Watercolor of the Cailleach by Sarah West
I'm over fifty now -- fifty-one in fact. Right on time, or so they tell me, I hear the insistent voice in my head. It feels like discordant gong ringing -- "Now is the time," it says. "Right now. You won't have more chances."
I've heard the clanging before, but it was a whisper then. When I turned thirty, it briefly paid a visit on the cusp of getting married. When I was six-months pregnant with my first child, feeling full and ripe, I knew then that I was quickly approaching a time where I would lose myself to motherhood. Others warned me. "Do everything now," they said. "You won't have another chance for twenty years!" And, as is the way with oxytocin and falling in love, the sounds of warning disappeared into a haze of sleepless nights and the light touch of new life.
But now, right now, it won't leave me. I ignore it, and the insistence grows louder. It spills out into my conversation with others my age, and I see in their eyes... yes, they too hear it. They don't hear my interior and noisy demands , but I can tell that they hear their own.
This cacophony seems to demand of me to define and accomplish goals and wants, dreams and sore-spots of longing. When I ponder these things and make a vow to set things right, the urgency mutes temporarily.
But what do I want? Isn't that an enormous question, loaded with possibility and expectation? Mid-century birthdays feel full, like a peach, sweet with the awareness of the short duration of the season of such fruit. I'm ripening again, just as I did while pregnant. What do I have to get done in the years I have left?
So far, I can identify a few things:
The problem with all this mid-life wanting is that it changes your relationships, with everyone, almost in every way. These insistent demands that you change things up to get right with yourself also demands a lot of from the people who love you. They watch you wrestle with demons of your past neglected inner life, and sometimes it isn't a cheerful process and makes demands on them too. And they didn't sign up for that shit! Your messy needs and life-changes rattle cages and smash roles and illusions carefully constructed by time and habit and pattern. For the most part, this is not a fun process.
Tell me, friends, do you feel it? How do you bear it? How do you not spend your days crying with both gratitude for the knowing and the fear of it being left undone? How do you negotiate your life intertwined with others, their needs and wants, their own banging gong ringing in their ears? How does something this messy come clean? I am told it does, with time, but I see no clear path.
Perhaps having an unclear path that is the way of things, or so I'm told. But it sure would help right now to have some way to walk, a hint at a path under fallen leaves and decay, to steady my feet in the dimly-lit forest of this time of my life.