All along you paid close attention, to the answers when a voice asks the question – how’d you get here, where do you belong? Seventeen makes us brave and so full of nerve, thirty five makes us pause but we are undeterred. Never say die and so we push on. We used to dread lives rendered ordinary. We always said we’d own a grander story, the only kind worth telling somehow. Love and kindness are all that matter now.
Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Middle Ages
Recently we met a group of friends in Blowing Rock, NC for the weekend. We love that town. It has great walkability for dinner, shoppes, and coffee. Our favorite spot is an old house/converted restaurant, with a wildflower garden and perfect wavy glass and a fantastic brunch menu. Eclectic, artsy, atmosphere, variety… a tiny town with a lot to offer. We always stay at this cute little place with ferns and rocking chairs out front, and one woman makes the reservations (you can’t do it online), if she’s not there when you call, her husband will tell you she’ll call you back. We meet there specifically to ride motorcycles through the scenic mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. We are a motley crew of engineers, accountants, attorneys, product managers, sales guys, home makers, and one introverted blogger with a suppressed need for speed. We’ll ride six or seven hours through the mountains, stopping at old filling stations with plank floors….shoot the breeze, have a Moonpie. Lots of overlook photos, nonstop corny jokes, junk food, tons of laughing… usually some rain, occasionally we escape it. At days end, we have dinner and reminisce the adventures we’ve had together. We find somewhere to play pool or catch some live music, or sing karaoke. This trip however…… karaoke didn’t start until 10:30, and none of us wanted to stay up THAT LATE. So, we all shuffled our tired, middle aged souls back to our respective hotel rooms, and went to sleep before karaoke had even begun.
And that, my friends…. is just pitiful.
What I want to know is….. WHAT. HAPPENED? Not just with our Scoot trip, that’s just one small example. When did I stop being young? When did I become such a homebody? When did I decide the day is over at 7pm? When did I quit feeling truly ALIVE? Are you going through this too? Is it just me? We have friends over very rarely, but when we do I am looking at my watch by 9 o’clock wondering when these people are going to go home?! By 9:30 I am yawning and counting the seconds until I can take off ‘real’ clothes and put on pajamas. By 10pm I am bargaining with Jesus. What happened to enjoying late night walks under a starry sky? What happened to the Pterodactyl and friends piling in one car, and deciding at 2am to drive to Wrightsville Beach just to watch the sun come up? What happened to Waffle House hash browns after a night out? When did Saturday Night Live start coming on WAY too late for me? What happened to Mythos, or the drag show at Scorpio, or walking around uptown with friends? What happened to short dresses and high heels and DANCING….. when was the last time you danced??? I can tell you the last time I danced. Years ago, Steve and I were supposed to meet friends at some random place in Charlotte neither of us had ever been. The friends ended up bailing on us after we had already been there waiting for an hour playing Galaga & Ms. Pac-Man…. and at some point in the night a bartender pushed some sort of blue drinks towards us and said “The shots are on the house. Welcome back to club life.” We were the OLD people in the bar. We tore up the dance floor, and let me assure you, neither of us are good dancers. I guess you could say we went out in style. Old folks in the bar: check. Shots: check. Dancing: check. Never, ever, again: check.
How is it possible to blink and be middle aged? When did my ears get so big? Does anyone else feel BLIND? I can’t see a thing! Heaven forbid I leave the house without my glasses… Ava has to read everything to me. At least once a day I walk into a room and have to stop and think for a sec… why did I come in here again? And WHY are spider veins part of the deal? Things are drooping and sagging and there are spots on my hands. BOOB wrinkles. What the heck? What is fair about boob wrinkles? And jowels. And night sweats. And hot flashes. Getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and it’s 11:30pm. Seriously. I am obsessed with safety. And being prepared. And retirement. And carcinogens. Is this just what happens in your mid forties? You go to bed halfway normal one night, and you wake up ready for velcro shoes and knee highs? I really need to know. We may need a focus group.
How do you find it? It’s one thing to find balance in the day-to-day with the girls and Steve and family… and my job, the girls homework, music practice, fitness, prepare meals, clean the house, pay bills, etc. It is another thing entirely to find balance in LIFE. To expend the time and energy required to be an interesting person. I don’t want to be old. I don’t want to go to bed at 9. I don’t want to have spots on my hands and not dance anymore. I want to feel inspired and fulfilled, to do the fun things I always used to do… and I’ll be honest, I’m struggling with this. I want to go back to the White Water Center and ride mountain bikes at breakneck speeds. Last time there I crashed into a tree and haven’t been back. Fear, plain and simple. Fear of crashing, fear of getting hurt. Fear of the cost of a hospital visit. I’ve hiked all over this country with very little consideration for bears or mountain lions or rattle snakes, or getting murdered. There’s no WAY I’d be so free about it now. I’d like to play Circle Rules football again, (even though I reeeaally sucked at it) because it was SO much fun, but one of us always ended up in Urgent Care. I’d like to learn to kayak a rushing river. Learn to sail. Be brave enough to trail camp. To shop produce markets where no one speaks English. To climb treacherously high mountains that might require Sherpas… but not ice cleats or oxygen tanks, let’s not get carried away. I want to stay up past midnight and DANCE.
While we can’t turn back the clock and find our youth, I still crave to feel youthful, and ALIVE. Isn’t that the best part of life? Feeling alive? All of your senses awake and firing together…? I am not sure how to find those old feelings. Maybe it just changes when you have children. Maybe feelings of ‘alive’ morph into feelings of gratitude and overwhelming love. I do feel alive when Em lays her head in my lap and I brush the hair from her face. Or when she hugs me and I feel her tiny fingers on the back of my neck… hugging me back so fiercely with all her might. I feel alive when Ava comes downstairs in the mornings, collapsing on me in sleepy snuggles, sloshing my coffee and muttered good mornings. I feel alive when we are behind the boat… she is wobbling and terrified to learn to ski…. and my heart soars when she gets up, smile beaming, and she conquered that fear all on her own. Maybe we just reach a new place of maturity in our mid forties and perhaps I have found my way to this place, unsure how to navigate the territory. Feeling like Sense and Sensibilities, two halves of two characters: one young and wild and impetuous, one mature and safe and grounded. I want to be both. Inside I am both. I haven’t figured it all out yet…. but you can bet I’ll share when I do.
In the meantime, I encourage you, dear friend…. to go out and feel ALIVE. Get inspired and be fulfilled. Go try something you’ve never done. Don’t get caught up over-analyzing it to death, just dive in head first and figure it out on the swim up. Obviously not talking life changing challenges here – but take a Saturday afternoon and DO SOMETHING that reminds you of why God placed you on this miracle of a planet we have. Feel the wind. Gaze at the stars. Remind yourself that you are alive now with a functioning body and capabilities beyond what you think you can do. God willing there will be time enough for Netflix, and boob wrinkles. Get out there and have some life.
Until next time, -B.