for doing and not worrying about what other people think of what I am wearing, to be honest, I don't care.
Which follows on to "not spending enough on your clothes" really? I couldn't care less about spanx, lycra panels and butt boosting jeans. If they are in the sale then great why not try them on and see how you feel about wearing them but really, why should I squeeze and pin myself into panelled, spanx clothing just to make myself look more appealing to others? It feels to me reading this that to be larger is a social faux pas, so we must haul it in and try and confine it. Why? People come in all different shapes and sizes and so why not celebrate what you have. I can't bear being hemmed in by my clothes, it makes me feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I agree that buying good quality, well cut clothes is more expensive and for special occasions then yes, perhaps a worthwhile purchase. However, for everyday purposes, wear what you feel comfortable in and don't feel you have to conform just to please others, so long as you are happy and comfortable in your own choices then don't worry.
"Comparing yourself to you in your 20's" ~ nope, I don't do that. I look back at photos of myself and see my journey so far, I celebrate the changes and sometimes have a good laugh too at some of my hair style choices and fashion faux pas. I disagree that "few people look as attractive in middle age as they did in their younger years" I think that people grow into themselves, they evolve and change but not in a negative way. I celebrate the grey/white hairs, the lines appearing and the stretch marks. It shows I have lived and continue to do so. I think the goal is not to look as good as you can but do agree to be as healthy as you can. Focusing on health and well-being is great advice but not on focusing on looks, you are what you are, make peace with that.
"Skipping Exercise" I think health is very important to focus on for us at all ages and that yes it is a consideration so that you don't become a vegetative couch potato. But I believe that you should only exercise within your limits, whether it be yoga, running, gym work, swimming or gentle regular walking and stretches. Too much exercise can be a negative, as with everything, it is finding a balance, to be doing it for the right reasons and properly.
"Not getting enough sleep" ~ I'm with them on this one! Oh, I dream of having a regular good nights sleep but suffering from insomnia, that just ain't gonna happen! BUT if you are lucky and can sleep, then I actually agree fully with this point ~ get your kip and try not to burn the candle at both ends.
"Ignoring your teeth" Really? Does this need addressing at middle age? Surely we all should be taught at a tender young age how to maintain dental hygiene and this should just be part and parcel of everyday life for us all along with 6 monthly dental health checks with our dentist. Agreed that coffee and wine guzzling along with smoking habits can all add to yellowing and staining of the teeth, but those are choices you make ~ so if you worry about that then address what you put into your mouth!
"Overdoing anti ageing efforts" ~ this raised a smile, who is to judge you if you choose to have surgery or botox? Horses for courses, do what makes you feel better but only if that is what you want to do for yourself, don't ever try and change yourself from someone else, that will never make you happy. I really don't care about wrinkles, greying hair and thickening waistline. Instead I celebrate still being here, that my ageing body is still allowing me to participate in life, the wrinkles, grey hairs, stretch marks, extra pounds are all signs that I have lived, I am proud of them, they are marks of my ongoing journey and I most definitely don't want to go back to being like I was as a teen or even in my twenties or thirties ~ each decade marks a new chapter of my life ~ I embrace it.
"Thinking there are "hair" rules" ~ they are right here, no rules apply. Have your hair the cut, colour and length you like. Heck, go rainbow if that's what floats your boat ~ life is too short to worry about what others think and have regrets about no doing something because others may not like it. Do what you want and what makes you feel good ~ I find how I wear my hair changes my mood. I love changing the colour if the mood takes me, cutting it very short or leaving it to grow. I go with whatever I feel at the time, currently I am growing out my very short hair into less short hair and out of curiosity I have dyed it to the colour of my roots and watching excitedly as the white & grey roots start to grow through. I may decide to dye it bright green in a few months times, who knows? But I will do it if I want to when I want to and for no other reason than that.
"Using the wrong make-up" ~ well, I can't comment on that seeing as I don't tend to wear make-up. However, if you have a look that you feel marks who you are then who am I to pass judgement. The girls did give me a make-over a few days ago as they were itching to try it on me, I appreciated them trying but I didn't feel like me with it on and so after having a few photos with it on I then removed it. I don't mind the occasional eye-liner and lip gloss but that's about my limit as I don't like the sensation of foundation or powder on my skin and the same goes for eye-shadows too.
"Wearing the wrong bra" ~ I don't think this is confined to any particular age, I see women walking around in bras which are far too small and can divide the breasts to give the four boob effect, whilst others have them hiked up right under their chin as if they are some deadly weapons ready to ping out and take an eye out if you get too close. Some women have loose bras meaning that their boobs hit their waistline, others migrate round the sides towards their back. Purely for comfort rather than style I think this is important and I myself go and also take my girls to be fitted each time new bras are needed, depending on weight and growth spurts the breasts can fluctuate in size quite dramatically. I don't know about you but I am deeply saddened that when I lose any weight the first place it drops from are my breasts, I mean honestly, life has to play these tricks ~ I'd much rather have the weight go from my thighs and stay on my chest thank you very much - but hey ho!
"Settling for a boring sex life" ~ Sex should be for fun and enjoyment, this applies to all ages, the sex of your older years may not be as gymnastic as that of your youth but I agree, young doesn't equal sexy. Feeling confident in your own body and knowing what you want can make you much sexier. Just go for it (be stay safe!).
So, middle age how do you perceive it, good, bad, indifferent?
Some days I feel ancient, like I am trapped inside the body of a frail, infirm 90 year old lady, with the aches and pains, lack of energy and brain power to match. These are the days I think back to my younger, fitter, agile self and lament my bodies misbehaviour. Other days I am positively full of energy, brimming with laughter, ready to explode into hysterics at the slightest provocation, I feel light as if I am pumped full of air and not a care in the world and in the mood to create childish mischief. I feel youthful and carefree, almost to the point of forgetting how many years I have lived. It is definitely, for me, a case of mind over matter. If I am melancholy I feel older, greyer, diminished somehow. When I am in a positive frame of mind I feel lighter, happier, more youthful ~ I somehow imagine when I look in the mirror the sparkly eyed, fresh faced youthful me will be reflected. Yet when I see the reflection spookily similar to my mothers looking back at me instead of feeling gloomy I find it doesn't phase me. Instead I stop, smile back at my reflection and remember my mum, how much she loved and lived life to the full. Her laughter, her sense of fun, her infectious way of drawing you into being part of it too. I feel glad to have that link to her, glad that I look so much like her and feel a connection via my reflection to that lost part of my life and it brings me comfort not pain.
I suppose though, being honest there are some negatives to growing older ~ these can't be avoided forever. I have noticed over the years that my eyesight is not as good as it was, every year when I attend my free annual eye health check (parent with Glaucoma) I am given a new stronger prescription for my glasses. I cannot read any food packaging label or medication information on those small bottles without my glasses ~ in fact any fine print is just a blur and regular words on screen or books require my glasses to be brought into focus. I find my energy is not as abundant and my health as robust as it once was, I need to rest more, take care of myself and plan my day. BUT with this comes a clarity and appreciation for the smaller things in life, I notice the beauty of my surroundings, the joy of the seasons, the sounds and smells of life around me. Things that passed my by in my youth, were taken for granted and not appreciated are now noted by my older self.
I am inexplicably thrilled at the sight of emerging white hairs coming through in my roots now I have stopped dying my hair. I can't wait for it to grow longer so that I can see more clearly how many I have, it's a stamp of my age, of having come this far and how lucky I am to still be here. I may dye it in the future but then again I may not. For now though I am having too much fun looking for them and celebrating each new addition.
Lifes journey isn't an easy one, some people are luckier than others. Some have more than their fair share of trauma, ill health, bad luck and hardship whilst others seem to be blessed with luck, fortune and good health. I have friends and family who have been through so much and life seems to enjoy repeatedly kicking them when they are down, others seem to sail above it untouched. Why is that?
Perhaps all is not what it may seem ~ those who sail above may be dealing with hidden traumas unknown to others. Those who are suffering may also be in receipt of love and compassion that their so called luckier counterparts have never received. I choose to always seek the silver lining to every dark moment, find the lesson that is there for us to learn and do what I can to move through it until brighter times can be found again.
My life has been a tumultuous journey, I have made many mistakes but refuse to regret them because it is through making those mistakes that I was able to learn and grow. I think the hardest challenge I am facing is parenthood. Our children are hugely loved but there is no guidebook to how to bring up your off-spring and navigate the humps in the road fate keeps putting in our way. I am very sad that the girls are having to live with chronic illness plus mental issues and how it has affected their lives. I wish they could have had the carefree healthy childhood I was privileged to have been given. Life has its own design, I haven't been allowed to participate in its planning but hope that both myself and Dave, together, are doing the best we possibly can with the challenges we are being given. I am so hugely proud of the girls, how they take on these challenges, they are mature beyond their years, they know isolation, pain, loss, sadness and many limitations but it is helping them to grow into amazing young women with empathy for others, wisdom and strength to face the next hurdle and teaching us as their parents so much in return.
So, for me middle age is just a phase within my lifes journey, if I look back I realise I have achieved so much already. I am only 45 years into this journey and hope that fate allows me many more years to explore what else it has to offer me. I have plans, dreams and hopes I wish to see to fruition. I hope I am blessed with so much more but because no-one knows when their journey is going to end I feel very strongly that it is important to seize each and every day, every moment and relish it, make the most of every opportunity offered to you and take risks. Stop worrying about what other people think of you, accept yourself, learn to love yourself and do what feeds your soul. Don't ever get to a point where you stop and look back at your life with regret, wishing you had made other choices, accepted challenges. I now say no if I don't want to do something and don't feel guilty about it. I have stopped trying to please others all the time, let's face it, some people no matter what you do simply can't be pleased.
It may be used frequently all over the internet, on cute inspirational pictures which are often shared, but perhaps that's because it's true. If there are any rules to follow in this life then just consider these three.
- Live in the moment, enjoy what you have, don't covet what others have.
- Love madly, passionately, widely. Love your friends, family, strangers, animals, the planet - appreciate what is around you.
- Laugh as much as you can, take every drop of joy and happiness that you can. When I am sad I purposely sit and make myself laugh out loud, it starts as being forced and before you know it you are genuinely laughing and boy does it make you feel better too.
Happy travels folks.