This is a post about Middle Age. Will it end with despair and defeat and resignation, or will it end with a renewed sense of purpose and a burst of energy and maybe a red hat? At this point, not even I know that.
The other day, Stretch (now almost 17) said to me, out of nowhere, in the car, “You know, Mom–you’ve literally lived more than half your life.”
“I’m just saying. You’ve already lived longer than you have left to live. I’m not trying to be mean. I’m just saying. It’s literally true.”
(Yeah, if I’m fortunate enough to live to be 92, kid. Literally.)
I suppose she’s right, though I’ve never once thought about this. I’m not usually given to existential thoughts. The Passage of Time, how it flies? Yes. I get pretty fascinated by that, as it pertains to other people, mostly my children. But my own mortality and the march toward it? Never. But she’s right, even if it did come from a place of smug, youthful ignorance that I remember all too well.
It’s a pause between the grueling, thrilling, nail-biting, sometimes up by ten and sometimes doomed, first half, and the unknown second half. It’s a pause for some entertainment, some reflection. A pause for an inhale, a long drink of water, a gathering of strength, a making of a plan. It’s a Halftime speech from one of a small number of coaches whom I’ve enlisted to support me in my efforts–a Board of Directors who have my back and support and push me as needed. It’s a pep rally, fueled by a gang of fabulous cheerleaders who I call friends and at whose pep rallies I will cheer like crazy.
I played much of the first half wearing a Cloak of Invincibility. Because no way would anything bad ever happen to me or mine. Don’t be ridiculous, everyone was going to be just fine. After a few horrible losses, this cloak wore thin, and after having children, I became hyper-aware of so many of the possible ways harm can come to my loved ones. Now, I get emails from my mother, letting me know what new heath issue I might be at risk for (“I’m a diabetic now. As you know, diabetes runs in families. Also, I have an eye condition that can cause blindness, and you have a 50/50 chance of getting it. Have a nice day!”). And I text my younger brother and tell him (as if he hasn’t received the same email) that he is at risk, and while call it The Diabeetus and send him a photo of Wilfred Brimley, I’m also very serious, because I remember that there was that one cousin or god-person, whose brother dropped dead of a heart attack at 42 years old.
I played too much of the first half on the bench. Watching the action, contemplating the action, dabbling in the action, but not being all in. Smart, but also stupid. Not looking, or being prompted to look, at the bigger picture. I squandered time, resources, talent, opportunities, advantages. I could have finished the first half up by a lot more than I did. If I was keeping score.
I played most of the first half with a pretty good helmet and pads, and I’ve needed them. I’ve been able to take a lot of hits, some of them just the basic stuff of life and some of them flagrant fouls that go way beyond an illegal hit or a (God forbid) deflated ball. I’ve been resilient and stubbornly optimistic, and when I haven’t, the black hole has at least been temporary.
I played the first half in a couple of different positions, shifting every few years to accommodate. I’ve played offense and defense, and flipped between the two at a moment’s notice. The latter part of the first half was all about supporting others. Schlepping the kids to school, soccer, baseball, basketball, track, more soccer. Some more soccer. Managing and micromanaging and backing off, accepting things at face value and being a private investigator. Going from the preschool to the playground to the kitchen, being the Mom, the whole Mom and nothing but the Mom. Working, not working, pursuing things I cared about when I could, around the edges.
The first half was alternately brief and endless, self-absorbed and selfless, painful and blissful, apathetic and passionate. If I could, I’d tell my young self not to sweat it–but also that you only get to do this once, so don’t fuck it up. Most importantly, don’t just let it go by, realizing only too late that it’s half over. And that last part would fall on deaf ears.
Let the Halftime Show begin. There will be music. There will be dancing. There will be shenanigans. There might be a wardrobe malfunction. There will be a coaching staff, delivering much needed words. There will be renewed purpose and grit and passion. There will be reminders that I know how to fight like a gladiator and that I’ve got this.
And Reader, if you see me in public wearing a red hat, please punch me. That is not permission, that is a request.