Thursday, April 4, 2013

Aging: Turning 50 is a Bitch (Excerpt from Memoir "GAAJO" unpublished)

Thank you Goddess! :-()

Cheryl younger pics taken by John Pisareck from NJ. Older Cher pics by my husband

  A big change is coming. All my senses are attuned to the new reality of getting closer to receiving my AARP card.  Remembering anything short term can be taxing.  The things I want to remember I tend to forget and the things I want to forget I remember. I still love and hunger for all life brings but at a slower pace.
            Recently I started receiving online advertisements for senior dating: Seniors Match, We have a sweet senior single near you.  I sat at my computer reading the email over and over because only one word stuck out and that was senior. Nowadays, I can literally hear the hands of time clicking as I get closer and closer to the day when it will be official.
            Accepting this aging thing has not been easy. I keep noticing sign posts in my environment which subliminally shepherd me to an understanding that youth is slipping away.  Online Application forms no longer feature my birth date of 1963 on the first page.  I have to scroll a bit to find it. I can’t buy a bikini or even a one piece swimsuit off the rack.  Nowadays it takes me weeks to choose a swimsuit and then I do it online because some sites have perfect illustrations of different body types to help me out. Heck I even care about healthcare, pensions, social security and wearing sensible shoes.  Not one of these things ever bothered me before.
           Guiding my 11 year-old daughter through her own transition, as she prepares for middle school, adds even more fuel to my own changes.  Not only do I have to worry about my own hormonal shifts and drifts, I find myself counseling her about hers.  Her transition helps to keep me grounded in mine because taking care of a pubescent girl is just as trying as navigating my own premenopausal drama. Even as I struggle with my ups and downs and grief regarding the loss of a self that I never fully got to know, here comes another unfamiliar me strutting into the picture demanding attention and here comes my daughter sliding into the picture next to me. 
Somehow we have worked out a system and we are helping each other through this whole process, but did anyone tell me that turning 50 actually starts when you turn 45? I started noticing the changes back then.  Unfortunately, they are not letting up only intensifying and expanding.
I never really gave it much thought but I guess I always felt 50 would just happen. 
 I longed to be 16, 20, 30 even 40 but getting to the half way mark never really did it for me.  Now I find myself thinking about it more and more, just as my daughter’s thinking more and more about turning 13, and never again having to hide the fact that she has to wear a bigger bra than for most her age. I feel the pull of the big Five-OH at every turn.  It feels like an invisible magnet is pulling the discombobulated pieces of my torn psyche back together from their scattered confines.   I don’t like it but it is happening.  Some days I am scared, anxious and filled with fear and others I am accepting of what is to come: a mere supplicant.  
I have no reference to look to and no way of having my questions answered regarding this big, burgeoning change that is rapidly approaching.  My mother and I no longer talk and I don’t know if my father is dead or alive. I can hear the sharp whistle of time flying towards and past me all at once and there is not a thing I can do about it. 

My outer shell betrays me even as I feel like a child inside. Sometimes my ‘inside child’ will try to break out and do crazy things like trying on skinny jeans or bikinis in department stores.  However, she is quickly subdued when the outer me sees what I look like in the mirror and things get back to normal in a hurry.  More and more I am realizing that I am not the master of time: time is the master of me.  The inevitable is catching up with me rather quickly.

In my early twenties I was baptized as a Born Again Christian.  The day of my baptism was very exciting and I rushed to change my clothes in the lady’s room.  By the time I arrived most of the women were in complete disarray.  I was so shocked by what I saw that I had to force myself to avert my eyes.  Most of the women being baptized that day were much older and I was amazed at how different they looked undressed.  People I saw every Sunday and admired for their savvy appearance were literally coming undone.  I had never seen so many sags and belly folds in my life. 

I judged them at the time because I had nothing to worry about regarding my own smooth, toned body. Now I am one of those women.  Today I am ashamed of how critical I was regarding the effects of their natural aging. I am no longer sneering at sags and folds on others because I now have my own to worry about.  I have a cup for my dental plate that replaces my 2 missing teeth.  I am too chicken to get implants so I walk around with them in my bag and put them in as needed.  I always thought I was going to have all my pearly whites. When I was a little girl I laughed at my mom when she had to put her teeth in a cup at night.  Who’s laughing now? Somehow I just never saw myself flowing flab all over the place with teeth missing to boot: there is indeed a “circle of life:”

Everything is changing and shifting in my life. Every day brings a new development on one level or the other.  Not only do I have to wear a panty liner all the time but if I don’t, a good laugh or hard sneeze will certainly bring regrets and embarrassment. Lately, I have been wondering why there is such a plethora of products for women to keep themselves cleanCome to think of it, these products were always there but I seem to pay more attention than I ever had before.  And the same thing goes for prunes and my obsession with fiberYou can find sprays, wipes, suppositories and so on at most stores. In fact there is an entire shelf area dedicated to feminine hygiene products.  Are they trying to send us a message? 

Life is such an enigma.  When the collection in your medicine cabinet suddenly seems to be expanding with names you can’t even pronounce or understand, and visits to the doctor are more frequent; you know things are shifting fast.  They prescribe medicines for ailments you once heard your mother and grandmother complain about; they give you other medicines to ward off side effects and others to ward off the side effects of the side effects. 

After my daughter was born I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition and the struggle to manage my weight began.  It took me 10 years to figure out that diets will never help me because Hypothyroidism guaranteed I would always look a little bloated.  Year by year the list of ailments have grown and now includes asthma, high blood pressure and using a ‘happy light’ in winter for what I call my ‘seasonal light disorder issue.’  I look forward to the next 10 years with glee.

Night time has become my official enemy.  I have always been a night person but now I am a full-fledged bat.  I have to force myself to go to bed because I know if I don’t, waking up in the morning will be hell unless I take the little blue pill that eases my stress and anxiety as well as keeps my pressure in check.  Yet, each night brings more tossing and turning with the eventual 3-4 hour drift off and then, without fail, the wake up, which is always around 3 o’clock in the morning until dawn.  By the time I roll out of bed I am in pain and exhausted from the mind games I have to play to entertain myself while tossing and turning and listening to my husband snoring. 

Lately I awake drenched in sweat from head to toe, which forces me to change my clothes before I can even begin my day. This feeling of being in my teens on the inside is quite exhilarating but someone needs to communicate this to my outside body parts. There is an amazing amount of energy and drive inside of me but thats the problem: it’s just inside.  Nowadays I have to make sure to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise for my heart health as well as to make certain my joints don't cease up.

My monthly menstruation has a mind of its own much like it did when I first started way back in my elementary years.  During those days I was scared to go to school when my time was near fearing a delugeThese days I cannot tell if it will be a deluge or a drip and I never know if or when it will arrive. Today I am teaching my daughter how to deal with hers. I am looking forward to the day when it is gone for good because I have had enough already!

Then there are the age spots that seem to be sneaking up and sprouting all over the place.  Sometimes I wonder whose body I am in because everything seems so unfamiliar and new but in an old way.  Not only are the spots annoying but they are accompanied by certain parts of my body being pulled by gravity.  Lately, things require a lift and a nudge to get them into their garments and the same to get them out.

Above all, there is this feeling that there is something big coming or that a grand shift is about to take place and it is omnipresent.  Thankfully, I have my daughter’s own life changing drama to keep me in some sort of alignment as my life performs this unfamiliar but somewhat rhythmical yet erratic dance towards the inevitable.  Being here to offer her support and advice is my saving grace.  Day by day and moment by moment I am feeling the weight of life lived and the worry of life to be lived and lost.

Plus, why can’t I seem to stop dropping pieces of food on my clothes while eating? I think only a bib will solve this new problem because the stains are not always easy to remove. I used to laugh when my mother-in-law would tell me stories like this about her own life change.  Now my daughter is laughing at me.
 I am looking forward to what is coming but also anxious about what is leaving.  There is this constant push and pull.  Turning 50 is a truly a bitch! However, it is mine. So bring it on panty liners, sags, folds, lost/repressed memories along with all the other crap.
I am ready…I think. What was I talking ‘bout again? 

This is taken from my new unpublished Memoir titled: 
GAAJO: A story of Loss, Courage, Faith Love and Rejuvenation

Synopsis for "GAAJO.."
Gaajo means hunger in Somali.
The author used Gaajo as the title for her collection of Personal Essays after seeing the intense suffering of Somali refugees in a news report on television. The raw images of emaciated men, women and children trying to escape the terrible drought in their country by attempting to cross the border to Kenya were seared in her mind. One man relayed the story of how his wife gave her food to her kids and died from hunger 'Gaajo'

The physical images of such unrelenting suffering amongst fellow human beings resonated deeply in her life.  She was seeing a part of her psyche projected on a screen right into her living room: a part of herself that was always hidden from the world.
She identified with that hunger and suffering even though her own physical life experience had never come close.  However, her very essence had been consumed and infected by 'Gaajo' for as long as she could remember but she never felt she could name her affliction until she heard the Somali word.

Seeing the plight visited upon the Somali people helped to unleash the floodgates of creative energy within helping her to overcome her own internal drought.  She shares her story of how hunger "Gaajo" almost destroyed her life and how she was saved from it's destructive force through her writing, faith, love and motherhood.



  1. Definitely leaves you wanting to read "more"! Nicely written Cheryl

    1. Thanx Cheryl I will let this digest and post another one in coming weeks. Just want to get some feedback. Luv Cher :-()

  2. Wow....Cherly ..I sure need to read more...........well turning 50 was not to bad for me it made me feel free..............

    1. I just turned in January so am still processing. Wrote this 2 years ago kept it in my computer. Still overwhelmed by what poured out once I got going. Glad ur experience at 50 is going well. Will wait to c how year goes but so far so good. No bombs exploding quite yet :-()

  3. Hi Cheryl,
    I laugh and cry at your descriptions for I remember when and now it is here. Life goes on and we continually readjust,sometimes not easily. I love your style of writing; it just flows and rings so true.

  4. Thank u Janet. I try to write in an accessible way so that the person reading can feel my truth. I know there are women out there who feel these things and I feel that they hear me when I say them in a clear voice.

  5. HI Cheryl,
    I turn 50 last September, this is an interesting read, look forward to reading more and I am sure many women would find comfort in knowing that it is not just happening to them alone but to every woman who is fortunate enough to reach 50. Keep up the good work Cheryl.

  6. Thank you Judy. I will definitely keep going!