Bitter and Sweet
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Lately, I've been feeling my age. Middle age. Upper middle age? I've calculated that if I live to around the average ages of my mother, her mother, and her mother's mother, I have about 28 years left. The shocking clarity of seeing that number in bold print felt, at first, like a punch to the gut. Most of my life is behind me; what’s ahead is finite. But I’ve had some time to (sort of) come to peace with it which led me to a shift in perspective about aging:
From now on, it’s all about quality over quantity
When I was in my 30s and 40s and knee deep in raising children, working an office job, continuing my education, and managing a declining relationship, the most I dared hope for was ten minutes to myself. So, when I read, vaguely, about this thing called the Empty Nest Syndrome, I had to shake my head.
My internal monologue (okay, it was really muttering under my breath) went something like this: “I’m sorry … you have too much time to yourself? You find the silence of a child-absent house unnerving? Let me see if I understand this – after waking up in the morning whenever you like, you get to make your way to and around your kitchen free of insistent little voices demanding more milk in her Cheerios, asking have you seen his gym uniform, and finding a due last week permission form waved in your face. You get to make a cup of coffee AND sit down to savour it with the morning paper while it’s still hot.
I had repressed, mad envy for those people.
Which is not to say I would have had it any other way. Now that my children are grown and out of the house, I miss them. And there really are a whole lot of hours to fill now. Mostly, what I am noticing is that my time is just that – mine. I’m not really responsible for anyone any more other than myself. It is the one thing, above all, that I longed for throughout the chaos years. And now that I’ve got it, the question is, what to do with it.
Which leads me to .......
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.