The middle

by Jennifer on July 8, 2008

Middle age.

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.

I’m there.

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.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan July 9, 2008 at 12:19 am

Wait…running in 110 degrees?? I’m not sure I can even breathe when it’s over say…80 degrees! I’ll be good and have sugar free popsicles instead of ice cream.

That’s fun…and healthy..er.

Susans last blog post..In The Kitchen With Mimi

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Mary Alice July 9, 2008 at 4:24 am

I am missing the exercise gene too. I go to the gym…but never really happily. Although I feel better when I am finished. I am trying to drop some pounds to lower risks. I think having a BFF with breast cancer really made me stare middle age right in the face and say. “Oh, that’s me now isn’t it.?”

Mary Alices last blog post..Economic Theory

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Denise July 9, 2008 at 4:43 am

“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.”

BRAVO!!!

Denises last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

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Average Jane July 9, 2008 at 5:16 am

I thought it might amuse you to see the cartoon that followed your post in my feed reader: http://xkcd.com/447/

It’s all relative!

Average Janes last blog post..Average Jane from A to Z

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D / Momma July 9, 2008 at 5:29 am

Every time I see one more person on television talking about running a marathon, I cringe. I don’t get it! I love a good walk, and I’m trying to embrace that now that I have been told that I need to make it a daily habit. I love a good bike ride – for fun or for gas savings, not for competition. Honestly, I think that’s the root of the exercise craze – competition. I’m not competitive in the exercise realm but I am in other areas of my life.

As for foods, I love fruit and vegetables, but I will reach for the chocolate if it’s in the house. Otherwise, an apple sounds pretty good.

I can tell you that I’ve embraced mid-life now, though I fought it at first. At 46, I can’t escape it, though; it’s happening whether I want it to or not. There is a certain level of acceptance now. But like you, I have lots of unhealthy people in my family tree. I’m trying very hard to *not* be them. And yet? I have had things happen to me that nearly took me out, and none of it was due to me not taking care of my health. Sh*t happens.

The best thing you can do is to learn to dodge it. ::-)

Peace – D

D / Mommas last blog post..Is Going Gray "Greener"?

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Madge July 9, 2008 at 5:31 am

You know I am right there with you on the whole exercise/eating thing. It’s a mystery to me that some people just get it. Or do they just have more self-control and focus then me?

No. no that’s not it.

Madges last blog post..NaMaIGoToPoEvDaFoThNe37DaMoWhIsMoThAMoBuWhTheHeItMyBlMo

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Louise July 9, 2008 at 5:39 am

I’m the broken record. It feels better after a while, and the habit helps. I hate it, too, but I hate not doing it more. (Exercise.)

The eating? Well, I’d pick chips and dip over fruit any day, except that right now there are 3 pounds (actually 2-1/2, and soon, 2) of Rainier cherries in my house. So I’ll eat healthy fruit today and tomorrow, and after that if there are more cherries. Then it’s back to chips and dip (and Little Debbies).

Louises last blog post..Why I Spent a Good Portion of My Day Transplanting Plants

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Daryl July 9, 2008 at 5:52 am

Personally I think ‘middle age’ is no longer 40 … people are living longer and better .. tho its a joke I sort of agree that 60 is the new 50 … god knows Husband who turned 70 last September doesnt look or act it … he used to be Mr MTV til he hit on Limewire and whatever else ‘the kids’ are into …

Live long, love well .. my new motto!

Daryls last blog post..

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Kate July 9, 2008 at 6:02 am

I believe I am at the middle age point… I’m 45, will be 46 next month. And if I lived to be 90.. I think that’s pretty damn awesome!

I understand and can relate so well to all that you think and feel on this topic.

And I wish I had words of wisdom to share, but truly I just don’t today.

But thank you for sharing. It really touched me.

Kate

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Jan July 9, 2008 at 6:06 am

I am older than you, and I can say that I enjoy NOW more than I did THEN.. Even if I ache a little more and get hot faster. Mentally, I like it better now.

Great post.

Jans last blog post..Forever learning

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Kate July 9, 2008 at 6:14 am

p.s. you have an awesome talent for writing what is going on inside of you

Kates last blog post..Is it time to go home yet?

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Emily R July 9, 2008 at 6:56 am

On of my favorite movie lines is when Shirley Maclane tells her daughter (Meryl Streep) that she is middle aged. Streep responds “Mother, what are you going to live to, 120? I am middle aged.”

Emily Rs last blog post..There’s a hole in the bucket

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suburbancorrespondent July 9, 2008 at 7:41 am

What bugs me is that I used to like to exercise, and now I could care less.

suburbancorrespondents last blog post..Missing Child

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Treasia July 9, 2008 at 7:45 am

Other than the: memory loss, hot flashes, mood swings, dryness, aches and pains Mid Life is great. LOL.

No seriously, I am happier mentally and emotionally than I have been in years. I have finally gotten comfortable with myself and my thoughts. And better yet, I just don’t give a darn what anyone else thinks for the first time in my life.

Treasias last blog post..Happy Hump Day

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Lisa Milton July 9, 2008 at 7:59 am

I guess we do what we can. Even with my laundry list of chronic health problems, I scored well on the RealAge thing because of the good things I do.

(That sounds smug. It’s not supposed to. I had a wake up call when a few years back and that set me straight(er). That’s all.)

But running? Makes me cry. I’ll do silly ol’ jazz hands until I flop.

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Tina July 9, 2008 at 9:40 am

Why is it so darn easy to tell yourself you’ll start taking better care of yourself tomorrow? Or when life calms down? Or when the house sells, or the kids are launched or the weather is cooler or, or, or…sheesh.

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Rhea July 9, 2008 at 9:46 am

Great post! I have a father who’s very elderly and in bad health. It is a warning for his kids about what we need to try to do to be healthy and not end up like him, although, I think some of it is just unavoidable, no matter what we do.

It’s so hard to do EVERYTHING right. Get the right nutrition, get the right exercise, work our brains the best way, etc. Why?!!

Rheas last blog post..Ocho

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Coco July 9, 2008 at 9:59 am

I’m cracking up over the missing exercise gene. Personally, I missed that one too. People who jog in 100 degrees? I’m pretty sure they’re aliens.

I’m traipsing toward middle age myself. Want to meet up for some Centrum Silver and a big glass of Metamucil? Ha.

Cocos last blog post..A Single Simple Thing

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Jenn @ Juggling Life July 9, 2008 at 12:38 pm

I’ve got bad genetics coming at me all over the place. But I also am the first of my family not to be an alcoholic and/or smoker and/or drug addict. So who knows? I just keep trying to eat better, exercise regularly and get all the screenings I can.

I’ve exercised really regularly for the last four years, and aside from a nice, long walk, I still don’t like any of it!

Jenn @ Juggling Lifes last blog post..A Picture, a Winner, and a Couple of Awards

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we_be_toys July 9, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Okay, anybody who runs in 110 degree weather isn’t a fitness guru – they’re an idiot!

Everything in Moderation IS the golden rule, and that applies to exercise as well as eating or imbibing (hate that part, sometimes).

And buck up – I’ll always be older than you, even if I refuse to feel like it.

Carpe that diem girl!

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ByJane July 9, 2008 at 12:56 pm

So, can I put you on the blogroll at http://midlifebloggers.com ?

ByJanes last blog post..What Is This?

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Lisa July 9, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I personally think worry does more damage than anything else out there 😉
You are on the right path–just don’t go running in 110 degrees and get heat stroke 😉

Lisas last blog post..10 Lists of 10

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cce July 9, 2008 at 2:26 pm

When I think of marathoners I can only remember the Olympian who recently died in the midst of a qualifying race in NYC…what I’m trying to say is that we can do all the right things and eat all the right things and think all the right things and still be struck down in our paces so it’s all the more important to enjoy life a little. Be sure to eat cake after exiting the gym every now and again!

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McSwain July 9, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Middle age is hard to come to grips with–REALLY hard where I live, youth-worshipping LA-LA land. But I look at it this way: I’m 43. If family history holds true, I have about 50 more years. I’ve lived less than half my life, and with the experiences I’ve had it seems like I’ve lived such a full life already! Only 1/2 of my current years were adult years. So, I’ve only lived 1/4 of my adult life.

Wow. I’ve got a lot of living to do. Better take care of myself. Middle age be damned.

McSwains last blog post..

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Suzanne July 9, 2008 at 7:26 pm

The only time I refer to myself as a ‘middle aged white woman’ is when I’m leaving an annoying comment on a political blog that is meant to defy what the MSM claim all ‘white middle class women’ are thinking…because I hate all encompassing labels.

Quite honestly, despite my age, I don’t really think of myself as middle age…somehow that seems to apply to someone else, not me!

On the other hand, last month I DID subscribe to Prevention magazine, and I recently set up a Roth IRA and started calculating the years to retirement.

As to diet….I’ve discovered that it no longer works to JUST diet, a regular (4x/week) plan that includes weights is now necessary for me to lose weight that used to come off a lot easier.

So, I’m with ya sister.

Suzannes last blog post..Be a Journalist for Huffington Post!

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Deb July 9, 2008 at 8:20 pm

I agree…but then…

I consider my dad who’s eaten unhealthy all his life, smokes cigars and over consumes wine, has diabetes and high cholesterol AND high blood pressure, yet is going strong at 70+…

And compare him to my mom who ate healthy, never drank and often exercised…yet passed away at 56 from cancer.

I’ve determined much of longevity is state of mind. My dad’s always been positive, while my mom was not so much.

It’s the only differentiator I can come up with, and I’m sticking with it!

Deb

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the mama bird diaries July 9, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Great post. I think a lot about this “middle age” thing and you’re right, each of us doesn’t know when our “middle age” really is. So best to let go of this label and try to enjoy each day.

the mama bird diariess last blog post..school’s out

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flutter July 9, 2008 at 10:41 pm

you are HAWT. if you run outside right now you will be HOT. Just sayin’

flutters last blog post..The best parts of being the other half

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JCK July 10, 2008 at 12:33 am

Your post sang to this middle-aged woman. I, also, feel relieved in a way. It’s strange, isn’t it – to find yourself there. Yet, having young children at this age is a breath of fresh air. No time for mid-life crises because we’re focused on them. 😉 And our writing is saving us.

JCKs last blog post..Memo to self

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manager mom July 10, 2008 at 3:18 am

Well put. I think *technically* I am still two years, two months shy of middle age, which I think starts at 40, right? But I got my subsciption to More magazine and I ice down my knees after I go running. But I think I wear the body I’ve aged into OK, and I’m happy with myself for the most part. I guess that’s all we can hope for, right?

manager moms last blog post..Time To Get Over Myself

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leendaluu July 10, 2008 at 8:01 am

I can manage the healthy eating but I’m still looking for that I love to exercise button. I hate it but I know I’ve got to get my butt gear.

And, FYI, now that I’m facing fifty, middle age starts at 60.

leendaluus last blog post..

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Melanie @ BeanPaste July 11, 2008 at 10:45 am

The only way I’m running in 110 degree heat is if I’m being chased by a mountain lion. Or land shark. Or serial killer.

Great, lovely, candid post.

Melanie @ BeanPastes last blog post..Very Little Edie

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Crazycath July 12, 2008 at 11:00 am

Very poignant but also very wise. You are right – everything in moderation. Or, I hope you’re right because I am not athletic or a fitness freak either…

110 degree heat? Seriously? Whew!

And love the Oprah comment….. very astute.

Crazycaths last blog post..More fun with wordles…

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tysdaddy July 13, 2008 at 12:27 pm

This is amazing, Jennifer.

“I suppose the only thing we can do, at any age, is to put ourselves smack in the middle of our lives.”

A hearty amen.

Sorry to hear about the stupid house . . .

tysdaddys last blog post..When Boys Cry

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Hatchet July 15, 2008 at 9:47 am

I’m sticking to the idea that middle age starts at 50, since I’m planning on living to 100. Barring accidents, of course.

Regarding the food thing, I recommend reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and In Defense of Food. I found them eye opening, to say the very least!

Exercising OUTDOORS in AZ is beyond my comprehension. My version is farming. It’s a lot easier to do it when you HAVE to do it and involves lots of different things, so you don’t get bored on the Treadmill to Nowhere. I like my exercise to have a POINT, other than just getting in shape. I already HAVE a shape. : ) It may not be the ideal hourglass, but it’s mine.

That said, I need a nap!

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