It is often said that with age comes wisdom. And while I do believe that's true, I'm also becoming quite well aware of the fact that wisdom, like age, does not come alone. Wrinkles, moles, achy joints, a little sag here and a little bag there; these are all midlife harbingers of things to come.
Sitting in the waiting room at the eye surgery center, my husband surveyed the room and said “You're way too young to be here.” “Tell me about it,” I responded with a sigh. While some of my hair color does come from a bottle, I do still have a lot of my own natural color mixed in. I couldn't say the same for the rest of the room. Gray hair, white hair, bald heads, canes. What the hell?
At 46, I am young to have cataracts. Why I have them is anybody's guess . . .it's either a side effect from my year-round allergy medication use or just luck I suppose. But, whatever the cause, I have a cataract in my left eye that has grown very rapidly and is robbing me of my sight in that eye. I also have very early signs of a cataract in my right eye. So, there I sat, with my gray-haired comrades, waiting for the doctor to disintegrate the lens of my left eye with ultrasound, suck it out with a little vacuum and
replace it with an acrylic lens.
Sorry, did I just make you cringe? I don't need to tell you that it's kind of scary to think about it. People just don't like to think about having body parts removed, even poorly functioning ones. But I had three choices: have the surgery now, have it later or go blind. Hmmmmm.....
We don't always appreciate modern medicine, but at this moment I must say that I do. One hundred years ago, I would have gone blind in my forties. Blind . . .in my forties! Thinking about that freaks me out a little. So why do I think about it? What can I say . . . I don't like to feel dependent on anyone or anything. Do any of us? So I tend to dwell a little bit when things like this come up. To feel better, I have to remind myself that I didn't live a hundred years ago, thankfully. I'm alive now, in the twenty-first century when acrylic lenses are available (although quite pricey) and cataract surgery is the most routine surgery there is. I'm incredibly lucky when you look at it that way (which is the way I have to look at it unless I want to go crazy).
Lucky or not, my cataract problem is just the most recent message from my body to me and it's loud and clear. I'm getting older and stuff is going to break down. Exercise and a positive attitude will not stop it completely. We all deteriorate, we all die. It's unavoidable. The upside to this is that, little by little, I am becoming prepared. Midlife is letting me in on the secret that, eventually, it will all come to an end. Even better, it's doing it early enough that I have the time to appreciate what I still have while I still have it.
So midlife offers us a preview of old age and, in doing so, is actually doing us a favor. Old age might prefer to sneak up and jump out at us from behind the sofa like some kind of sick joke but, fortunately, mid-life steps in to protect us. It does it's best to break us in gently. It teaches us so many things . . .things that we perhaps never really wanted to learn, but that will serve us well in the long-run never-the-less.
Middle age and it's baggage will come at different times for different people. Some feel the changes in their late thirties while others may not notice anything until their sixties. However and whenever you experience it though, we all need to recognize that midlife is our friend, not our enemy. When it speaks to you, listen carefully. Learn what it has to teach you so that you can not only prepare yourself for what's to come, but appreciate and enjoy what you have now.
P.S. My surgery went fine . . .ten minutes tops. The sedation was, without question, my favorite part. (I asked for a few “samples” to take home, but no luck.) So, while my left pupil is still dilated to the size of Lake Superior and I get to wear those great, huge sunglasses for a few more days, my bionic eye is working pretty well so far. I had my doubts, but truly, seeing is believing.