Pollyanna Rainbow Sunshine and the Vexations of Female MidLife

Hey, Anna-Liza here. If you’re here for knitting, it’s down at the end of the post.

I am 45. There is no escaping the fact that I am firmly in middle age. I have never heard a poetic or romantic term that for this time of life that doesn’t sound silly and/or apologetic, so let’s just call it what it is, shall we?

There are a number of vexatious facts about my age that plague me with varying levels of intensity throughout the day. I’m sure Lyda’s list would overlap mine quite a bit, but I’ll let her expand on her own experience.

One, the constant crying. Well, it’s not really crying. It’s that my tear ducts will start to overflow on the least provocation. Reasonable and balanced criticism, a happy story on the internet, my kids saying someone’s been mean to them, someone saying something nice to me. I don’t even have to feel a strong emotional reaction–I’ll be no more than mildly perturbed and the tears will start flowing.

And the getting really angry over stupid stuff. It’s like a bunch of small things will happen and each will provoke a stronger reaction than it deserves, until I have to retreat to my room or my car to keep from clubbing someone over the head. There are no swear words (or swear phrases) strong enough to satisfactorily vent the rage.

Keep in mind, please, that my entire life has been one of being patient, being calm, of very rarely overreacting. (Well, other than during adolescence or pregnancy). It was almost impossible to provoke me to anything more than annoyance. And I very rarely cried, and never in front of other people.

The second thing is possibly related to the first–suddenly I care about what other people think of me.

Now, I’m not inhuman. I have always cared about the opinions of those who were close to me. It was fairly balanced, though. And even among those people, I didn’t let their opinions dictate my behavior. It seems like, these days, I feel bad if total strangers might have a poor opinion of me, and tend to count the negative (or perceived negative) views much more strongly than any positive feedback. I get anxious about the impression I might be making … and that’s not a balanced place to be.

Third, I have a suspicion I’m becoming a boring, boring woman. Tonight, for example, I decided against going to a party because Darlin’ K has a fire gig and couldn’t go with me. It promised to be a very good party, hosted by a friend I haven’t seen in months, but … but I’m getting over the Endless Cold (or so let us hope), I didn’t want to spend the money on a babysitter for just me, I didn’t want to spend the evening trying to make small talk with people I don’t know well (even though the chances are that there would be several people I know pretty well there), the sun got in my eyes, my tennis racket was broken ... And, keep in mind, I’ve always held that one sure way to a more interesting life is to talk to strangers.

I seem to have stopped doing things just because they’d be fun, and stopped taking risks, even little ones. It’s worrisome.

There are plenty of people who have had more exciting and interesting lives than mine. There are also plenty of people who have had much more dull lives than mine. I’ve done a lot of adventurous, possibly mildly crazy things and usually enjoyed them thoroughly. I’ve taken flying lessons (I ran out of money before I could get my license), gone to Burning Man several times, married a man I’d known only three months (not Darlin’ K), flown to San Antonio on a spur-of-the-moment double date with a man I’d just met (his plane, with him piloting … and no, I didn’t marry him), done X-rated things in the shadow of the seawall on Galveston Island, spent a good part of a day (at Burning Man) wearing nothing but a heavy coating of glitter, a hat, and sandals (quite effective, aesthetically, in sunlight. This was before the discovery that glitter and “leave no trace” are incompatible), taken a 2500 mile road trip with two kids and no other adults…

And now doing anything at all seems like such a chore! I think if I had no obligations at all for a month, I wouldn’t even leave the house. I’d sleep, eat, read and knit, not necessarily in that order, and never see anyone at all. Okay, I might venture out to Java Stop or Ziggi’s. Maybe.

The fourth vexatious thing is the reduction in my libido. And I really seriously wonder if the loss of my sense of adventure, if this transformation of a reasonably brave woman into a puddle of timidity and tears, is not all a form of loss of libido. It’s like all of my senses have dimmed, and nothing has the bite and zing it used to have. I resent feeling this way and I want it all back, dammit!

I have known for some time that I am very much at the mercy of my hormones. My thirties were both enlivened and rendered hideously embarrassing by the fact that about once a month, I’d find every adult male human almost irresistably desirable. I didn’t act on these feelings, but it was often very difficult to disguise. There were some days I was afraid to go out of the house without having a minder hold me on a leash.

And when I was pregnant, not only was I rampantly emotional (but people make allowances for pregnant women, especially when they’re frighteningly huge), but I lost interest in sex altogether. Sensible, I suppose, from a biological point of view, but disconcerting. And one of the reasons I have never used hormonal birth control after trying it for a year with unfortunate results. (They mimic pregnancy, on the chance you didn’t know that).

I suppose it worked as far as birth control. I mean, if you never want to have sex, it would be difficult to get pregnant. But it wasn’t exactly what I (or my husband at the time) had in mind.

I love knitting, but I’m beginning to worry–am I turning into that stereotype? The boring middle-aged woman who does nothing but knit in her spare time? I shudder to consider it, but it might very well be true.

Well, that’s fucking depressing. On a more cheerful note, here’s a picture of my current project for Mr. R. I shall just mention that I will not be allowed to knit anything else until these are done, and possibly until I complete a second set for Mr. B.

first-spider-mitt-2.jpg   Yes, they’re the “Spiderman”-style fingerless mitts. Sylvia says I’m a good mom for making them. I think I might agree with her.


6 thoughts on “Pollyanna Rainbow Sunshine and the Vexations of Female MidLife

  1. Jane

    Well Dear, can I just say “It DOES get better!”
    As a 58 [yes, 58] year old woman, I can tell you that “this too shall pass.” There is a patch you can get that helps with all of the symtoms – ask your doctor about it. And hang in there!

  2. annaliza Post author

    Thanks, Jane! Having someone who’s been through it tell me that it does have an end (short of actual death) is more encouraging than you might realize!

  3. lyda

    Hang in there, BFF! Much to say to you on phone about all this! And Jane is right, it will pass.

    Perimenopausal + mother of two very young children + working full time = exhaustion, even without any other factors. And we know there are other factors…

    I love you whether you are crying or laughing or screaming, you know that.

  4. Red

    I love to dance and go out for a glass of wine but I find in the winter I do go into hibernation mode. You may want to wait until the temperature changes and you no longer connect going out anywhere with 5 layers of clothing before you lament you lack of motivation.


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