I used to strut in my tailored suit with my leather briefcase into a posh coffee shop and order a $6 cup of hot liquid with a complicated name. I would smile confidently at the baristas, being careful not to rudely gasp at the multiple nose rings, disheveled man-buns and/or tattoos of marauding skeletons wallpapering the arms. “Watch and learn, Grasshopper,” I imagined whispering to the young androgynous person taking my money. “Someday, you, too, can buy some over-priced flavored water.”
My arrogant attitude was short-lived when my corporate job was eliminated and I was exiled, unwanted and forlorn like yesterday’s scuffed saddle shoes and toothless poodle skirts. Now I shuffle in my flannel pants and 10-year-old fuzzy slippers that multi-task as dust mops into my kitchen and pour a cup of budget coffee into a weathered cup with the words, “This Could be Wine.” My briefcase languishes in the corner, stuffed with nasal inhalers, reading glasses, a knee support wrap, alligator-skin moisturizers and discount coupons.
My goals once focused on orchestrating a successful corporate event with thousands of guests. Now I just hope to make it through the day without forgetting my address or putting my shirt on backwards. The insolent independence and corporate coiffeur disappeared, and now I use old business cards to pick my teeth, and my messy pony tail resembles the hairstyles of the baristas at the coffee shop. Maybe I can have their job someday. They seem so happy.
Now I’m semi-retired, and my brain is weary. Years ago, it could instantly compute the outline for a pending business speech, the piano lesson recitals for my daughter, the football schedule for my son, the routine maintenance on the home furnace, and what outfit to wear to a charity gala with my husband. Now it seems content to putter along in second gear and only snaps to attention if I set my clothes on fire when I back up to a lighted burner on the stove. At least I still have those essential reflexes.
Being nimble is difficult because my growing stomach continues to block the sun. I can no longer use the excuse of having a baby because my youngest is 30. To flatten my stomach, I try crunches, planks and leg lifts, but after five minutes it’s so discouraging because nothing changes. I wake every morning filled with fear that my tummy has mysteriously doubled overnight and am afraid to peek until I detect no new noticeable abdominal protrusion. If it appears safe to roll out of bed without breaking through the floor boards, I gingerly stand up, pleased of that physical success.
There are advantages to being retired in an empty nest. I consider it a major accomplishment to be showered and dressed before noon, and it’s okay if my socks don’t match. It’s true that living past age 50 is our reward for not dying young.
I was a child when the bestselling song was “Age of Aquarius” by the 5th Dimension. The lyrics promised peace and harmony that was dawning at any minute. We’re still waiting. Now in the last third of life, I know my journey has been splendid as I’ve transformed through the ages from gregarious, to hilarious, to precarious, and now nefarious as my body resists all forms of vigorous activity. Perhaps it’s the natural order of things. I’ll sit with my coffee in the morning, read the newspaper and allow the sun to shine as I find peace with my age.
— Elaine Ambrose
Elaine Ambrose is a #1 bestselling author of eight books, including Midlife Happy Hour, Midlife Cabernet, and Menopause Sucks. Elaine is a popular speaker and comic at the prestigious Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, and she’s a syndicated blogger on several websites. Read about her books and blogs at www.ElaineAmbrose.com.