Getting older

I just had a birthday over the weekend. I had wanted to write something reflective to commemorate the day but I hesitated because for the life of me I just couldn’t find a cheerful angle to write from.

I can’t even say my age out loud (though maybe I don’t need to, since my 8 year old doesn’t seem to hesitate from doing it for me). And it’s not out of vanity. The reason I often feel hesitant to reveal my age in mixed company is because I’m afraid of alienating those who might consider me too “old” or too “different” based on my number. I know we may want to do this on a resume, but it’s odd that I do this among friends and acquaintances, eh?

Well, I will say this: I’m on the cusp of my mid-40s, or maybe you could even say I’m there. I’ve turned an age that doesn’t seem to go with me. Just like the ever-increasing grey in my hair doesn’t seem to go with me. Or the stretching and un-stretching of arms that go on at dimly lit restaurants when I’m trying to read the menu. Or the sped up roller coaster that rocks my body once a month. Really, numbers didn’t mean a thing to me until my body started telling me otherwise. These little changes, by no means a huge deal in the grand scheme of life I know, are a wake-up call that I’m not immune to the passage of time, any more than I am to cellulite and excess flesh post-childbirth (I really used to believe I’d be immune).

And I realized that’s what it is that’s bothering me this particular birthday, of all birthdays: the passage of time. Because it’s not just me who’s getting older, but Max, who will be celebrating a big milestone birthday this year, and Fred, who will be one year away from 10. TEN. How is it that I can practically still feel those contractions and yet have a child who will soon be closer to college than to my womb?

I’d hesitated writing this post because to do so would be to reveal my neuroses and to open myself up to judgment and criticism. But if I don’t write about this, I am not sure if I can move forward to write any other posts without sacrificing authenticity.

So I will tell you what I fear so I can get it out of my system and let it go:

I fear that what I went through when I broke my leg will become a regular part of my daily life. Taking an hour to get in and out of the tub. Avoiding buildings with stairs. Feeling pain at the most routine of movements. Being on the sidelines when everyone else is whizzing about. Relying on Facebook for emotional sustenance from friends.

I fear, like a near blackout-causing fear, the possibility of having to choose between family savings and medical treatments.

I fear that we’d made a mistake choosing freedom and time with family over more time at work and making money. I fear that, in the end, we will quite literally pay the price for having enjoyed our life now, because we’re living in unchartered territory and I don’t know all the answers for how to make it all work out in the end.

I fear losing my teeth and not being able to eat steak and Doritos. I fear a diet of yogurt, soups and porridge.

I fear having people talk to me in baby talk.

I fear having more and consistent moments like the one a couple of months ago where I had the whole household calling my cell phone repeatedly to locate it, only to have Fred shout, “Mommy! It’s in your back pocket!”

I fear looking in the mirror and realizing that just as I am finally making peace with my face after all these years, other issues will pop up to make me unhappy all over again.

I fear losing my mom and dad.

I fear losing my spouse. Or having him and my son lose me. I fear not having any good scenario when it comes to this.

I fear free time. A neat and clean house. Ear-shattering quiet. I fear regrets…regrets that I ever wanted more free time to myself, that I ever groaned when I heard yet another “MOMMY!”. I fear hearing my son’s little footsteps running up the stairs only in my imagination.

I’m predisposed to anxiety – I’m convinced now that it’s in my genes and it’s in my early childhood brain wiring, this irrational need to be prepared for the worst – and for mentally healthy people like Max it is hard to comprehend why one needs to voluntarily torment oneself with these thoughts when there is so much to do and to enjoy. And so I remind myself to return to the credo that I made myself adopt a couple of years ago, to some success (that is, until my birthday alarm rang):

Time passes whether or not you worry about what will or will not happen, so why not choose the more enjoyable path to the future?

Maybe, in a future post, I can actually talk about how I do that.

10 thoughts on “Getting older

  1. Your post brought tears to my eyes. The anxieties you enumerate are ones that I share – or ones that seem to live in my bones because in reading them here, I realize how deeply I feel them too.

    Happy belated birthday, my friend. Thank you for sharing this post and for making me feel less alone in my preoccupations. xo

  2. Cecilia,

    So much of this post resonates. I turn 40 this year, in a few months and some of your fears are my fears too. That anxiety you talk about? Like you and Kristen, its tentacles grip me in my quiet moments. Know that you are not alone.

    Love, hugs and kisses on your birthday. Grateful to know you and your world. xoxo

  3. You are so not alone in this. I love that you gave voice to your fears because it encourages the rest of us to own up to ours, as we relate to yours. This passage of time, is so real, so scary, and so inevitable, and it’s hard to ignore my own anxiety attacks in unexpected moments. The uncertainty, the unwillingness to let go of what we have now, and the fear of losing my family are why I find it hard to breathe sometimes, so thank you for opening up and letting me know that this is perhaps normal. That in the darkest hours, maybe we can help each other through this too?

    • Thanks so much for *your* comment, Justine, because I really did feel kind of nervous posting this, thinking I would definitely come across sounding incredibly neurotic. Not that I’m happy you go through these anxieties too but it’s comforting to know it is “normal” to have these fears.

  4. Yes! I get this! And I appreciate your honesty.

    I started having “getting older” anxieties when I turned 10. I say this, usually, with a smile, but it was very serious to me then. I cried that die. I didn’t know why until I read something in Eat. Pray. Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and she talks about her having the same anxiety at 10, too. It had to do with fear, she said. Fear of death and our mortality. The thought of death is what made each birthday from 10 onwards very painful for me. Aware that death would come, I never felt like I was doing enough.Ever. I set dates for myself for professional and academic goals and was rushing all my life to beat death. I am 30 now, as you know, and I have changed, however. I can enjoy more of this moment now. Should I die tomorrow, I’m thankful to have lived. That I got here is amazing to me.

    So from this new place, I say, fear not what could be. Celebrate what is – Your wonderful life, your relationships. This is what matters. I hope this helps! xo. 🙂

    • Oh Jessica, a kindred spirit! I am comforted to know that you’ve shared the same anxieties, though I am sorry to hear that they started when you were so little. I think it is especially hard when we are little, actually, and we are confronted for the first time with the concept of mortality. I think a lot of people immediately think of their parents, and their fears of losing them. My 8 year old knows we all die, and he will sometimes joke about us becoming 150 years old or something…I get nervous when he starts talking about it but I think he is still at the age where he isn’t quite grasping what it all means…

  5. Cecilia, your honesty is always refreshing. Of course you know that you’re not alone with these feelings. Personally, I feel like a late bloomer. I feel like i just got a clue about life very recently. Part of me is always rushing, tryng to catch up to I don’t know who. The other part of me wants time to slow done and let me be young forever.

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