I’ve been circling around the label like it’s one of those “Hello, My Name Is” stickers, discarded and just lying there on the ground, left behind by someone who has already moved on into the next demographic. Keeping an eye on it in case it makes any sudden moves. If a gust of wind comes along, there’s a good chance the label will fly up and attach itself to me, and at this age I would feel silly if I tried to dodge it.
Or I think I am. But how do I know for sure? How do we know when we’re in the middle of life? When the average life expectancy changes from century to century and even decade to decade, the middle keeps moving. Add in all kinds of variables from health to genetics to medical advances to the luck of the draw, and it’s all that much harder to tell if the road ahead stretches out as far as the road behind us.
My mind seems to be there already, even if the rest of me is dragging its heels. For example, I’ve got a running debate going about whether I should jump in and subscribe to Prevention Magazine instead of just picking up a copy at the grocery store checkout. I stand in the supplements aisle and wonder if Centrum Silver is the better choice when I’m comparing multi-vitamins (can’t hurt, might help?), and I notice when Sally Field pushes Boniva to prevent osteoporosis. But on the whole, I don’t mind this age so much. It’s a bit of a relief, really.
It’s fair to say that I’m giving middle age a friendly wave these days, instead of the middle finger.
My father is 64. Not so old, right? But if you plugged all his health issues into one of those What’s Your Real Age? calculators, you’d come up with a number quite a bit higher.
His health is a warning to me, as his daughter and as someone who’s heading into the middle part of my life. My sister and I have both taken note of the warning. We can see ahead to what our lives might be like if we don’t take care of our bodies better than he has. And we know too well that our genetic map is marked up and highlighted with all the routes we don’t want to take and with signs that say things like heart disease and diabetes.
These days, we have a lot of information that can help us. Sometimes it seems like too much information and it’s hard to know what to embrace and what to dismiss as hooey. If living a healthy life means giving up bread or movie popcorn, I guess I’ll take my lumps and accept however many days those two things, and all the other foods I’d rather not give up completely, might carve off the end of it. But the good sense advice is “everything in moderation,” and I can (try very hard to) get on board with that.
Honestly, it kind of ticks me off that it seems to take such an effort to make better choices about what to eat or how much to exercise. It’s annoying, really, that it doesn’t come easier to me. I see people running or cycling in the 110 degree heat here, and I’m astounded at that kind of motivation. I don’t know if they’ve got a gene that I missed out on, or if they became dedicated to exercise by just doing it day after day after day. Is it fun for them? Or have they just figured out something that’s escaped me? My inclination has never been to reach for fresh fruit before a bowl of cereal or for fish before pasta. I’m not an athletic girl. Maybe one day scientists will figure out how to rewire brains to make the healthiest choice. (Since Oprah hasn’t quite succeeded in rewiring the brains of the masses. Any day now.) Or maybe good habits do the rewiring. I’ll let you know if I find out.
I don’t doubt that life is precious. And it’s not a sure thing, no matter how well we eat or how often we exercise, though it can’t hurt to hedge our bets.
I suppose the only thing we can do, at any age, is to put ourselves smack in the middle of our lives. To play the hand we’re dealt the best we can. To not worry about what’s waiting way down the line, and to take care of ourselves well enough today that we will feel better tomorrow. To eat more food that is fresh and good. To take walks that make us glad we left the house. There’s bound to be some fun in it somewhere, right? Right?
Well. If you consider the alternative.