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My old friend Liz called me the other day, her voice urgent.
“How old are we?” she asked in a heated whisper. I actually paused. First because I was startled that she didn’t know, and then because I didn’t know either.
“Um… 42?” I said.
Liz cursed. “I knew I was wrong.” Her voice rose to a shout. “ I just lied about my age by accident!” Now it was her turn to pause. “42.” She let out a breath. “No wonder I couldn’t remember.”
The subtext of her comment didn’t become clear to me right away. At different intervals of my life, people seemed to revel in saying, “Wait ’til you (insert: get a job, hit 30, get married, have kids, turn 40).” According to popular belief, any milestone of life could ruin my mind and body. I would prefer ending it all a la “Thelma and Louise” rather than having a life of natural progression. However, the opposite for me has always been true. Family, physical fitness and my career as a teacher invigorated me and kept me mentally sharp. I scoffed at people’s negativity and remained in pursuit of life’s challenges.
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Then I turned 42. It began slowly, like a trickle from the faucet you ignore or the snag in your tights you convince yourself won’t get worse. But before you know it, the water is not shutting off and you’re clutching the waistband of the tights while hop-jogging to the ladies’ room. My trickle came in the form of fatigue. Rather than waking up for an early morning run, I found myself saying, “Not today,” and flipping over to snooze. I shrugged it off, blaming my innocent second child or the absurdly early hour. Charlee didn’t sleep as well as my first, she’s still a baby, I’m a teacher and it’s 4:20 in the morning for [Pete’s] sake! But snoozing once in a while turned into every morning. Running five miles before school eventually became something I used to do. Of course, that caused me to gain some of the baby weight back I had worked so hard to lose and that made me depressed.
A vicious cycle ensued. But I was tired. God, was I tired. I didn’t understand it. I even adopted the terrible habit of berating myself for not working out, not being creative and for just doing what I called sucking at life. Finally, after one sunny afternoon commute home turned into a mind game of how not to fall asleep at the wheel, I knew something had to be done. I went to the doctor.
“You’re fine,” Dr. D looked at me levelly. “All your bloodwork was normal.”
I was stupidly upset. “Then what’s wrong with me?”
He chuckled. “Helllooooo, you have two kids and you’re 42!”
I did not say [what I wanted to] out loud, even though his laughter was annoying. Then and there I decided two things: to make myself feel better and to stop hating myself — my age included. I did not start swearing off food groups or guzzling kale and kombucha tea. I did, however, make a list:
WAYS NOT TO HATE 42:
- Say thank you for my clean bill of health, my kids and my husband who thinks I’m beautiful.
- Enjoy a glass of wine (not three) during the work week if I want.
- Start the morning with a compliment to myself rather than saying something to myself that I would not say to my best friend.
- Run. Some way, somehow, keep my feet moving, and understand it doesn’t have to be a marathon.
- Do. What. Makes. Me. Happy. I’ve waited long enough.
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