It’s a process

50LIKE MANY OF MY CLASSMATES, I turned 50 earlier this year. I watched the birthday parade on Facebook as each one reached the milestone. I know it’s just a number, but honestly, how am I 50 already?? I’m told my face looks younger, but believe me when I say that my body is starting to feel every bit of my age. The physical changes are inevitable; you're told it will happen, and you don't believe it, and then all of a sudden, you're thinking, so they were right.

It seems I’ve reached the stage where people – inexplicably – seek my advice. I readily share my wisdom, if I may call it that, because after being a Card-Carrying Grown-Up for three decades, I figure I know a thing or two. Doesn’t mean I’m always right or have all the answers – far from it – but I’ve learned some things, and I'm not afraid to share.

I see in young adults the stages I remember going through. It's a joy to see a glimpse of their future self – proof that they're going to be just fine. Other times, I think, wait 10 years and then you’ll realize that you really didn't have it all figured out. I want to give them the keys to the kingdom, but it would be criminal to rob them of the necessary experience of doing it all on their own. It’s actually important to take that job that ends up sucking (and leave it for a new one), to date, to experience a break-up, to establish a household, to manage your money, to find your own jam. These experiences shape you.

It’s like that children’s story, “Bear Hunt” – can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it, gotta go through it.

Twenty years ago, I was in the throes of raising a family. I defined myself largely as a mom. Now, in what seems the blink of an eye, my peers and I are sending our offspring away to college and (hopefully!) into their own adult lives. Some celebrate the empty nest, and others rue it. Behind us are the establishing-yourself-as-an-adult phase, the courtship-and-marriage phase, the house-buying phase, the childbearing phase, the minivan (or large SUV) phase. I still have a pre-teen boy at home, and two attending community college, but the days of giant plastic toys and nap schedules are far behind me (praise be to all the deities).

Those of us of a certain age are realizing it's time to reclaim, and maybe also redefine, our own identity, separate from our progeny.

It’s tempting to look back and second-guess some decisions I made, but the truth is, I wouldn’t be exactly where (or who) I am today if I hadn’t followed my own unique path. Regret is a waste of time and energy. We can’t change the past, so we must try to learn from it. Glean that nugget of wisdom from each life experience that will help you next time. Think about what your purpose is for being in this place at this moment, and about how you got here. If you can learn from your past, you have not failed.

And yes, that does sound like a commencement speech, but it turns out there's wisdom in those platitudes. (Listen to your elders, kids. They've been there.) 

There’s still so much to look forward to. I am starting to hear a small but persistent voice that whispers, you're on the back nine now, sister – there is less and less time to waste. But I’m savoring every moment. There’s also plenty I still need to figure out. But I am enjoying my journey. I’m in a good place, and I'm so excited to see what comes next.

 

Haiku Thursday: Ice

I'VE CONSIDERED COMPOSING AN ODE to ice machines. To me, there's just something really great about a big full cup of ice. It started when I was a kid. We vacationed at the shore in New Jersey, and there was a big ice machine on each floor that churned out small, square cubes. I was giddy! No ice trays to crack and refill and try not to spill as you replace them in the freezer! It was a full week of as much ice as I could possibly tote from the machine to our condo.

After all these years, the first thing I do as soon as I enter a hotel room is grab the ice bucket and find the ice machine. I rejoiced when one of my clients installed a countertop water and ice dispenser, just around the corner from my office, that filled my cup to overflowing with "chewy ice" just like at Royal Farms stores. If I win the lottery, I'm buying one for my home. 

It will come as no surprise that I require a prolific ice maker in my home freezer. It's not as good as having a dedicated ice machine, but it's the next best thing, especially when there's in-door dispensing. I don't have that now, but the in-freezer ice maker is fast and efficient. The only problem is that the automatic arm doesn't click to "off" when the "cubes" (they aren't actually cube-shaped) fill the bin, causing ice to overflow into the rest of the freezer. I am in charge of its manual operation and remain vigilant in my duty.

Today is Haiku Thursday, and as such I must limit my tribute to just 17 syllables: 

Copy of #HaikuThursday (4)

And to answer the question this haiku might prompt – yes, there are two here, and AM I EVER HAPPY.

 

Going up

I USED TO PAY BETTER ATTENTION in elevators. I had to, because with clients in various office buildings around the city, paying attention in elevators was a critical job skill. I'd think to myself, it's Monday, so today you're down 19th from Dupont Circle and your client's on 6. Tomorrow is the alternate Tuesday, so you're west on M Street, 7th floor, and Wednesday it's the one on 17th Street with the grouchy security guard, top floor.

It was a point of pride that I almost never forgot which elevator button to push. I had my act together and was pretty proud of it.

Then last year, I retired my wheeled briefcase and started working in the same place every day. My new office building has touch pad elevator call buttons: You press your destination floor and the panel tells you which elevator will take you there. You don't press a button in the elevator because it already knows. This allows you to kind of zone out during the ride up.

Yesterday I took the day off so I could arrange some long-overdue medical appointments. And so I found myself in a different office building first thing in the morning. As I entered the elevator, another woman was already in there. The 8 button was lit. I pressed 5. The doors almost closed, then opened again, much to the relief of a harried-looking mother with three active kids, between the ages of 6 and 2. She herded her brood into the elevator and instructed her oldest daughter to press 11, which she did.

You know how kids love elevator buttons? Well of course the little guy wanted to press a button too, and he lunged for the bottom row, which included the ALARM button. Mom pulled him back just in time, then shooed her other son out of my personal space, scolding him, "You're being rude." I didn't mind, though. I was thinking about why this one mama had brought all three kids with her to a medical appointment, without a stroller. Had the nanny canceled? Perhaps her husband was out of town. 

The car stopped at 5; no one got out. I looked at the other woman, who had never looked up from her phone. Huh, I thought. She is so engrossed in her phone that she forgot to get off the elevator! Amused, I watched her to see how she would react when she realized she'd missed her stop. 

The doors closed and the car continued to 8. The lady with the phone got out. 

Aha, I thought. She realized she missed her stop and got off at 8 instead. But I was focused on those kids. I thought, if Mom needs help, I will come to her rescue. She sure is lucky she boarded an elevator with me, an experienced mother of three kids!

As the elevator continued up to 11, that's when I remembered that *I* was the one was supposed to get off at 5. I had become so distracted that I managed, in that short ride, to forget which floor I'd pressed. 

Mom was focused on executing her tenacious 1-on-3 defense, but I still wanted to avoid a potentially embarrassing exchange. So I followed her off the elevator, as if I'd meant to get off on the same floor. To pre-empt any questions, I gave her a meaningful look and a nod and said, "It gets better, I promise," and added with a knowing wink, sister to sister, "I understand. Hang in there!" She thanked me and wished me a nice day. 

I waited for the foursome to disappear around the corner before quietly pressing the call button and re-entering the elevator for the ride back down to the fifth floor.