Dear Middle Age

Dead Song ThrushDear Middle Age,

First of all, I want to thank you for introducing yourself to me so expeditiously. I’d just assumed that you’d had your hands full with all of those baby-boomers, and were probably booked up for a while, but boy was I wrong!  It’s only been a few weeks since my 45th birthday, and I’ve already had the pleasure of making your acquaintance. It’s obvious you’re a clever time manager.

More specifically, I want to thank you for not beating around the bush and letting me dive head first into this whole mid-life thing. Introducing me to physical pain that can only be described as  “f*cking excruciating” was a wonderful orientation to this new stage of my life. As I woke up last Thursday morning with a God-awful crick in my neck and a weird egg shaped knot in my shoulder I thought, “Well this must be the accelerated program!” I always was a fast learner. Just think of all the time I’ll save by not having to go through the painstaking process of GETTING old. I just woke up old! Amazing.

I also loved the part where I was required to do absolutely NOTHING to bring on the crippling agony in my neck and shoulder. I’m starting to understand that the cause and effect laws of pain and suffering that I experienced in my 20’s and 30’s no longer apply. I now see that at this stage of the game, pain might just…happen.

I also want to thank you for the opportunity to experience pain which all-American, red, white, and blue, Class III opioid narcotics cannot even begin to touch. Stinging, burning, and shooting pain radiating from my neck to my shoulder blade with no relief in sight? Sheer genius. Sh*t just got real, Middle Age. Sh*t just got real.

Silly home-wreckers like Percocet and Vicodin have been rendered utterly useless. They and their juvenile side-effects like “nausea” and “vomiting” can just run along and destroy someone else’s life now, because they’ve got NOTHING for me. I’ve been introduced to a whole new class of drugs—steroid shots and anti-inflammatory medications that I can’t even begin to pronounce. These meds have much more mature and adult sounding side-effects like “intestinal bleeding” and “kidney failure.” Let me tell you, no one is going to be stealing these babies from my medicine cabinet or throwing ‘em back with a pint of vodka before going to see Tool. Nope, they can just sit right out in the open next to the Fosamax and the Plexus. What a relief.

The part about how you timed this whole event around the first week of summer break was spectacular. Being a single mom, I had planned all sorts of fun things with my three young and energetic boys, like climbing Pinnacle Mountain, camping at Maumelle Park, or floating on the Buffalo River. We’d spend all day exploring the wonders of nature and questioning our place in the universe. At dusk, we’d retire to a tent (that I would somehow put up with expert skill). We’d clean up, sit around a bonfire roasting s’mores and singing camp songs. Oh… the joke’s on me, isn’t it Middle Age?

Instead, I lie here, sweating in agony, piles of laundry growing at the foot of my bed. I’ve kept the front door open so that I can listen to them in the front yard and somehow “monitor” their behavior.

“Mom!! Mom!! Moooooooom! Taylor is trying to spit right in my EYE!!”

“MOOOOM… Noah is putting a dead bird on the grill!”

“Mom! Connor is pulling his pants down in the front YARD and CARS are driving by!”

In the past I’d snap to it. I’d be out there in less than ten. Seconds. I’d calmly and smoothly explain the dangers of saliva in your eye, the diseases that birds carry, and both the state and federal laws surrounding indecent exposure. But in this new phase of my life and with an egg- shaped painful knot in my shoulder, I find myself crying out meekly from the bed: “Don’t be a tattle tale,” and “I’ll beat your ass!”

I doubt my voice is even strong enough to reach them.

I also want to thank you for helping me realize that when you are middle aged and complaining about various aches and pains, no one actually gives a sh*t. All of the analogies I’ve used — “It’s like a combination of whiplash and surgical pain,” or “It feels like someone bashed my head into a concrete wall and then stabbed my shoulder with a hot poker” — seem to be met with quick little sighs and shrugs. Even the darling nurse I saw today was unmoved. I hadn’t realized there was facial expression specifically designated for “Seriously? You’re 45 and your body is shot? What do you want from me?” But apparently there is. You must have been taking bets on how long I’d wait to seek medical attention. As ridiculous as it may seem, I was waiting for the pain to just “go away” or “wear off” like it used to. Awww. How quaint.

And finally, I want to thank you for the unplanned absences from work. At first I didn’t understand the rules, because it’s a totally different ballgame now. I told the nurse practitioner at the walk-in clinic something like, “So… I probably shouldn’t go back to work until I’m feeling better?” Which she curtly met with “No, you can’t go back to work until you’ve been CLEARED by your primary care physician.”

Well now that’s just hilarious, Middle Age. I’m not sure if you understand what I would’ve given to be medically barred from work in my 20’s, but let’s just say the words “firstborn” and “child” might have been in the picture. A real, live, bonafide doctor’s note excusing me from work would’ve been like discovering the holy grail. There would’ve been high fives, glee screams, tequila shots, and a road trip. But now? Now, it’s an income cut that’s not in the budget, and, you know, tequila doesn’t mix with these new drugs you’ve got me on. Nor do road trips have quite the same allure when you’re hunched over the steering-wheel, Quasimodo-style.

So you see, Middle Age, it pays to be on top of things.Think about if you’d waited until I was 48 or (gasp) even 50? I want to commend you for scheduling this event for me in a timely manner. What if I had missed out on a crick in my neck so excruciating that no drugs– not even the kind that get you high– can touch, for just a few more years? I can’t imagine. I just hope you treat everyone with this much importance.

Thank you for all you’ve done,

Suzie White

About author

Suzie White

Suzie White is a freelance writer, solo mom of three raucous boys, a postpartum nurse and lactation consultant, who lives by the skin of her teeth in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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