Middle Age Came in Like A Wrecking Ball

When I was a young girl, old age and retirement were light years away. As a northerner from the motherland of Canada, I spent my early life out in the country in a small farming community called Stony Plain, in the north central part of the province of Alberta.

I had the perfect feral, Gen X life. We had mini bikes that we rode, and sometimes rode over each other, snowmobiles, (also rode over each other). There was downhill skiing and horses to ride. Two cows, a few chickens, some ducks, dogs, and cats. We had acres of land to explore.

Being the only girl, and five and ten years younger consecutively from my brothers, I spent a lot of time amusing myself. One could argue I had a lonely childhood, (I really did not), but what grew from that was a vivid imagination. My mom would shoo me out of the house after breakfast on a Saturday, not to return till supper, and hours were spent doing whatever to my heart’s content. I was like Dora the Explorer and Dr. Seuss’ “The Places You’ll Go” all wrapped into one. Placing pennies on the railroad track was a particular favourite. When I could hang out with my middle brother, we would “stand back” off the track and wait for the train. I never felt in any imminent danger, although now I feel that seemed a rather reckless activity for children under 12. 

Typically, I drank from the water hose (gasp), fell off horses, broke and cracked various bones in my body. They always mended. I rode my bike down the (what seemed long) dusty country roads just for adventure. I picked eggs for the Schultz family, and every once in a while, she would give me a five-dollar bill for my time.

I spent many a winter weekend on skis — I thrived on speed, and the faster I could get to the bottom, the better the challenge. My other ski friends and I played copious games of Space Invaders at the local ski hill, ate innumerable hamburgers and French fries with gravy, and listened to Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light so many times we were a shoo-in should we ever be needed on stage.

“Getting older” never entered our minds. And my body never failed me. 

In school yearly, I annoyed every teacher with my penchant for talking too much in class, (they said so on every report card), and yes, I was always the class clown — always ever ready with a cheeky comment, a “quip” I would later call it in my adult life. While this in my youth caused much grounding and discipline, it served me well as a teacher for 32 years. Oh, the irony of being paid to speak daily in a classroom and survive thousands of teenagers with my sharp retorts to theirs for so many years. 

But I never really gave my later life much thought. I guess I felt immortal, as most kids do. I would grow up, go to university, have 3.4 kids, be independently wealthy, drive a nice car, be a model size 4, always have a flat belly and my bodacious chest would be perky till death. 

And then bam. I turned 55. I was all grown up. My glorious career was done. My one beautiful daughter was raised. I was a caregiver to my parents. I lived through my own cancer, and I survived all life’s maladies. And now it was my turn to live life to the fullest.

Carpe Diem. I was going to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. The Road Not Taken. 

The reality is I was never a size 4. My chest is not perky but rather akin to hanging like tennis balls in socks. My belly is round and squishy. There may or may not be an extra roll or two — my once firm butt has been on the decline for a minute…. I am not independently wealthy. I have a 12-year-old vehicle that my current insurance provider feels I need to pay a lot in a monthly premium. And if that isn’t enough, I am middle-aged and in menopause. So instead of travelling the world with my platinum American Express card as my younger self imagined, I find myself sitting around evenings with all my cool women friends discussing hormone therapy and paying exorbitant prices for pellets in the backside. We’re sharing all our aches and pains, challenging ourselves to expansive exercise programs we can’t seem to stick to, and discussing how much do we really need to walk each day for a heart happy life and how we cannot be out after 10 pm unless we have a nap. My credit card shows me I have a really great social life at many, many local pubs and restaurants. 

Carpe Diem is essentially getting up the next morning and hoping to not twist or break anything. We can all, however, keep to a well-oiled wine regime. 

Menopause is definitely the road not taken, because frankly, if we women could, we would take the other road. There are now vitamins to take, and oils to put in humidifiers, and memories of the “good ole days” dance like gingerbread in our minds. 

So maybe my body is starting to betray me, and I have become — let’s say, “forgetful” — on a daily basis. That being said, I am totally loving life and beyond happy. I had to make a choice for this happiness of course. And I do. Every morning, after all the creaks and joints crack as I limp to the kitchen for the first elixir of coffee, I smile at just how great my life is. My B&B is ticking along. I get to host incredibly sweet guests and putz and float throughout the day. Those that love me don’t seem to mind my expanding body parts. “Squishy” has become an endearing term, after all, I can still wear a bathing suit that is not made from the Tent and Awning store. Do I need a flat tummy? Not if I enjoy all the bbq I have come to love, or perhaps if I stop baking sourdough bread. Does my bottom end need to be perky, or my chest? Would that make me happier? Likely I would have to model in France with that fictitious body, and at this age, hard-to-walk-on stilettos. It’s the cards I have been dealt, and I definitely am the queen of my own heart. 

So, as I grow old gracefully, or comically — whatever mood may strike, I am grateful for this slightly imperfect rounding body, with this slightly witty and clever personality that never seems to be short of good quips. As long as my hand can hold a glass of red, I feel I should be ok. Priorities. 

Colleen McCullough 

The Virginia May Bed and Breakfast 

Eagle Mountain Lake

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