an excerpt from my memoir, The Art of Midlife
I never thought my breasts would grow to the size of nana’s. I can see that now, as I prepare for the shower, they certainly are getting there. I’m a writer, so most of my day is spent in pajamas with bedhead and glasses looking at a screen. I sort of forget myself, but I see the most amazing correlations when I begin to interact with my day, I think this too has a lot to do with growth in life.
There are lots of things on my body I didn’t realize would ‘grow’ to the size they have now. It’s interesting, the things that grow as we age, you can thank me later I won’t bore you with all the details of my middle age body, with a few exceptions which are just too necessary to midlife to leave out. Midlife is all about growth in my humble opinion. Maybe we have a big midlife growth spurt to get ready for a second round of reproduction, not literal birthing of a tiny person, but birthing something that was set inside us at the beginning of time to be born and brought forth at an appointed older age, things like purpose and destiny. We have to bulk up and there is nothing that brings humility quite as fast. So we grow in unexpected areas and shrink in others.
My breasts seem to never stop growing likely because they are made up of fat, something my body has no lack of, my bunions continue to grow with each new pair of shoes I buy, the pain making me wobble abit when I step out of bed. My acceptance of reality has grown to a healthy size. My eyes have not grown, nor my memory but rather been shrinking at an alarming rate. My resolve fluctuates, along with my desires which are absolutely relative. For example my desire to take a shower and clean the shower, really anything that has to do with the shower is just gone, I’m like a 5 year old I avoid it at all costs; however my desire for things like homemade pasta sauce and a glass of wine all grew exponentially. My palate has expanded which is likely part of the reason for a lot of my “other” growth. My patience has definitely grown, either that or I am just giving up on life. My needs seem to have shrunk, but I’m not sure if it’s because my ability to meet my own needs has expanded. My acceptance of the world…well sometimes I accept it somedays I refuse. My skills in arguing have grown, but not my necessarily my ability to win an argument. My friendship base has held steady for some time thank God. My career accomplishment I can’t discuss it or I’ll fall apart. My sense of belonging has grown. My belly… yes, my rear…yes, my double chin…yes yes yes, all exceptionally obvious and present. My pride probably, until I look in the mirror and see nana’s boobs. The way I love others and serve yes, and I think my capacity to care for others grows in proportion to my personal growth.
I could go on but you have your own list to make. All in all, the things that have increased and grown over time, perhaps make us women , more us. I am convinced the first half of life is preparation, it’s the preliminary work the spirit does in us to get us to who we were created to be. It’s like a baby whose eye color is blue for the first year, then changes, Or their hair color which is bleach blonde until 5 years of age and then one winter is suddenly brown. It is the way we always were supposed to be, it just takes time to actually get there. We increase in size because we are needed for other things. when we are small we have little to offer, when we are engorged we have more of us to go around. I hoped I was done when sporting a size 6 but in reality that was like elementary me, and the middle age me is a more practical size 10. I just wonder at this rate of growth, will there be a casket big enough when I die?
I know you all struggle with growth as well, is it positive or negative, ought I to welcome and accept it or reject it fight against it smash the clocks? I know women in particular wrestle in these ways, some of this has to do with the super model, hyper air brushed, sex filled culture that society has made so appealing and I don’t really know the other part. But the truth is middle age is like a twilight world for us. We truly want growth in some areas of life to prove our maturity and manage our life better and maybe have bigger breasts, yet in other areas we simply want to remain petite and unscathed by experience and maturity, keep the body of our 18 year old self, the spontaneous nature, the girlish charm, but don the wisdom and respect of a seasoned woman. We can’t have back the summers of our youth but we can look forward to the summers of our plenty, after the winters of obscurity pass. Youth was a stepping stone. I’m here to tell you what you already know. Growth is the evidence of life no matter what “size” you are. The middle-age experience is not something to be afraid of or avoid, but something to notice. Sometimes we catch a glimpse in the mirror or notice the likeness of someone who we truly love, someone who we admired someone who went before us and helped shape us and then we realize we have become her.
If midlife is a study of increase and decrease how do we manage that balance? It’s seems both confusing and impossible? Sort of Like what the Christian faith at times. We are told to grow in Christ, and grow up faith, grow in knowledge, salvation and grace, but we are also told that we must decrease and Christ must increase. Our own decrease is often veiled by the increase of Christ in us. This can only have one logical conclusion , simultaneously we are doing both growing and diminishing. We are told we are to do greater things than Christ, yet no student is greater than his master. We walk this narrow road between increase and decrease, what could be narrower, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, than the life of a disciple of Christ, who is neither young and free, nor old and gone. but somewhere suspended in the middle. One who must be humble yet without the knowledge of his own humility, one who must decrease because of the increase.
All of these things seem so tangible and tellable in middle age. Years ago they were just ideas and notions, stories other people told us. Once we reach middle age they become our stories, the very ones we pass to our daughters and granddaughters sometimes the very things we never thought possible are suddenly right at our front door. We never thought it would happen and now it is here we are on our way?