The ‘self-indulgence’ category

Getting Centered in the Middle Age

June 24th, 2021

On the verge of my 40th birthday, a friend casually referred to me as “middle aged,” and I lost my mind. It sounded like my great aunts from New England in their sleeveless floral shirts pouring creme de menthe on vanilla ice cream. It was so far removed from how I thought of myself. 

I was not middle-aged. I was young, vibrant, outdoorsy… still thin and attractive! I was also single and did not yet have kids, and the idea of being quote-unquote middle-aged without having reached my lifelong goal of having a family was unfathomable to me. I could not accept that kind of surrender.

Here, in the year I will turn 50, I can now embrace the notion of being middle aged. Yes, I am nearly a half a century old. With any luck, this is the middle part of my life. I am literally at the middle age — and have been since I was at least forty.

Of course, this phrasing may be easier to accept now that I’ve settled into having a family. I am fifty, but look at all I have done!

Then again, look at all I have not yet done.


As I write this, I sit on the deck of a yurt I’m borrowing for a few days. The woman who bequeathed this solo retreat is a gorgeous, accomplished, lovely person with a life I envy. She lives in a remote house in Putney, Vermont (dreamy) and hosts people on her property as she writes and works remotely from the main house. She has a giant garden, a hoop house, sprawling natural abundance in every direction. It’s quiet, but noisy with birds and one particularly outspoken owl who serenaded me to sleep last night. She has a life that seems, at least from the outside, both serene and artful, abundant with natural riches and yet purposefully cultivated. 

I have a life that is noisy and raucous and chaotic. I have six-year-olds and a live-in husband. I love my life. I am grateful for my life. And one day, I hope to transition into a quieter life, with a yurt of my own on the edge of an owly wood and pour-over coffee at 10am while I sit on a deck in pajamas and just…. listen.

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Middle-aged is a very loaded adjective. It does not really mean that you are at the literal midpoint, more or less, of your expected lifespan. It means something much, much more sinister and also banal. It means you’re past your point of ripeness. It means you no longer matter quite so much, unless you’re lucky enough to have people who rely deeply on you and need you around to find their phones and make their lunches and remember to fill out summer camp forms.

Yet, there is a delightful reverence to this phase of life for a woman, if you let it. It’s matriarchal. It’s witchy. It’s subversive. 

This is the epoch in which a woman can finally be herself, is what I’m learning. Let the gray grow out, get a little hefty around the middle. Swap ambition for creativity. Trade in ideals for comfort. Admit that we will never give up coffee, ever, in this lifetime. Admit that the shot of half and half gives us so much pleasure in the morning, goddammit, that it’s not worth giving up for mylk or bullet proofing or any other more healthy, ambitious alternatives. It’s delicious, and that’s enough.

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