Some midlife discoveries aren't so hot

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The latest self-help publishing niche focuses on women at midlife. Those of us in this target audience are supposed to be reinventing ourselves.

Energized by life's second wind, we can now explore our thoughts and feelings and take up all our unrealized dreams.

The titles in the genre make you want to read seed catalogs instead:

The Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman.

The Wisdom of Menopause.

Find the Love of Your Life After Fifty.

You're Fifty - Now What?

Forever Fifty and Other Negotiations.

The Authentic Heart: An Eightfold Path to Midlife Love.

Time Off for Good Behavior: How Hardworking Women Can Take A Break and Change Their Lives.

My Time: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life.

Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood.

Frankly, I was hoping a second childhood would be my reward for a quarter-century spent loading and unloading the dishwasher. Guess not.

The central point in all these books is that we can emerge from our 50s feeling better about ourselves and experiencing higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.

When we aren't facing up to the certainty of death, that is.

Women at midlife can look back or they can look forward.

We can look back with regret at all our unfulfilled hopes and dreams, or we can look forward to death.

Death is no longer just an event in the far future. At midlife, death becomes a certainty in the relative near term.

One of the things women do at midlife is face their mortality.

In the meantime, we need to make sure we are still paying attention to skin care, good grooming and makeup.

No harm in aiming to be a good-looking corpse, I guess.

Among the paths we can take at this midlife fork in the road are: abandon our careers, abandon our families or take time off to become a tai chi instructor.

The good news is, we have learned after all these years that the outside world cannot bestow value on us, we have to claim it for ourselves.

The bad news is, the outside world has no use for a middle-aged woman following her muse.

The other mixed blessings of the second half of life include:

A brain growth spurt that makes us better at judgment calls; short-term memory lapses that make us seem ditzy and diminish what little credibility we had.

A post-menopausal energy surge; brittle bones and looking really bad in jogging shorts.

Diminished hormones that clear our heads of sexual preoccupations; finding out we are no longer attractive to the opposite sex.

I guess I am not completely clear on the upside of midlife.

Except that I am not dead. Yet.

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