It's the end of October and I haven't planted any mums yet. It bothers me some, when I pull into my driveway, to see a lack of yellow, orange or burgundy in front of my house. Actually, there is some color there, but it comes from my pink and purple geraniums, leftover from the summer.
The thing is, I just don't have the energy to care about my house's curb appeal this year.
I lost my dad in January, my mom is currently in the hospital and my gynecologist just called to say something abnormal showed up on last week's mammogram. Nine months in, 2017 has been the year of hits, one coming with shocking frequency after the other. I have spent the entire year in a perpetual state of fight or flight, and I know that's not good for me.
I do try to offset the stress, like all middle-aged people should. I exercise, eat well and try wholeheartedly to get enough sleep. But I'm the mother of two teens and they like to stay up later than I do, which means I stay up later than I'd like to do. I get up before dawn to fit in said exercise, so if you do the math, that means I never get an adequate amount of rest.
Looming menopause certainly doesn't make life rosier. I overheat at night, which makes me moody, weepy and missing some of the energy I used to have during the day. I worry about bone health, unwelcome weight gain and cancer.
I'm passionate about my hobbies—running, reading and writing—so that goes in the plus column. I have a family and friends that love me—and, I, them. I have a dog that I adore, although her stress level beats mine and that's sometimes a pain for all of her human family members. Add in a strong(ish) faith and a church community with which I am involved.
On the whole, life is good and I'm certainly whining about clichéd first-world problems. But I'm coming to realize that life in your 50s means sometimes feeling like a punching bag. A decade ago, news of a death or a divorce came as a shock. Each one was a blow, but there was plenty of space between events. I would take the hit, heal, and move on, safe on my little island of 40-something ignorance.
Since turning 50, however, it seems the big, devastating episodes come one after the other after the other. Friends losing parents, siblings or—even worse—children. Scary illnesses, sudden heart attacks in my peer group and divorces among couples I thought would always go the distance.
I probably don't need to add that all of this is occurring the same year that our country seems to be falling apart: domestic terrorism, blatant racism, natural disasters and, of course, the vast cultural divide that will seemingly never shrink.
It gets to be like Whack-a-Mole, perpetually dealing with each crisis and then before I can catch my breath, on to the next. I can't keep up.
In the end, I do tend to return to a fairly "glass is half full" existence, which is my natural state of being. I can find the peaks here and there among the wide and low valleys. But as I recognize that life in my 50s means more stress—big, real, scary stress—I realize I need to come to terms and focus on the big, important issues at hand.
A younger me might never have put up with the thick coating of dust on my desk, the cluttered garage that can barely fit my car or the fact that yesterday's overflowing laundry is still waiting to be stashed in drawers. But 50-something me has bigger fish to fry and only so much energy to spare, so I will learn to overlook these minor issues and save them for another day. It's time to let things slip.
I'm starting with my flowers.