Friday, April 25, 2014

It all boils down to...Jell-O.

First half: all-night jams.
Making sugar-free Jell-O today for Ray’s and my evening “treat” was suddenly hilarious. I started laughing, then I had to dash for the bathroom (any woman over 50 will explain it to you), where I had a few moments to contemplate the glories of middle age.

I’m in my 50’s. THAT’S middle age.  I swear, if I hear another 30-something woman kvetch about being “old” or “over the hill,” I’ll give her such a swat with my hiking pole (hipster cane) that it’ll knock her from here to Tuesday. This is probably how my 78-year-old mom feels about us whiny whippersnapper 50-somethings, too. I guess there are varying degrees of curmudgeonness.

One difference I’ve noticed between younger adulthood and midlife is the shortening of one’s daily energy window. The semester is grinding [me] to a halt, and my colleagues and I are in full-on, flop-sweat panic mode trying to cram in every goal, outcome, measurement tool, assessment test, final paper, final portfolio, and student conference left on the Biblical Syllabi in order to appease the vengeful regental gods. We know full well that this “cramester” means that students salivate over their instructor evaluations, where they can unleash, with their pointy No. 2 pencils, their own stress-induced, apocalyptic (as all things are for 19-year-olds) retribution. There it is: another chance at Superhuman Teacher of the Year blown to smithereens.

First half: all-nighter, somewhere in NM.
Anyway, I noticed in a recent lightning round of student conferences that my midlife/post-stroke brain is good till about 3 p.m. After that, it quite suddenly closes up shop and goes home, leaving me in front of class or in a meeting, trying to hold up my lower jaw. I stare into space and say things like “Okay, well…whatever,” or “Wow…pretty Works Cited page,” or “ED-ipus…EEDipus…hmmm….” I’ve also been squeezing in additional conferences with students who now find themselves in the Downward Failing Dog position, and if they come to see me after 3 p.m., I go all Mom on them, like, “Well, Bethany, you should have thought of that before you…” or “I guess those absences really do have consequences, right Treyvon?” or “Personal responsibility blahblahblah…” Not helpful to either of us.

First half: musicians + old school bus = band.
Another thing I’ve noticed lately is that if you take your age, subtract the number of “Kojak” episodes you’ve watched (either accidentally or on purpose), then multiply that by 10 times the number of times you’ve ever said “totes” or “probs” (A – K x (10xTP)), that’s how many calories you can safely consume in a day without packing on a spare monster truck tire and watching your eyes sink into folds of spongy blubber. And that’s only IF you also jog 20 miles/day (on your recently replaced knee/hip), don’t eat ANY processed foods or sugars, don’t drink ANY alcohol, and take a Zumba class. My friend M and I tried a belly dancing class not long ago, because, well, really wonderful belly dancers are voluptuous, right? So the class was an hour long. She lasted 30 minutes, and I lasted 40, before we both faked injuries and left. The 20-somethings had already put 9-1-1 on speed dial, so they were relieved when we left under our own power.

Second half: sudden, unexplained muscle contractions.
That brings me to another novelty of midlife. Shifting priorities. I was not a bit embarrassed to leave that belly dancing class. Nor was I embarrassed when I recently showed up for a student conference on the wrong day. I’m not sure when it happened, exactly, but my people-pleasing obsession seems to have vanished right along with my well-defined waistline. Maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, but it took me until my 50’s to realize that even the most kind-hearted folks have plenty of their own swampwater to wade through; they don’t have the wherewithal to consider mine. So I’m learning to be my own advocate. I’m learning to say no. In fact, I’m learning to say hell no, then bend over, slap my knees, and cackle hysterically.

Second half: clearly, she doesn't care WHO sees her hair.
Speaking of bending over, who was I trying to fool when I spent our friend B’s birthday doing wine-fueled interpretive dance at our Little Town watering hole? My former 2- or 3-day non-stop party binges, and my frequent grad school all-nighters, have turned into biannual MAYBE half-nighters, followed by a week of Advil, hotpacks, and constant grumbling.

So as the semester tightens its choke-hold, with piles of papers to grade and a bazillion loose ends to tie up, I’m planning summer outings, of course. Maybe a cross-country Amtrak trip to see friends in Cali. Maybe the Denver/Vegas/Santa Fe loop road trip to see our oldest son. Maybe a few days at the lake with the girls. Or maybe, a summer senior yoga class, lots of Jell-O, and daily 3 p.m. naps.


  1. Yeah, well, cry me a river.

  2. Told you my Mom wouldn't appreciate the gravity of my complaints...;)

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