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  • Writer's pictureDana Webster

Bitter and Sweet

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

The Bitter

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 .......

The Sweet

All that's missing is a glass of whiskey

Warning by Jenny Joseph

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.

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