The Indignities of Age

Yesterday, I migrated my digital photos from one organizer to another, when Adobe upgraded their Lightroom program to a subscription model. Instead of paying one price for a system that would last for four or five years, Adobe wanted me to pay $120 a year to use their system. Nah. So, I moved everything to iPhotos, which is free with my Mac computer.

As I pushed folders around, the images of the last ten years flew across my screen. There were Easter pictures with the boys, who were still boys, on the front porch of our old home. Selfies of myself in outfits before I went out to teach at the college. Steve shoveling out the driveway after a heavy snowstorm. It was sweet and painful to see my life fly past me. Like those flashbacks before death.


It was funny to see pictures of Steve before he went on his massive diet two years ago and the boys before puberty hit and rearranged their facial features. And there was the slow decay of my own body. It hurt, a lot, to see how much I’ve changed.

Menopause, and all its little steps before and after, take a huge toll on women. Perimenopause, those few years as fertility sputters out, was rough on me. It’s this terrible time in a woman’s life, as her body frantically looks for estrogen in all the wrong places and, in the process, freaks out the whole system.

I went from being one of those people who sleeps like the dead to one who would sleep in two hour chunks. I developed that habit of reading bad novels at 4am on iPad next to my bed.

I gained weight. For the first time in life, I suddenly had to think about calories. My beloved glass of wine in the evening became something to fear. No more chicken wings and beer on a Friday night.

While my body has now come to terms with the changes and is letting me sleep again, I am still struggling to remain strong and healthy. Meal times require more thought — rice for Ian tonight and quinoa for me. I don’t dare miss my 9:30 spin class this morning. I’ve swapped my glass of wine for a Corona Light. I am typing this blog post right now using my new standing desk, because the chiropractor said that sitting at a desk for too long was wrecking my spine.

I know that there’s no turning the clock back. I’m never going to fit into those size 3/4 pants again. The lines on my neck are permanent. I’m reading articles about the correlation between Alzheimer’s Disease and menopause with fear and trepidation.

But I’m also a lot smarter than the stranger in those pictures on my computer. I am a lot less stressed out about managing family and work. I’m more comfortable with myself. I’m making more manageable goals for myself for work and life. I’ve (mostly) accepted both the good and the bad things that have happened in my life, rather than being pissed off at the world.

I decided to get a job in retail for a few months, while I figure out my next steps. I need to make some changes, readjust the types of things that I write, set some new goals. I want to try something new, while I figure things out. So, yesterday I filled out an application for the big box book chain. Today, I’ll apply to more places.

7 thoughts on “The Indignities of Age

  1. The ability to gain weight has been a shock to me. At nearly 6 feet tall I had always been able to eat whatever I wanted. But moving to a new city, and the disorganized eating of the move and house hunting time packed on pounds. I dieted for the first time a year and a half ago putting myself on 1900 calories a day and hated it. I lost 10 pounds and then gained it back. I’m trying to find some kind of peace with my body and a new eating plan. At least exercise is easy here in Denver.


  2. I am so focused on the children when I look at my flashback photos. I looked at photos today (because a friend posted a picture of her daughter as a toddler wearing a GAP dress that my toddler also had). I loved that dress (pink denim, embroidery, square neck), and tried to look for a picture of my kiddo in the dress (I haven’t found it, but it must exist). The kids, the kids, It melts my heart at how short that time was now.

    Agree that Adobe’s subscription model is hateful. An interesting tidbit — people in Venezuela lost their access to Adobe products because of the subscription model. Adobe interpreted the sanctions/restrictions to mean that they couldn’t accept subscription payments, and thus, cut off access to the product.

    I have held off updating so that I can continue to use my Lightroom/Photoshop suite editions that are not on the subscription model. At some point, though, my computer will fail and I will be forced to upgrade. I don’t know what my solution will be at that point. But, Adobe doesn’t care about me. They think they make more money off the professional users who incorporate the cost of the product into their business. But, I do wonder if they’ll be wrong eventually, as the products developed for us become good enough that they encroach on the professional space. They had a terrible roll out of their iPad product recently.


    1. It’s funny, but my life hasn’t matched that pattern at all. I think it might be because: (i) I married relatively late (as human beings go, though not especially late for men of my generation and class), at age 35, so I spent my forties parenting a young child, which doesn’t leave much time for personal crises and (ii) my fifties coincided with the Great Recession, which caused our family a fair amount of economic dislocation, which rather paradoxically tends to improve many measures of psychological well-being.


  3. This article on the “midlife crisis”from HBR was shared on my FB feed recently:
    Why So Many of Us Experience a Midlife Crisis

    I think it reflects some of what you say, describing a u shaped curve in life satisfaction. The other words I always remember is a colleague reference to a “diversified happiness portfolio.” On the other side of the U curve, I think is a recognition of this diversification.

    I would be intrigued to hear about your reflections on your retain job. It is one of the jobs I would be very bad at. Waitressing is not the same job, but I once was convinced to serve as a waitress at a dorm event. I was mind-numbingly awful. Most notably, my mind would wander the instant I was waiting to see if I was needed, and would then be impossible to reach.


    1. bj said,

      “I would be intrigued to hear about your reflections on your retain job. It is one of the jobs I would be very bad at.”

      I think I have been pretty good at it (I worked summers at my parents’ outdoor store in my college years) and interpersonally, I think I’d be better at it now. BUT while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. I now have foot issues that would make it very, very unwise to stand on concrete all day.


  4. I gotta say, I can’t complain too much about my journey into perimenopause. I haven’t experienced any hot flashes yet. I still look and feel a lot younger than my age. Frankly, I felt worse in my mid-to-late thirties than I do now, because at that time my Hashimoto’s thyroiditis had not yet been diagnosed (protip: if you wonder why longevity is going down for working class women, it’s because physicians don’t listen to us, and our PPOs give financial incentives to network providers for denial of care. I could be on my soapbox all day about classism in the medical profession. If I had cancer instead of Hashimoto’s, I’d’a been dead before now.)

    Ahem. Anyway, I think middle age is much kinder to women than to men. We tend to look younger than men our age. Their loss of testosterone is more dramatic than our loss of estrogen. They lose more muscle mass and strength, and that gets into their psyche, while most of us were completely done with the idea of having any more children long before we lose the physical ability to do so. I’m seriously looking forward to no more worries about birth control. And I’m super-cool with the gravitas that comes from being “a certain age”. I used to have to fight for respect, now (at least, within “my world”), respect is routine. I dig that.

    I also dig the breathing room that comes with my daughter growing into adulthood. I’m a single mother, so it was “all me, all the time”. No respite, no matter what. It was all on me, and mostly I dealt with that by the tunnel-vision and concordant actions and decision-making of necessity and self-denial. If it couldn’t wait it got done. If it could…that’s what the back-burner was for. By the time she was in high school, I got to a place where I could slowly take items off the back-burner, and get back to Life. Now I’m free to prioritize me after many years of having to do without—and that feels amazing. I climbed the mountaintop, and now I have a view that’s a hell of a lot better than before.


  5. I seemed to have missed menopause in that I went on a Fulbright and the physical jolt of living in Dhaka in a fifth floor walk-up apparently led me to believe that the physical manifestations had to do with the change of place and not with being 50.


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