The Pandemic Aged Me at Least 20 Years – And I’m Loving It
Bring on the gentler routines, better sleep and meaningful friendships
Although I just turned 50, I am really going on 70, at a minimum.
After my dad died and I left big law firm life, it was really just me and my mom. My two siblings are both married with kids and have active, busy professional and family lives. And since I have my own business coupled with freelance gigs, I appear to have the most flexibility to help my mom. Effectively, I’ve become the new patriarch of the family.
I am also the oldest child in my family, and we eldest children seem to have a sense of responsibility deeply embedded in us that our next of kin have always eschewed. Plus, my mom is a robust and engaged septuagenarian who I really enjoy hanging out with, so being with her more full-time seemed like a really great idea.
However, what I did not expect would happen with my decision to cohabitate is that I too would rapidly and almost effortlessly turn into a septuagenarian. Growing up my mom always told me I was “mature for my age,” and my teachers called me a “wise soul,” but I never thought that I would mature quite this much at the precipice of middle age.
As one who has been plagued with sleeping issues her entire life, I spent most of my adult life up into the wee hours of the morning reading, watching HBO, or cramming for exams. I could never fall asleep before midnight, and I could never be at work any earlier than 9:30 am. I always resented those early-bird types at work who arrived at 7 am and were able to get all their work done by 4:30 pm.
Now I eat dinner promptly at 5 pm, or get the early-bird special at the septuagenarian supper club. I am in bed by 9:30 and up before the sun even rises. Somehow, I actually metamorphosed into one of those annoying “morning people” I have always loathed. Now I relish my time in solitude on morning walks with my puppy as he cascades through the rust autumn leaves while the rest of the world is asleep. For the first time in my life, I see the sun rise.
While I used to constantly shop for the newest, most stylish shoes at Nordstrom, now I most often shop at JOANN Fabrics, looking for crafts and cute sachets for my garden-grown lavender, or at Costco for deals on cauliflower rice, toilet paper, and decaf coffee. My friends ask if I am going to start quilting next. Why not? I mean it’s not like I’m going anywhere, and I do really like being in my bed.
Like a lot of the septuagenarians I run with, I complain about my aches and pains a lot. I used to be a marathon runner but quit when my hips started to hurt. Now my heels hurt. I think I may be getting plantar fasciitis. So I ordered orthotics and have taken up water aerobics with my mom and her cousin at the local YMCA. I’ve learned about things like “lane etiquette” and have even had words with some octogenarians who failed to properly register in advance for their own lane. I’m also now investing in supportive slippers so I can walk on the hardwood floors with relative ease.
And while before the pandemic I used to lunch daily at swank restaurants conducting “business development” with powerful men, now I take writing breaks to join the Ladies’ Lunches with my mom and her girlfriends. And whereas I used to find myself ordering salads and club sodas at my business lunches, now, as I race toward 70, I find myself splitting Reubens and rose with my mom. And then, of course, we gals split a cheesecake five ways afterwards and add the lunch to our discount cards hoping for a free lunch one day soon. After lunch, they all get together and play Mexican Train for hours. I haven’t gone this far yet, but I am considering taking it up. I just don’t really like Dominos.
And at night, after my afternoon supper, I read books to my mom (she’s practicing for the nursing home) about current affairs and self-help strategies during the pandemic. She isn’t blind or anything, she just likes being read to by someone else. And I am a self-professed bibliophile, so I don’t really mind it at all. Later we watch the evening news, and I find myself yelling out loud at the TV and judging commentators when I don’t agree with their positions. After the evening news, I find myself watching Netflix shows like Grace and Frankie. I still cannot believe I have abandoned my sexually graphic shows like The Tudors for the older American genre, but it appears I have.
When and how I turned 70 remains unclear to me. It all happened so fast. However, what is clear is that I kind of like it. Quite frankly, I am enjoying the absence of pressure. I don’t have to impress men anymore or dress up or even wear makeup. The septuagenarians invite me to all kinds of events and embrace me just the way I am. Plus, I feel like I’m finally getting some sleep and being more productive during the day (minus the day drinking) than ever. I like the food (lots of warm soup so I don’t have to use my teeth), and I like the exercise regime – it’s much gentler. Admittedly, I first started hanging with the old ladies because all my age-appropriate friends were otherwise occupied with busy careers and demanding children, but now I actually prefer it. I’ve learned a lot from these ladies — how to cook, how to garden, how to swim, and most importantly, how to be a good friend.