I’m so happy to eat. It’s been seven weeks since I’ve had an appetite and not had an adverse reaction to what I’ve ingested. Of course, I’m craving all comfort foods—mac and cheese, pasta with alfredo sauce, Five Guys Fries, and now that all of that has been satisfied and met, it’s just down to the donuts, but a friend came through, and I’ll finally satiate that craving tomorrow. Russ asked me the other night if I was pregnant. HA! Our new, personal little joke. But I sure am eating like it’s for two.
One benefit to convalescing is having so much time to write. What a gift! I didn’t realize how much I missed it, or how much seems intent on flowing out of my fingertips. I often listen to music when I write. In a weird way it keeps my mind from wandering too much so that it’s not all a complete erratic mess when I finish a day’s work. My “running” song is “Crazy” by Seal. I feel like I move tenfold faster listening to that song on the go (even if that’s not actually what’s happening). I can’t listen to that when I’m writing, because I can’t type that fast, so it changes around a bit. Right now it’s a bit of Tears for Fears and Big Audio Dynamite.
I’m reminded of one winter in Aiken, after a long day of working outside, when three of us, all professional horsewomen, were sitting at the dinner table eating our evening staple of salad, with a couple glasses of wine, followed by the standard serving of ice-cream. As one of us was also a student at the time and in the process of writing a paper for class, the question arose as to what lyrics, quote, or stanza stood out as motivating, or beautiful, to each of us. The student quoted The Velveteen Rabbit, which she was using as a metaphor in her paper. The next person quoted lyrics by Wilson and Phillips, or Mary Chapin Carpenter or someone along those lines. I was quiet for a minute, drinking my wine, taking this all in about my beautiful friends sitting at the dinner table. They were so beautiful and sweet, authentic. Then I started laughing my ass off. I could hardly speak I was laughing so hard. I said, “And that right there is the difference between you and me. My song is Lose Yourself by Eminem.”
“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”
Music, like great books, touches people in different ways and brings inspiration, comfort, or just a good jam when you need it.
Another perk of convalescing at home is the opportunity to see more of my friends. People stop by, bring banana bread, maybe a book, all things to try and ease the discomfort, and convey how much they love their friend and want to help me through the pain. A good friend stopped by yesterday and we had lunch, which is my new favorite sport (see above) these days. I was so glad she did because quite honestly, spending time with friends, with no time constraints, no other nagging, pressing engagements or responsibilities, nowhere else to be, is so precious and one of my most favorite things in this world. It’s a wonderful gift.
We’re a few years apart and though we share common interests, our lives have been very different. But we’ve known each other long enough to have seen each other on our best days and on our very worst days too. Despite the differences in people and friends, I think any friendship worth its weight in gold shares the same values at its core. Everything else is just decoration and lighting, and good make up.
My dear friend is reconciling her decision to not have children. While that’s not my inner battle, I sometimes wonder why I didn’t work as hard as I did at the right thing. Caveat: I don’t regret doing the horses for twenty years. However, I can’t help but wonder if I worked the way that I did for those twenty at something else, where would I be now?
I think this is the definition of middle age, which is where you land when you exit your midlife crisis and pull your head out of your ass. (You’re welcome for this heads up, by the way. Yeah, I’m talking to you over there hiding in the corner.). Suddenly, you find yourself in a place where it’s no longer feasible to turn around and go a different way. You’ve already paved the road. It took over 40 years to do it. It’s too late to have kids because you physically can’t; it’s too late to apply for higher education because you know you don’t have enough work years left to pay for it; you don’t pursue a riding career, you play it safe, and after twenty years, they fire you from a job you hated doing anyway. You can slice this pie a million different ways, and as creative as you are in finding a solution, sometimes there just aren’t any. You have to accept what is, and what is the result of the choices and decisions you made on the road you paved. That isn’t even middle age, it’s just life. It’s a crazy ride, hopefully better than good for most of us on this planet, but middle age is the benchmark where you feel it, all of the decisions and choices you made, good or bad, and where you realize you’ve done some things you can’t undo. I think even tougher to accept is the fact that this inability to have a re-do can compound emotionally over time. It’s an expensive price to pay, but it is the cost of admission to this thing we call life.
I wouldn’t call the retrospection regret exactly. It’s more like well-earned perspective. We are all making the best choices for our lives based on the information we have at the time. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile that what the 50-year old wants, or needs, is completely different than what the 25 or even the 35-year old wants or needs. Even if you do have the ability to look past your nose, it’s the rare person who can envision what their life will look like 20 years down the road. How can you even know, really? Even if you’re one of the few who doesn’t get thrown a curveball or two along the way.
In addition to realizing that you’ve most likely run out of time for some things in your own life, middle age also includes, if you’re lucky, seeing your parents edging closer to the “exit stage left” sign, forever. I’ve started taking notes. My Dad has opened up in the last few years like he never has before. That’s when he recently told me he was valedictorian of his high school. Why didn’t he tell us that long ago? Like when I was five? Why didn’t I think to ask?
He’s watching all of his friends die now. At this point, he’s almost last man standing. I can’t imagine how painful that must be to experience such profound loss over and over. My heart breaks for him every time, as his circle gets smaller and smaller. I watch my mother trying to juggle all of these moving parts—taking care of my Dad, the house, and trying to still have a life outside of all of that, which she does. She doesn’t really complain, even though she has every right to, but she looks exhausted a lot of the time. I can’t blame her. She’s carrying the weight of her world on her back right now. I’m going home soon and I can’t wait to see them. Hopefully I can ease the burden, if even for a moment, and maybe put a smile on my Dad’s face when I show up bearing cinnamon rolls.
My friend and I were just talking about that over lunch—how, sometimes, despite all the busyness in your life, you just have to show up. You can text, you can call or facetime, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that compares to showing up. Showing up is where it’s at. It’s what matters. It’s who makes you who you are and shows the world what matters to you and what kind of person you are. When you show up, with banana bread, or donuts and cinnamon rolls, it helps ease the pain that we all experience at different times in our lives, especially when there’s no clear answer to ease the pain. Sometimes just being there (with pastries, especially) is enough. So ask yourself, who do you show up for?? Because who you show up for is how you let the people you love most in the world know they count, they’re worth it, that you really see them, and there’s no place you’d rather be in this world, at this very moment, than right there with them, that person standing right in front of you, the person whom you truly love.