My birthday is in a week. As happens with birthdays it means that I will be a year older. This year is not a particularly interesting number, I am settling into the decade that I joined last year. I am neither young or old, it is a middle number and so here I am in the middle. The middle ages. Not half necessarily, I don’t want to take anything for granted of course but I did point out to a friend that being middle-aged is not the same thing as being at the halfway point. It’s a big area, I’ll be here for a while (I hope) and so I am getting comfortable with the space. Or the space is getting comfortable with me. Something is happening to be sure and it is a change and sometimes that can be a surprise, certainly when you weren’t quite ready for it, or when it happens all of a sudden. Then you find yourself, as I did last week, saying “oh ho – what is this? I guess I really am in the middle because I am clearly not the person I was and that means I will not always be the person I am today. Time is marching on, I better get in step!”
When I was younger I had a big, strong sweet tooth. Milk chocolate, sweet cookies, rich desserts all equaled yum! As I got older that super sweet was just too much. I started to prefer the sharper taste of dark chocolate, and only in small quantities. I began to understand the allure of shortbread which in my youth I had associated with grandmothers and people who clearly did not understand the point of desserts or sweet treats. So the other day when I popped into Peete’s for green tea and a cookie in the late afternoon I truly struggled with the selection. I really wanted a peanut butter cookie but I live in the bay area and since there is the possibility that someone somewhere might have a reaction to peanuts they do not stock the cookies, despite the fact that they are offered on the sign. My choices then were chocolate chip, vegan chocolate chip (really what’s the point at all), double chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, or oatmeal raisin. Oatmeal raisin is basically a breakfast item and I have always thought of it as such a middle-aged cookie. Sure it has some sugar in it but so do cheerios and fiber flakes or whatever those things are that you eat as you age and have to think about your digestive track. “Ugh,” I said. Everything else was going to be too sweet, “I’ll take the oatmeal raisin.” And I fully expected to be disappointed, except I wasn’t. It was a really good cookie, just exactly perfect for what I wanted as an afternoon snack. And then I felt it, that knowingness of transition. I had shifted in what felt like a moment though I know it had been coming for some time. I was the middle aged lady who liked oatmeal cookies, with raisins even not chocolate chips anymore. I wasn’t sad, just a little surprised maybe to find myself where I was, but it was okay and I felt contented at least as I settled into the massage chair at the nail salon.
I contemplated my new self in relation to my dessert choices, thought about the birthday coming up and what if anything I felt about that and then observed that though I was certainly in a new phase of my life I wasn’t so old that the callouses on the bottom of my feet required use of the machine. I retained some youth borne out by the fact that me feet could be scrubbed to soft. Apparently though I had it backward: my feet belong to me, a woman in the middle ages, youthful arms have the strength to scrub not the feet have retained their youth. The woman tending me, also in the middle, popped into the back and came out with the machine. Certainly this was not a tragedy, I was getting my nails done and it is a luxury for which I am grateful. It was just a moment to observe how we change over time and what with a birthday just around the corner growing up was on my mind.
I could keep eating chocolate chip cookies and telling myself that’s what I want, I could insist that I am younger than I am and hold onto that person who I was. Or I can observe these changes and see where I go next, none of it is bad, it’s just different. And when you get older you hope you have the time to get used to something before it changes again, because I have learned that it goes awfully fast and there is a lot to enjoy!