And then you are forty-five

When you are young, you can’t wait until you are in charge, until you can make decisions about your own life, about your own schedule, about how you will spend your hours, your days, your life, your paycheck.

You make life choices, whether conscious or unconscious and then you live with them.

And then when you are forty-five, you look around and realize that almost every bit of your life, every minute of every hour, every effort you expend belongs to someone else.  You wash clothes you don’t wear and cook meals you don’t eat and attend sports practices you only watch.  You buy snacks you don’t like and wash forks you didn’t use and iron pants that don’t belong to you.

You deliver other people to other places to participate in events that exclude you.

You worry about situations that will affect other people.  You don’t care too much how the outcome changes you but you care because of the others.  They matter.

You slice and dice up bits of your heart and life and give them away and wonder, in the end, if you’ll have anything left over, if the lunch you’ve offered to to share will actually feed five thousand.

When you are young, you steer your life in a certain lane, take a particular exit and you don’t realize that you’ll never again wake up in the morning with only thoughts of yourself.   You’ll never face an entire empty day full of possibilities and choices because everything you think and everything you do tilts the orbits of other people circling you.  You are anchored.  You are snared.  You wake up in the night because other people wake up in the night and say your name.

Part of you wants to use giant shears to cut yourself loose but the other part of you finds the web you’ve spun to be a lovely, soft nest.  You’re swaddled tightly and the immobility soothes you.

But all the same, you want to shout back to your distant self a warning to savor those days when you think you are so busy because you have to  meet a school deadline.  That is freedom.  You just don’t understand that then because you aren’t paying the mortgage.

Welcome to adulthood.

11 thoughts on “And then you are forty-five

  1. Never in a million years would I have dreamt that not only once but TWICE my life is so deeply enmeshed in the same place you’re at now. I raised my children, now I’m basically raising my grandkids as well. I had around 7 years of ‘freedom’ between the time my son graduated from high school until I began doing day care for my first grandson. Some days I look back at that carefree time…really the ONLY carefree time of my adulthood…with such longing! And yet…and yet…even tho I can’t even go to the bathroom alone, even tho the little guys ‘help’ with household chores because they love to and drag out a job that would’ve taken me 15 minutes tops into an hour or so…there IS a blessing in being needed. All too soon the house will be empty again, the walls quiet, no bins of toys in the dining room. Once again I’ll have all that ‘freedom’ and, honestly, I don’t know what I’ll do with it all.


  2. Mel, this is why I love, LOVE reading your blog. You are such an artist in finding the words to paint a picture of what my heart is feeling these days. . . “everything you do tilts the orbits of other people circling you.” I long for the days when I only had to think about me, but wouldn’t for even a second give up the people with whom my life has become completely enmeshed.


  3. Very well written…like I said before, I know why you are a writer…I myself just turned 46 last week and I have the same feelings…you long for the “freedom” but at the same token I have been a mother now for almost 25 years and I don’t really think I remember my life before children. I sometimes don’t know what to do with myself when nobody is around?
    Have a great week!


  4. wow! you have so eloquently stated what it is to be a parent…a grown up…a connected soul. It is painful and beautiful all at once. I was feeling exactly this this morning rushing to get my kids out the door, spending much of the day organizing, washing, picking up their stuff. It is endless…well it seems so now…in a few short years my kids will be off to college and I’ll have to figure out that daily dance like my older friends…the spider-web connections remain, but the pattern changes a bit…the spaces between threads widen…this is what I have observed. for now, it is comfy and overwhelming in the soft silken nest.


  5. Yup. I’m heading toward 47 myself, but have found myself thinking along these lines more and more as my kids approach adulthood. And extrapolating, I can easily imagine that once the daily chaos is gone, my earned “freedom” will ring somewhat hollow.


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