Sunday, May 12, 2019

Generation X -- Life After 40

So, ... I ran across a tweet from Tanzina Vega which read, "If you're in your 40s and more tired than ever before because you are juggling life, money, aging parents, aging yourself, not wanting to play games anymore, etc., raise your hand. How are you coping?" It became a pretty extensive thread for Vega, host of The Takeaway on New York City public radio, and I've been pondering the answers of my generation as I consider the challenges and opportunities of middle age. And, I was amused and intrigued  and even gratified by the responses and consideration of my answer, which read:

At the age of 49 with “all of the above,” I’m trying to live deliberately & have more art in my life on a daily basis. Trying to write daily, meditate regularly, & choose my battles. Valuing sleep & quiet time, cutting back on carbs & sugar, & seeking a kinder, gentler self.

Vega's question and her subsequent thoughts on how research indicates "happiness" drops in our forties as demands on our time peak were the impetus for some sincere reflection, philosophizing, and perhaps griping from members of Generation X, and they actually became a positive use of social media to ponder and "connect." As I creep up on the half-century mark, I don't feel my sense of happiness or contentment has dropped, and, in fact, I've been thinking about a favorite line from John Denver's song Poems, Prayers, & Promises where he opines, "It turns me on to think of growing old."

Truly, I find myself wondering why I am so tired these days, though as a school administrator and parent to two teenagers, I can say that demands on my time are high ... and it's been a pretty tough year to work with teens. But I also try to remind myself almost daily just how wonderful the people in my life are, especially the young people, and how amidst the messiness of daily life are continuous moments of beauty and goodness. I think the daily meditation I've been trying to practice has been pretty integral to that insight, as I quiet my mind and step back objectively from the drama queen that I can so often be. It's true, I realize, that no matter how I'm feeling, "in time, this too shall pass." The Serenity Prayer of my Catholic youth is also as true now as it's ever been.

There is much we can do to handle our lives as we embrace the new definitions of normal. Certainly our physical as well as our social-emotional health should be a priority. As we take care of our aging parents and are continually dumbfounded by the rising costs of health care, as well as living in general, I think we have to make health and wellness central to our lives. That said, I worry about my generation's "habits," so to speak, and I'd love for moderation and simplicity to guide more of our recreation and relaxation. For our children, I know that the one thing we should do is simply to love them. Start with love in every interaction and decision. It's a complicated world they are inheriting, and it will be better for all of us if they enter it having known that they are loved.

I don't think it has to be so hard. But it does have to be life .... and life is a complex system that is never an all-or-nothin' proposition. It is a process and a cycle and a gift. And, thus, taking a line from a meditation practice, I am regularly reminding myself to "Simply begin again."