It’s not all bad, here in the end of my forties.

That’s not to say that I don’t have a whole hell of a lot of complaining to do about the grab-bag of indignities being foisted upon me, from the weird ridges in my fingernails to the way my belly sits fleshily upon my own lap now. Plus the hormonal brain fog which may or may not be pandemic fog or just plain middle-aged fog, but at any rate it’s like this all the time when I try and remember things? Or the way I have to frowningly adjust my focus for small print now, holding it farther from me rather than closer. Let’s not forget about the chin-area hairs, which offer the near-daily answer to a question I’d never before considered: how does it feel to confront a set of sturdy steel cables erupting out of the sagging disaster that is your neck?

I mean…not always great, Bob.

Still. There are upsides. Maybe you’re with me in the aging Gen X experience, caught somewhere between bleak cynicism and slack-jawed awe/disbelief. Not to get all attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, bright as magnesium over here but at this point we’ve all for sure been dragged through some shit, lived through beautiful and terrible days, seen seasons of life come and go.

There is a complex richness to that. The way a long-simmering stew can get deeper and better over time.

We have a lovely weeping cherry tree in our front yard (not to brag but it is a double weeping cherry, which I had always assumed meant it was twice as awesome but apparently it refers to the doubled blooms). Every April it briefly transforms from a regular droopy tree into this delicate and spectacular thing: a fireworks burst of pink, a frothy held-aloft wedding bouquet trailing towards the ground.

The people who stop on their spring walk to look at this tree are almost always older people, I’ve noticed that. They’re the ones who take the time to stand still and tip their faces towards the temporary flourish of the petals. Doesn’t it seem like that means something?

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48

I turned 48 in February. We were in Kauai, which was a terrific location for a ho-hum aging milestone (not quite the big 5-0). I’ll probably always fondly remember how the chair I sat on for my birthday dinner left a festive pattern of tropical cane-weave indentations into the back of my not-so-firm-and-youthful thighs that lasted for several humbling hours.

Just kidding, I will almost certainly forget that, or worse, replace a large swath of what actually happened with some filled-in memory gap bullshit. Remember how we were in Maui for my fiftieth and I sat in, what was it, fry sauce?

This is something I have noticed about getting older, how unreliable my memory is. It often feels like sifting through half-dissolved dreams, grabbing for bits of time that stick out for whatever reason in the foggy sea of the forgotten.

I sometimes think of all of the years I have lived and how I am filled with things that are only known to me and will die with me. How we all are. There’s a weight to being middle-aged and it’s not just the slowing-metabolism spare tire of belly fat. We are all heavy with our own stories.

Here at 48, I am not where I want to be. People talk about being freed from self-criticism as they age but I appear to have missed that wisdom memo: I am harder on myself now than I ever have been, or maybe it’s just that I see it more clearly. I am so stupidly bitter and hateful and despairing over my body and all its changes. I am so sad about my man-sized children growing up, up and away from me. I am so incredibly unclear on what it is I want to do with the rest of my one goddamned wild and precious fucking life.

The good news, of course, is that I am here to write all those embarrassing true things. My story goes on. It will change, because it always does.

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