Tuesday, May 4, 2010
High in the upper-30s
"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: you can create a good future by creating a good present. Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity, cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make."--Eckhart Tolle
I turned 37 yesterday. A few days before my birthday, I had complained to my mother about it, and she said, "This is a good time in your life, Jenn. Think of how you'll feel when you're 47, 57, 67?"
My mother is a sensible woman. I take after my father.
I wonder, is it time to subscribe to More magazine, the one for women over 40? When I visit my parents' house and read my mother's back issues I feel like it will be years and years before I will be in this magazine's demographic. Each issue is filled with stories of successful women with gray hair, dressed in suits and white blouses and long layered necklaces and maybe some sort of short-heeled boot. They have three kids and an architect husband, started their own business or switched careers in mid-life, and give to various charities while dropping $500 on handbags. I don't relate to these women. They're not me. A couple of years ago I picked up a free book of essays by women over 40. I shelved it way in the back of my bookcase, figuring I'd want to read it someday. That someday is now sometime soon.
You know you're going to get older, but like a shark attack, you think it won't happen to you. I hardly ever go in the water, you think. But then one summer day you find yourself snorkeling with your husband, and you feel a tug at your ankle. You realize (too late) that you are no exception.
I've spoken about my fear of aging before so I won't carry on about it here (or not anymore than I already have). I think I've discovered what is at the heart of this fear--I'm having an identity crisis. An identity crisis is not the same as a mid-life crisis. I'm not going to the gym five days a week and buying myself a bitchin' Camaro. Simply put, I don't know how to be a woman in her upper-30's. What should I be doing? What will make my life rich and meaningful? Am I doing enough now to guarantee a happy future? I haven't even rolled over all my 401K accounts yet!
I'm sure a lot of this has to do with not having children. Women who become mothers in their thirties can focus their attention on their child's milestones while neatly avoiding their own. I'm not saying mothers don't have the occasional identity crisis, too, but for the most part they know what their purpose is for the next twenty-one years: to raise an intelligent, happy, healthy, well-adjusted human. Beyond that...well, they'll worry about it when it happens, in their Empty Nest days.
The thing I need to do is to make my life as it is now in the present moment the best life it can be. So I'm 37, so what? Some interesting, dare I say hip people, are my age. Or at least there must be a few. A quick Google search finds...um...Dave Chapelle (what's he up to now?), Vera Farmiga (broke George Clooney's heart in Up in the Air, you go, girl!), Heidi Klum (although I stopped watching Project Runway when it moved to Lifetime I still admire her for turning her modeling career into a hit show. I hear this past season was good.) Further down the list we find...Joe the Plumber (listed as "activist"), Monica Lewinsky, Tori Spelling (husband-stealer), Tina Yothers (my least favorite character on Family Ties), terrorist Richard Reid (the shoebomber is 37 this year?) . Hmmm.
I could look to my friends, many of whom are also 37 this year. But comparing my life to theirs isn't helpful, either. We're all at different places in our lives. Using friends as a yardstick for your own goals and accomplishments is a surefire way to stop being friends. Anyway, I've always set my watch to a different time then them.
Maybe I just need to stop ruminating about my age and start living it. 80-year olds are proud to have made it to 80--they announce it every chance they get. If I make my late thirties as good as my late-twenties maybe it will cease being a big deal every year. When I turn 40 I'll laugh at my former neurotic self. While driving my red Mini convertible down the Pacific Coast highway.