By Alex Cohen
There is nothing worse than looking at a blank page when you are trying to find inspiration. That is how I have been feeling lately—not only about this blog, but about my life as well.
I am in what people call “the middle” of my life. What does that really mean? Do I only have half a life left to live or will this be the better half? I hear that this is the time when I should focus on the things I have always wanted to do, like spending time with my spouse without the interruption of our children’s needs, traveling, working less, taking better care of ourselves—doing things we didn’t have a chance to do in the first half.
But the interruption of children’s needs never goes away. As long as you are alive, they will have needs—just different ones. Our children are starting to experience the same life lessons we all learned as young adults: love, pain, disappointment, anxiety, fear, success, and failure. As much as we would like to protect them from this crazy ride, we need to let them learn from their own mistakes and find their own path. This is the lesson I am being taught right now, and it’s no fun. Trust me. It’s like watching a bird about to hit a window and all you want to do is open it, so the bird doesn’t get hurt. But where would the lesson be in that?
As far as traveling goes, my husband and I have done a lot of that in the nearly 30 years we have been together, both with and without the kids. It’s been a blast and there are so many other places to see. But at this point, a romantic dinner and a nice long walk together are the trips I look forward to the most. I find that getting to know each other all over again is invigorating—learning things we didn’t notice before because we were too busy with life’s twists and turns or seeing how age and time has changed us both and exploring that. Our conversations are not just about our children, our schedules or our responsibilities, but about what we are currently involved in and passionate about.
The future is here for us now; it’s no longer a pipe dream. The things we had hoped would have happened by now may have happened or changed completely over the course of our lives. For example, I thought I would be working less at this age. Instead, I have taken on more than I could have imagined I could handle. Most of the time I love my job, but there is always that twinge of wishing I could just get up and go and explore more of the world around me—just check out. Over the years, my job has taken me on a few adventures I would have missed if I had checked out, so for that I am grateful. I have also taken chances I would have never taken if it were not for some unavoidable work experiences. I have given interviews in person, on the phone and even on television, no matter how scared I was. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I can say that I moved beyond the fear and did it anyway.
Taking better care of ourselves? Well, I missed that memo! Lyme disease threw a serious wrench in my life almost 13 years ago and I have never been the same again. I am under constant care of a doctor who adjusts my needs a few times a year. The supplements, acupuncture, physical therapy, and anxiety that come with Lyme are enough to make anyone want to give up. Then add in the “pleasures” of perimenopause, hot flashes, mood swings, and thyroid and hormones that are all out of whack, and that is my life. But giving up isn’t an option because I have a lot of people who depend on me. All in all, I am still happy with where I am today and grateful for all my life has dished out. I am still here fighting the fight. For those of you who are reading this and feeling as if I should not have the right to complain about anything, remember one thing: money can’t solve all your problems. That’s a whole other blog!
So, back to the blank page. What happens now? I spend a lot of time reading books on these subjects: longevity, how to improve memory, how to reduce stress and inflammation, how to meditate, what the new super food or trendy diet is, what new supplements promise, how to change your mind, your body, your soul…the list goes on. Then you read about the woman who celebrated her 104th birthday and her life hacks are walking and drinking wine or whisky every day. Is it really a secret or are we destined to live to a certain age no matter what we do? Do we need to stop indulging in gluten, red meat, sugar, alcohol, and fun to add a few more years to our lives? Is that the answer?
I really DO want to get up an hour earlier, workout every morning, meditate, drink my hot water and tea, and get ready for my day. But then I turn over and see my husband all curled up under the blankets and I change my mind. Instead, I wait for him to wake up so we can have our morning cuddle. Is that a bad thing? Will this make me live longer or will it cost me a few years?
My paternal grandmother lived until she was 96 and was healthy until a month before she died. She lived alone her whole life, ate bread and butter for breakfast, and drank about 20 cups of coffee a day. She fried her steak (and everything else) in butter and oil and barely ate a fruit or a vegetable. She had two children out of wedlock, whom she raised alone, and had her own challenges in life. She never complained and was always happy to have company but spent most of her time alone and loved it. Is that the secret? What is the answer? Do what makes you happy? Or do what make you healthy even if it makes you unhappy? Work harder, work less, do more, do less—it’s all too confusing and everyone seems to have the right answer.
I’m meeting a holistic nutritionist soon. I’m not sure exactly what that means but she claims she can change the relationship we all have to food. I’m down for that because right now bacon, wine, and gluten are my best friends and I think we need some time away from each other. But not forever—they can be my sinful indulgence every now and then when the occasion calls for it.
Recently, I got some very sage advice from my stepdaughter. We had not spoken in almost 20 years and bumped into each other recently. It was great to see how she had matured into such a poised and professional woman; I still saw her as a child in my mind. Hugging her that day was very cathartic for me as I had always felt I was a failure as her stepmom. I was young and stupid and preoccupied with my new marriage and my own children. The hug was my apology to her, and her hug back was her forgiveness. She reminded me that I needed to have patience with my children and life itself; things have a way of working themselves out. I needed to be reminded of that and her timing was perfect.
So, my plan for this blank page is…I’m not sure yet, but I will keep you posted.