Problems, Blessings, and Dangers of Middle Age

Some time back, I saw a few people online lamenting that there weren’t many blog posts written for “middle-aged” women. There are a lot of “mom blogs,” particularly for moms with young children. But blogs for moms of teenagers and adult children or for women past that stage seem to be few. Part of that is because you can’t talk about your teens’ problems online in the same way you share about struggling with your two-year-old’s temper tantrums or refusal to eat anything but cereal. Then, too, middle-aged women are often the “sandwich generation” years, dealing with nearly adult children at the same time as aging parents, so time can be lacking.

It’s also hard to define middle-age. I have joked that the middle-aged spread doesn’t refer so much to a thickening waistline as it does to the number of years we consider ourselves middle-aged. I’m in the far side of my fifties, and “old” is at least another 20 years away in my thinking.

I’m not an expert, and my experience might not ring true for everyone, but I thought I’d share what I consider the good points, bad points, and dangers of middle-age.

Problems of Middle Age:

Might as well get the bad news over first. 🙂

Physical issues:

It’s easier to gain weight and harder to lose it.

Peri-menopause and menopause (for me, peri-menopause – the years leading up to menopause – were much worse than menopause itself). There are a number of sites dealing with the particulars and what you can do for them.

Staring to decline in strength, eyesight, etc. There are all sorts of “aids” for that kind of thing, from “reader” glasses to bifocals, to “reachers” that help us get out-of-the way things, to tools that help get lids off jars, etc. Instead of lamenting on how old I am that I have to use these things, I can be glad that they are available – some were not until fairly recently.

Beginnings of problems with blood sugar, blood pressure, arthritis, etc. Some of these are better avoided than corrected – I’m guilty of “Oh, I’ll deal with that someday” in regard to weight and blood sugar issues. If I had been dealing with it correctly all along, I wouldn’t be having the problems I am now. Of course, sometimes problems in those areas will crop up anyway because our bodies are not eternal. I heard one preacher say that one reason our bodies break down as we age is to remind us of just that and to urge us to be willing to let go of them and prepare for eternity.

Sleep issues. Middle-aged women often have trouble sleeping through the night and trouble getting back to sleep once they wake up. Sometimes that’s due to urinary issues. I am not sure of the other causes, but it’s a common complaint. That in turn affects us emotionally and intellectually.

Emotional issues:

Menopause has emotional as well as physical issues. But that’s not an excuse to just spew negative emotions all over our families: it’s an occasion to lean all the harder on God and draw strength and help from Him.

The “empty nest” usually occurs around this time, and while we rejoice in seeing our kids take steps toward adulthood, don’t really want them dependent on us forever, and know that the goal of motherhood is to work ourselves out of a job, it is still a major emotional adjustment when they leave the home. Even as we come to enjoy some of the perks of having the house and time to ourselves, we miss that everyday interaction with them that we used to have.

Some of the physical issues themselves affect our emotions, and sometimes just having physical issues affects our emotions.

Realizing that we have more time behind us than ahead of us can be depressing when there is so much more we want to do and less and less time to do it.

Intellectual issues:

I keep the post-it note company in business – if I don’t write reminders to myself, I’ll forget what I need to do.

Sometimes we’ll forget a name or fact we know perfectly well, or forget in the middle of a sentence what we were going to say, or enter a room and forget why we came there. Granted, that happens to everyone at every age, but it seems to happen more the older we get. These things in themselves don’t indicate dementia (and worrying about it makes it worse!) But it can be frustrating.

Lifestyle issues:

The empty nest has already been mentioned. Facing retirement, the possibility of needing to downsize and/or move due to declining income, dealing with aging parents and the medical and aging issues of spouses, are all often faced in the middle-aged season of life. I wrote extensively about caring for an aging parent in Adventures in Elder Care.

Pluses:

Settledness. Sure, there can be upheavals, as mentioned above, and sometimes the empty nest, the death of a spouse or parent, or the loss of a job can turn our world upside down and cause us to have to contemplate what to do next. But as a general rule we know who we are, and, if we’ve walked with the Lord for any length of time, we know to turn to Him for help. Previous trials help us face current ones. We know what our gifts are and aren’t. I used to have some pretty serious self-esteem issues, but once I got hold of being “accepted in the Beloved,” those seemed to melt away. One dear young mom I follow is constantly writing about coming to terms with who she is and what she is supposed to do and how she fits in the grand scheme of life and reinventing herself, and sometimes I just want to tell her, “Hon…just live your life. Enjoy your husband and kids, take the opportunities God brings to hand, and just live.” But I doubt that advice would go over well, and it may be that kind of angst leads to being more settled as we work through those issues, so I just pray that God would help her to be settled in Him.

When I see favorite photos of my kids as toddlers, I sorely miss those little ones. Yet I do rejoice in the young men they have become. Though we miss aspects of babyhood, getting to know our kids as they get older and then relating to them as adults is great fun. As they grow older, they become companionable friends.

Middle age can bring more time as kids get older and their needs from us decline. On the other hand, with aging parents having more needs, sometimes we have more demands on our time.

Likewise, middle age often brings more breathing space financially as the kids move away, at least until retirement and fixed incomes.

Perhaps you’ve seen this humorous list of “Perks of Being Over 50” (I don’t know who originally wrote it, but I have seen it all over the internet):

No one expects you to run a marathon.

 People call at 9 P.M. and ask, “Did I wake you?”

People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

There is nothing left to learn the hard way.

In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.

You can eat dinner at 4 P.M.

You have a party and the neighbors don’t even realize it.

You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.

You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.

Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.

Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.

Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.

Senior discounts!

Grandchildren are the best part of middle age. 🙂

Dangers:

The “we have always done it this way” syndrome. Being stuck in a rut. This can especially cause problems in church and in dealing with new in-laws as our children marry. There are bedrock truths that we shouldn’t budge on, but in other areas we can be open to new ways of doing things.

The “I know better than everyone else” syndrome in our words and attitudes. Not receiving suggestions from others. Griping about “kids these days.” We have been around the block a few times more than some, but we don’t know everything. And even in areas where we do know better, we can share that in a way that’s helpful or in a way that’s obnoxious and off-putting.

The “stuck in the past” syndrome. We can enjoy our memories and share them sometimes, but we need to pay attention to the people in our lives now and pray and consider ways to minister to them.

The “I’ve done my time” syndrome. “I’ve worked in the nursery/managed VBS/cooked for every event, etc., for x number of years now: it’s time to let somebody else do it.” Granted, for various reasons we might not be able to do all the things we once did. But there is no retirement from the Lord’s service. There is something He wants us to do, even if it doesn’t fit into the organized ministry of the church. See Ways Older Women Can Serve.

Bitterness over life problems, people not treating you as you’d like, etc. etc. The Bible has much to say about bitterness: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled,” Hebrews 12:15. “Take it to the Lord in prayer,” as the hymn says. Ask Him for wisdom in how to deal with the issues, do your part to keep relationships what they ought to be, and rest in Him.

Stagnation. Not learning, growing, trying anything new. Sitting in front of the TV all day.

Fear of the future. With health and financial issues, as well as potential loneliness, it can be easy to fear or dread what the future might bring. But God has promised to supply all of our needs. He may not supply them just the way I would have preferred. I don’t want to be dependent on my children some day, and I hope that doesn’t happen, but I have to trust that if it does, God has something for all involved to learn. God’s promises don’t mean that I don’t need to plan and use my resources wisely. But I can trust Him to work through and beyond my resources. “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).

Conclusions:

Come to terms with your mortality. Prepare for eternity by receiving Christ as Savior. Even though we mourn leaving loved ones behind, having our eternal destination settled takes much of the sting out of facing death. But salvation isn’t just about securing passage to heaven: it’s about having our sins forgiven and living now for God, having His help and grace through life and making His priorities ours. Knowing that we have His help for whatever we will go through and living for Him rather than ourselves will make our remaining years a blessing to ourselves and others.

Stay in God’s Word and prayer. We should never stop growing spiritually.

Look at aids (bifocals, magnifying glasses, cane, etc.) as something to help you and extend your abilities rather than something to get down about.

Stay active, mentally as well as physically.

Repair broken relationships.

Deal with regrets.

Confess and, forsake wrongdoing, apologize, move on.

Use money wisely in preparation for reduced income.

Take initiative. Once I heard an older lady lament that she hardly knew any of the teens at church and wished that the youth pastor would organize some way to get them together. Suggest that to the pastor rather than hope he thinks of it, or better yet, host a teen fellowship at your house or the church (ask a few other ladies for help) or just have a few at a time over to get to know them. If you feel alone and neglected, reach out to someone else. Don’t grouse that no one has called you: call them.

Keep learning. Trying new things is good for your brain!

Despite its potential problems, middle age can be quite an enjoyable stage of life.

How about you? Can you identify with these? Are there any other problems, dangers, or good points about middle age that you can think of?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, The Art of Home-making Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word Filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

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14 thoughts on “Problems, Blessings, and Dangers of Middle Age

  1. Really, a very nice post, and so true. I am about your age, and this is spot on! Thank you! Enjoy the week ahead.

  2. Good morning, Barbarah, thanks for sharing some of the realities of middle age. Probably because my birthday just past, I’ve heard myself calling myself “old” lately. Impending knee replacement seems to reinforce the notion. (I’m about a nickel’s worth of years ahead of you.) Then a colleague told me the other day that she’d always assumed I was younger than her. Woo-hoo! What a woman wants to hear:) At this stage of life, I’m learning about re-prioritizing “bucket list” yearnings. It’s also about balancing reality and feeding dreams. Two things make all the difference: my Savior loves me no matter what my “age” says, and my devoted husband does the same.

  3. This is good, Barbara! I certainly laughed over some of these. “There’s nothing left to learn the hard way” might be my favorite! Oh my! You are so right; we need to just LIVE. I really liked what the pastor said about our bodies breaking down at the end so we’ll be more willing to welcome the next life. A real perspective, and I appreciate that. Age has it’s funny stuff and its difficulties, but so does youth. I am so thankful for God’s mercies to us all along this path of life, and now–both of us over sixty–we look to His continued guidance and care. We love seeing our kids be adults and watching the little grandpeople. It’s a satisfying time of life.

  4. A lot of wisdom and fun here Barbara! I’m looking at 56 in just over a week (Lord willing) and I couldn’t agree with you more. Happy Memorial Day to you and yours!

  5. Hi Barbara, I enjoyed your article on aging. I will be 62 soon and am enjoying my grands. I have cared for and buried my parents. The worse part of menopause is the hot flashes! Spend years in women’s ministry and lay counseling. My family is now my primary ministry. I do host a life group at my house and we are doing Bible journaling now. Started it with a group and Finding your purpose in your senior years. Happy Memorial Day!

  6. This is a really comprehensive look at middle age — both its blessings and its cautions. Thanks for renewing my commitment not to get stuck in the hard places of bitterness or regret or excuse-making during this rich and rewarding season.

  7. I’m going to state a reality that is probably far more common than many others realize: many of us are not able to relate to much of anything on this list outside of the physical concerns. Those of us who are childless, never married, and never had a singular, settled career (or have only found our niche in recent years after decades of working unfulfilling dead-end jobs) will look at the “women’s” blogs and just shrug. Fact is, millions of women don’t fit the “expected” lifestyle that the Internet thinks we should, and millions never will. Empty nest? Never had a nest to begin with. Home ownership? Not a reality for millions, and never will be. Retirement? Hilarious. Can’t afford to retire, ever, because millions of jobs don’t cover basics, let alone offer the opportunity to get ahead, regardless pf how frugal one is. Marriage? Again, hilarious. There are a lot of people out there who are entirely disinterested in having meaningful relationships, and, for those of us who might like one, middle age often means being deemed “too old” to be desireable, even by men significantly older than ourselves.

    I don’t say these things to solicit pity or suggestions. I know how to meet people. I know a lot about dating and don’t ask much beyond honesty and integrity. I know what I want from life, but can’t force others to play along if they aren’t inclined, and I can’t suddenly have an entirely different financial situation–my work isn’t something that makes anyone comfortable, let alone rich–so I can’t have most of what I’d like personally. So I find contentment in my work and my relationships with a few friends and don’t look for solutions from strangers on blogs. To do so would be an exercise in self-defeat and, more importantly, a big waste of time.

    Still: the internet doesn’t make much room for women like me. I don’t expect that will change, so I accept it.
    🙂

    • Melanie, you are spot-on about blogs. So many of the blogs, that have been sent my way, are young moms who boast about their children, husbands, beautiful homes, and their healthy lifestyles. I hope it helps you to remember that what people post online is usually the best version of themselves. We will never know how many of the young, healthy, financially stable, and seemingly perfect people are going through marital and financial difficulties.

      Recently, I wrote a post about being childless at Mother’s Day. So many of the people I worked with were childless and discouraged during the holidays. But, you seem to have a good solution. You have found contentment in your work and in your friendships. I hope others will find the same hope and joy you have.

    • I did mention in the third paragraph that my experiences might not be the same as everyone else’s. If this were a book or magazine article, I would have sought out people in different situations to get a fuller perspective. But as it is, this was just my own “stray thoughts” out of my own observations. Thanks for bringing up[ another perspective.

      I do think there is more than the physical that those of us in “middle age” have in common across the board. You demonstrated the settledness I mentioned in coming to terms with life as it is and finding the best way to live it. Plus, I have seen women in all walks of life demonstrate attitudes I mentioned in the “dangers” section. And I think much in the conclusions can apply to many.

      • I didn’t mean my comment as a criticism of you and your writing, Barbara. I meant that even when people *think* they understand how others feel, we likely don’t. I don’t understand what it feels like to have a family or to be a homeowner or to find fulfillment in what society thinks my life should look like at this age. I know from reading your writing that you don’t take your blessings for granted, but I also know that many people in your situation do. And some of those people spend a lot of time dismissing, questioning, criticizing, or outright condemning people like me, simply because they think that people in my situation have brought it on themselves.

        My point, really, is that I *don’t* feel as though these are things I can relate to, and that I have found very few writers–bloggers, essayists, screenwriters–who capture this feeling of being a complete outsider whom others dismiss due to our perceived nonconformity. Being childless is generally only addressed in terms of married couples who are infertile, not single people who simply have never found a suitable relationship. Single women over a certain age are often dismissed as “undesirable” or “too picky” or “difficult,” and those, too, are categories that ignore the reality that many of us live every day.

        I don’t feel settled at all. I feel I am merely making the best of things. It’s resignation that this is where my life has ended up (not for lack of trying to do things differently) and despite my best efforts, this is probably how it will stay. I’m by no means looking for a pity party; merely asking that others recognize that a person’s life circumstances do not justify, ever, being infantilized, conscripted to some designation as “other,” or somehow “unequal.” Nor should anyone assume that lack of family or other signals of “adulthood” has anything to do with lack of maturity or lack of life experience. My life is marked by being on the receiving end of condescension as if my observations and experiences don’t qualify me as an adult. I had to learn a long time ago not to take it personally. But it pains me to see how the behavior is sanctioned and its proliferation in recent years is especially disturbing. I feel as if a woman in my position was taken more seriously a few decades ago than we are now. I wish I knew what accounts for it.

        Again, I hope you don’t think I am accusing you of these things, Barbara. I am merely stating the case that all too often a sector of the female population is *still* marginalized with the same disdain that was once given in reference to “spinsters” and “old widows.” It would be nice if that concept would be put to rest once and for all. For it is always, it would seem, women who are so designated, whereas
        men in this position are simply called “bachelors” and it is shrugged off without judgment.

  8. I love your list- very thorough. The cute parts really made me smile since we can all relate. I love my post-it-notes too… and when they are not around, I have resorted to writing on my hand again (sounds like middle school all over again). Bless you for being authentic and transparent, as a child of the King.

  9. One thing I love about blogs is getting to know so many diverse people from all over the world! Melanie, I wandered over to your blog and found it all so fascinating :). I LOVE Laura Ingalls Wilder. You’re doing an awesome work!

    Barbara, I enjoyed reading your post–you have some great insights into middle-agedness…although, I AM 50 and I AM running in a marathon in three days (yep, I’m crazy).

  10. Pingback: Stray thoughts strung together | Stray Thoughts

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