Or in the words of Bruce Springsteen, “I ain’t nothing but tired. I’m just tired and bored with myself.”
I watch her as she tilts her head ever so slightly, scrunches up her face, and looks at me as if she’s forgotten my name yet is certain she knows me. “So…,” she says to me. “You’re getting another degree?”
Heat rises to my cheeks, and I swoop in to claim imminent domain over the conversational real estate between us. “Yeah… “ (Shrug of the shoulders.) “Seemed like a good thing to do when I turned 50.”
The first time I heard those words roll out of my mouth—Seemed like a good thing to do when I turned 50—they sounded like the utterances of a phantom voice or someone possessed. Admittedly, this isn’t such a foreign feeling for a middle-aged woman going through menopause. Still, this was the first time I’d heard myself explain this later-in-life pursuit of education in this way.
And yet, once the words were out there, I knew it was true. Getting a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing actually did seem like a good thing for a woman approaching her 50th birthday to do. I loved writing. It’s what I had always wanted to do, more than anything else. And it’s who I wanted to be. I wanted to be a writer. Yes, I wanted to write my way into my fifties. Just made sense.
There are a lot of things that began to make sense to me once on the brink of 50 that didn’t used to. But then there was a lot that used to make sense to me then that didn’t now. Menopause and middle age seem to demand a woman pay attention. (And sometimes, to the consternation of others, the middle-aged woman demands that everyone else pay attention to it too.)
What used to make sense? Wearing turtlenecks and wool sweaters. Staying up really, really late. Sleeping in was delectable. Chaos was okay. A full social schedule? But of course! Time alone? I don’t think so. Cranky? Rarely. Sweaty? Only when working out at the gym. That was life, pre-menopause, early forties.
Then it began. First there were the night sweats. I learned to keep a stack of clean t-shirts and a change of sheets by the bed. Then the erratic periods—more blood and less time in between. Followed by inexplicable tiredness in the middle of the day, coupled with a body that wouldn’t sleep past 6a.m. Crankiness with Everybody. Patience with no one, including myself.
“I ain’t nothing but tired. I’m just tired and bored with myself.”
Bruce may have been singing about a restless, horny young man in search of a little hot sex to relieve his boredom. But that’s not what I think now when I remember that line from the radio days of my youth.
I think: Menopause. Middle-age. Turning fifty.
And I don’t think hot sex is the answer. It might be part of the answer, providing it’s with a partner who enjoys a little K-Y Ultra Gel or Liquid Silk in order to assist what, pre-menopause, used to come so naturally. Still, I know that sex is a temporary fix. And afterwards, I’m alone, with my fifty-something year old self. And I do get tired. And I don’t want to be bored. And I don’t have to be either.
So I decide not to be. And I do what makes sense now. I no longer wear turtlenecks. I shamelessly indulge in a mid-day nap. I relish the quiet early morning time with my hot coffee, my adoring dog, and the awakening birds. I buy my own K-Y Ultra Gel. And I go after what I really want, and what I really want to become. I complete an MFA in Creative Writing; I become a writer. And, yes… that does mean another degree.
Seemed like a good thing to do in my fifties.