Sunday, August 12, 2012

State of the Nation (a non-political update about me)

Well, I'm 42, the age that is, as you know, the answer to life, the universe, and everything. (Modest pause here for you to insert comments about how I don't look 42 at all . . . aw, shucks, thanks, that's kind of you.)


And is that "aged" like a good cheese, or is it more like the rattle-trap van we are driving, always with our fingers crossed that the tailpipe won't drop off in the road? (Can't say that my tailpipe is all that much better, so I guess that says something . . . )

Anyway, I guess it's time for a State of the Nation for you, my three-or-so loyal blog readers who almost had a heart attack this morning when you saw on your reader that I had actually updated. Thanks for giving in to your curiosity and reading on to find out why I would visit this old haunting ground after all these months of ignoring you. And so without further ado, let's get on with

Darlene At 42!!!!!!!

PHYSICALLY:  Well, after that nice comment of yours on how I don't really look 42, I hardly need to go into detail here. But I'll be honest: I'm not looking twenty anymore. I did spend an awful lot of time (well into my thirties, really) wishing I looked older, or at least my age. Finally I struggle with that no longer! I somehow passed over that line—I'm not sure when—but there is no doubt that when I go down to campus in a few weeks, no one will mistake me for an undergrad. I look, I must admit with a big sigh, like Somebody's Mom. Part of that is my fault, because I refuse to go to the drastic lengths that seem to be the common behavior here in my neck of the woods (South Jordan: Plastic Surgery Capitol of the World) to look twenty years younger than I am. I dress, I am sorry to say, too much like a mom, and do my hair too much like a mom, etc. When it became clear to me that I was not going to ever go to heroic measures, I began trying to accept my "mom-ness." It's hard.

I've mentioned it before, but our culture is seriously lacking in acceptable ways for "older" women to dress with dignity and taste. I want to switch to saris or those beautiful African robes and wraps that older African women wear. In our culture, it's either dress like you're trying to be twenty (and look silly doing it, or else put a lot of time and money into sculpting yourself down into that shape) or spend an awful lot of money at places like Anne Taylor. Neither of those is going to happen.

I am, however, so far avoiding the Wal-Mart sweat pants look. Most of the time.

Anyway, so I look like a mom, especially around the hips. And around the eyes. I've got crow's feet, which don't bother me too much, and two permanent parallel vertical frown lines between my eyes, which do. My chin, what there is of it, has always been bad, so there's not much to say here. My gut sort of spreads out on the floor in front of me when I lie on my side (I know, right? ew.) or hangs weirdly when I do down-dog. My feet have gotten bigger along with my behind. My aunts (on both sides) all became more pear-shaped as they aged, so I know there's not much I can do about it, though I do try. (Latest reassuring mantra: "Women need to be soft in the middle; it's preparation for grandparenthood. Who wants to snuggle on a hard tummy?")

Speaking of exercise, I notice my age there, too, though it's harder to tell since I've never been in very good shape, even when I was young. Summary: I'm slow and heavy in whatever I do. But I haven't given up trying. Currently, I'm struggling with golfer's elbow, which is crazy, since I've never been golfing in my life. But I ran five miles yesterday, which is something. (I also spent the rest of the day completely exhausted and feeling like death-warmed-over. Will my body ever get used to the exercise and quit feeling that way after I run?

As for my health in general, I have to say that I am MUCH BETTER than I was a few years ago. I am still heavy and tired, and I'm beginning to suspect that I may be for the rest of my life (very depressing, but still lots better than I had feared at one time). I almost never get those weird "attacks" anymore, and when I do they are very mild. Though I still feel like I COULD, I don't HAVE to go to bed right after dinner these days. I am not struggling with brain fog anywhere near as much as I was.

Maybe (knock on wood) I have a few years of clarity before the menopause fairy comes to take it all away again . . .? (Knock on wood again.)

So, there it is. I'm saggy and a little draggy but able to do all I need to and pretty much all I want to, too. I will never, NEVER take that for granted.

INTELLECTUALLY: Well, this one is (wince) "on my mind" these days. Because I'm going back to school, and I am seriously suspicious that I have lost much of my brainpower to raising kids. It's hard to concentrate on longer, deeper reading projects. Heck, it's hard to stay awake at night. I've forgotten almost everything I learned in college, especially things like how to do research and the names of major movements in world thought. Will it all come back as I need it? Will I be as smart as the freshmen I'll be teaching? Not sure, not sure. This one is going to take some faith and some really hard work.

Also, there's nothing like an election to make myself doubt myself. The thing is, I have the hardest time committing to a "side" or an ideology. I'm pretty good at seeing the flaws in people's arguments, and (especially) at recognizing manipulation (of facts or emotions). In the end, too often I end up voting AGAINST someone than for someone, and too often I am unduly influenced by rudeness (as in, I tend to turn against a party when I hate how its followers act towards other people). I wish I were smarter. For now, I just try to surround myself with smart people who share my standards and basic beliefs (love your fellowman; value agency . . . but--well, you see the problem). A big problem is, though, that some of the most amazingly smart and kind people I know are Republicans. And some of the most amazingly smart and kind people I know are Democrats. Sigh.

SOCIALLY:  This last year or so has been the worst of times and the best of times for me. My closest friends moved out of my life (physically or emotionally). But then—wonder of wonders—a new set of really cool women moved into my ward. These are not just cool women, but they are married to cool men—whom my husband actually likes and gets along with! This has rarely happened before. These new friends in my ward are so cool that we can even go camping together as families. I am so happy about this; it has been such a blessing. I have had good friends in my life whom I could talk to but they haven't always been local. Now I have some nearby, in real life, and it's great. The only problem is that they all have younger families than I do, so they're still in that "home with kids all day" phase while I am a free woman during the day but seriously booked in the after-school hours. Oh well; that will change. (But it reminds me so much of my Pocatello days, when I was the one with young kids and my friends were older, with their kids all in school. I wanted so much to go out together in the evenings, because I needed to get out for a break, and they wanted to be home in the evenings with their kids, whom they hadn't seen all day. That was a really hard difference to straddle, and I was lonely.)

SPIRITUALLY/EMOTIONALLY:  Doin' pretty darn well, all told. I'll start school in about a week. I'm scared. The things that frighten me:  1.) I'm still weak physically, and the stress/strain of doing so much more mental and physical work than I'm used to will make me sick again; 2.)  my parenting/children will suffer. My beautiful cousin Kathryn, who also returned to college for an advanced degree not long ago, gave me good advice, "Just take it one day at a time." I realize that much of my fear has to do with big ol' consequences that are quite a bit in the future and may never come to pass. If I try to live each day well and not panic so much about setting up systems so that life will be easy the whole time, I'll do better. Faith. When it became clear that I would not be able to do this degree one class at a time, as we had originally planned, we prayed hard and still felt we had a "go-ahead." Maybe, I sometimes think, my kids NEED me to be a little more gone, and a little more emotionally invested in something other than them. (Certainly I know my teenagers wouldn't mind having my fingers a little less in their lives.) So I'm open to the possibility that this all could be a GOOD thing even for them.

My testimony, my relationships with others, my feelings about parenthood all go through changes as I get older, waxing and waning and then waxing again. I guess the thing about being older is recognizing that the waxing and waning are nothing to panic about, and that the key is to stick things out, to be patient with myself and others, and things get better, in general, over time.

I am optimistic in general, these days, about myself and about the world. I don't share the feelings of doom that it seems so many people do about the State of the World. There are ugly things, I admit, but there are good things, too. God hasn't given up on us; good people haven't given up on the world; there is still great goodness and kindness and justice going on. The most distressing thing is that families are breaking down, but I still believe in the Good  News of the gospel: no one is doomed, whether because of a broken family or Evil in the Media or whatever. There is always hope, there is always potential for change, there is always the atonement waiting to be used. I guess that's my greatest testimony: always there is potential for progress.

So, that's me at 42, and I think it's a pretty nice place to be.


Jennifer B. said...

Thanks for the update! I loved reading this.

Anonymous said...

Yay Darlene! I'm proud of you.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this too. What's slightly embarrassing is that I only came over to Google Reader because Facebook was briefly down. (But I read your post first!)