My husband and I settled in for a Saturday night movie at home, some sci-fi flick that had received good reviews. Within two minutes of the movie starting, I grabbed the remote and hit the button to turn on the closed captioning.
"Thanks, Maw," my husband said.
"I couldn't understand, could you?" He nodded his agreement and smiled.
"We're old, aren't we?" He shrugged and sipped his beer. Old didn't matter at this moment, in the cozy comfort of our nice home, on our nice couch, with our hopefully nice movie.
Old mattered a lot, just one day earlier. We were at an amusement park with our kids, riding roller coaster after roller coaster. We were up for it. We're cool. We like speed. But then came the final coaster of the night, an enormous, wooden, rickety contraption that would have been all the rage when I was growing up in the 1970s.
Thirty seconds into the ride, my husband and I became those people. Our initial "Aaagggh!" was quickly reduced to "UghohGodohGodNoNoNo!" In an interminable two minutes, I learned the noises we would make if we were on the receiving end of a back alley beat down. The family photo with Santa that I had tucked between my knees flew away, as I grunted and groaned, my teeth and bones rattling. The ride ended and we looked at each other, traumatized. I was near tears.
"That ride is going to get them sued," I huffed on the way to the car.
I have enough self awareness to recognize these are NOT the sorts of things uttered by so-called young people. There is young, like my children, and there is young, like the 30-year-olds who populate my newsroom.
When you're 30, you're the star of your life, the universe revolving around you for your viewing pleasure. You possess healthy levels of self-absorption. Life is about the next job, who you're going to love, friends or couples you click with, where you're going to eat.
Flash forward a decade or two and you're knee deep in marriage and children and mortgages. You're no longer the star of your life. You're more like an extra. It's about everyone BUT you. You try to master selflessness, sacrifice, compromise. You fail and keep trying.
It's a hot mess, your life, but you're doing it. You're the master of your domain!
Then, you throw your back out -- by making the bed. Or by picking something off the kitchen floor. Or by sneezing.
Really, you think?
The hairline cracks start spreading into your world of cool. Sleep wrinkles hang around for hours. You find yourself truly excited about that new office chair with increased lumbar support. You can no longer drink an extra glass of wine and feel okay the next day. Just looking at those sexy platform pumps with 4-inch heels make your knees ache. Certain foods give you acid reflux. Going to bed early is appealing. You buy cozy, zipper-and-button-free yoga clothes even though you don't do yoga. You give up on cute matching pajamas, opting instead for your husband's boxers with a 15-year-old running shirt and beat up Uggs.
I'm making aging sound horrific, aren't I?
Here's what I'm leaving out.
It's AWESOME. I MEAN FLIPPIN' DIPPIN' AWESOME.
1. You know who you are. Let me say that again. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Because of this, you finally stop caring what other people think of you. You sing at the top of your lungs alone in the car when that song from high school comes on the radio. Lots of people see you singing, because you're sitting at the intersection. And you've added hand gestures to your performance.
2. You get rid of the vampires. The people who sucked you dry and gave nothing back. The people who made you feel worse about yourself. This can include friends, husbands, wives, co-workers and even certain family.
3. You make peace with yourself. With your flat butt, your big nose, your thick thighs, your small boobs, your short toes, your profile, that one eyebrow that sits higher than the other, that birthmark on your neck that boy teased you about in fourth grade. You forgive yourself your imperfections and you move on.
4. You no longer care about being cool. Very few people are. You're not one of them. And it's okay.
5. You stop doing things to impress others. You now do things to fulfill yourself. You're good at your job because you know what the hell you're doing. When you try something new, you enjoy the experience, as opposed to being embarrassed because you stink at zumba/ice hockey/zip lining. You're not worried about looking like a fool, because you no longer care about being cool (see above).
6. You're still growing, but it's on the inside now. You recognize the profound value in things you've had from the day you were born. You delve deeper into faith-spirituality-mindful living. You deeply cherish time with your friends. You smile when you think about that great belly laugh you had with your sister days ago. You are spontaneously struck by the thought that your life is a miracle. You feel gratitude, without having to be reminded by an atrocious crime or car crash or fire.
7. The trio of should/could/would die a spectacular death. These are soul-shrinking-over-the-shoulder-looking words that paralyze you. Should I have? Could I have? Would I have? They're replaced by, 'I can and I will. Then again, maybe I won't.'
You still freak out sometimes, over the bills/kids/life/401ks. You still want to punch a wall when you trip over your husband's running shoes in the middle of the hallway, in the dark. But the freak outs are shorter and the wall punch urge passes more quickly.
You finally know the truth. You're not a victim of life. You are life, and you only get one.
Live large, Geezer.