Growing up I thought that adults had it all nailed.
I presumed that at some point in your growing up, there would be a flash of light and we would know all of the shit we are supposed to know as adults; you know so we can adult.
In my twenties, I remember thinking I had got it nailed, I knew what I wanted..erm doh; the fairytale obviously. (thanks to the bloody Disney movies and The Princess Bride – oh and Pretty Woman, although I never wanted to hang out on a street corner in a short skirt and a wig waiting for a limo…but there was that time in Cannes; but that’s a whole different chapter).
Of course, the fairytale was a crock of shite, and then I thought it’s okay because by the time you get to 40 (like really old), you had it all. Life would be a big, huge, bucket of contentment, a meander down a daily path of happiness with the odd segue on the stream of satisfaction. We definitely would have had all the rules nailed on adulting by the time we were forty plus – and all our problems would be distant dreams in some murky growing up past. We would be grown up.
So here I am age 46 tapping my fingers on the keyboards still wondering where that adulting manual is and who sodding hid it. And more to the point, it seems that not only does life not get ‘easier’, it gets more complicated but with a fabulous sprinkling of f*ck it.
Don’t get me wrong I love my life, I am lucky as a lucky duck on a lucky day on that meandering stream of contentment….but when some b*stard wrote ‘Life begins at 40’ what they actually meant was life “etched with worry and anxiety, illness and falling apart body parts” begins at 40 – but you know some other f*cker (probably aged 26) subbed that out because it just wouldn’t have caught on and we were left with hope and dreams (much like the fairytales of the Disney movies).
Look at the facts…
As parents once you’ve realised that there’s no such thing as the parenting manual and the only rules that count are (i) the five second rule (well really ten in our house, and possibly overnight depending on the hunger levels) and (ii) that in public the menacingly low voice to chastise the smalls is always better to minimise social worker involvement that the actual screamy shouty mum voice normally used, you think you have it nailed. As new (ish) parents you can’t imagine that anything is going to be more stressful that the years when they don’t sleep, the months (or one night in my case) when they do sleep and you run into their room to check they’re still breathing, but (and if you are a newish parent or a parent with anyone under 12, SWITCH OFF NOW, you’re better not knowing), BUT jeez it gets worse.
There’s the teenage years of hell, and I’m not talking about the mood swings (that’s just me). I’m talking about the worry. The worry that as they get older and they look to tread their own path, make their own decisions in life, the worry increases like the profit graph of Primarni when teenagers get their spends. Watching them cycle to school ON THEIR OWN, watching the 17 year old learn to drive, realising you can only be there to love, guide and help when they want it makes the worry of those early years seem like a walk in the park (trying to get a screaming toddler back into the pushchair). There’s a feeling of total helplessness when they get hurt physically (by bullies) or emotionally as their own hearts start to grapple with love, loss and, well, being binned (usually over Snapchat). AND STILL THEY DON’T SLEEP.
On the upside, there’s a new tribe in town. It’s you and your not so smalls. You suddenly see these young humans that you have nurtured turn into brilliant company, into people you want to be around,* the not so smalls are not so small anymore and support and help you right back.**
As women (men folk, you can look away now and just, you know… potter) As women, we think it can get no worse than periods. You want them, and then they arrive and you think ‘I have made it, I am woman’ and then the reality sets in and you think ‘it’s okay one day they will just stop and I will be free again’. BUT OH NO. They don’t just stop. No such thing for us women folk…we have a whole journey to behold as they judder to a halt…First comes the perimenopause*** which frankly makes puberty look like a walk in the park (even when battling to get said toddler back into said pushchair) and then the full onslaught of the menopause which I can’t even bring myself to ask Dr Google about yet.
And then there’s illness, watching people around you struggling, realising that everyone is fighting a battle, realising that the circle of life is cruel and heart breaking and knowing as we get older there’s more heartbreak ahead. But that circle of life, that knowledge that some people you will never see again, makes me love life even more. It’s made me more determined to make the most out of my life, the tick tock of the stopwatch of life makes me more committed to look up to the sky and make the moments count. It has even help develop and hone my new life mantra..“F*ck It” which doesn’t begin at 40, it begins now for all of us, because that sodding parenting manual never arrives and there’s no secret recipe or rule book on how to magic the perfect life.
For me, age 46 and a bit, life with all its anxiety and stress and worry is about now.
And if that mantra doesn’t work, it’s all okay, because you know, life really begins at retirement…you know when we’re all 90.
It’s okay – we’ve got this…(maybe). And there’s always wine.
*you don’t actually have much choice on this as they mainly go to bed later than you
** obviously I am not talking about washing, making beds, picking sodding towels up, making their own packed lunches etc etc
*** and why oh why oh why does perimenopause have the word men it in…it doesn’t even happen to them (rant over…as you were)