Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Am I getting old? Or am I just fabulous for my age?

When I was a little girl, I could never imagine myself as an adult.

Sure, I had dreams of what I wanted to "be" when I grew up. I even had a little 5 to 10 year plan spelled out completely in my "Who's Who" book from my senior year in high school.

But never for the life of me could I visualize what I would look like or what my surroundings would be. I could never fathom children or a husband. I just could not see it.

Here I am - approaching 37. Dear God in heaven, many thanks for the birthdays, but I must admit - it all looks different from what I though my mid to late thirties would look like.

Now before my older friends scoff my concern, please think back to when you were 36. Remember how it felt for the next birthday? 36 - ahh.. not too old "sounding." But 37, hell - nothing sounds good after that. 38? 39? 40?

I was watching tv the other day and a medicare commercial came on. I rarely pay attention to those, because in my mind, it does not apply to me. Then I heard the announcer ask the question, "If you are 50 and on medicare." I thought, nope - no where near it. Then I did the math. Oh math - my least favorite subject. 13 years. I will be 50 in 13 years.

13 years seems like a decent amount of time. Then I thought about one of my closest friend's age - she is 25. She is 12 years younger than me. My husband is 8 years younger than me. When I am 50 - he will be 42, that's just 5 years away for me.

Holy crap.

I hate math.

So does this make me middle aged? Seriously - is it possible?

I decided to look up the actual definition of what middle age is in Wikipedia.

According to my favorite source for all things search -able, this is what I found:

Middle age is the period of life beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age, which is around the third quarter of the average life span of human beings.

Does this mean I only have one more 1/4 in me after the next 13 years or so????

According to Collins Dictionary, this is "... usually considered to occur approximately between the ages of 40 and 60".

The OED gives a similar definition but with a later start point "... the period between youth and old age, about 45 to 60".

Then folks, this is what threw me over the age - being a census year and all - here is what the US Census says:

The US Census lists middle age as including both the age categories 35 to 44 and 45 to 54, while prominent social scientist, Erik Erikson, sees it ending a little later and defines middle adulthood as between 40 and 65.

WHAT?????????????????? There it was 35 - 44. Holy Moly!

I immediately ran to the mirror to see if this was even possible!!! The last photo I took was about one month ago- and it was in the car with the bright light on my face and girls - you KNOW how the bright light will show all your flaws. And let me tell you, this pic is a CLOSE UP.

So I took a close look. Yep, I see lines near the eyes and on the forehead. Hmm.. heck, I know for a fact I color my hair every 6 weeks.

Thinking of these little obvious items, and others I care not to share - here is what I found out is a sign that you are "middle aged" :

Middle-aged adults often show visible signs of aging such as loss of skin elasticity and graying of the hair. (check, double check.)

Physical fitness usually wanes, with a 5–10 kg (10-20 lb) accumulation of body fat, reduction in aerobic performance and a decrease in maximal heart rate. (I wish it were only 20 pounds - can we add about 30 more to that???)

Strength and flexibility also decrease throughout middle age. (I am probably more stronger now - and my flexibility is still the same.)

However, people age at different rates and there can be significant differences between individuals of the same age.

Both male and female fertility declines with advancing age. (have no idea on this one! Had a hysterectomy at 30 - who knows!!??)

Advanced maternal age increases the risk of a child being born with some disorders such as Down syndrome. (Good, I don't have to ever worry about that.)

Advanced paternal age sharply increases the risk of miscarriage and many birth defects, including Down syndrome, schizophrenia, autism, decreased intellectual capacity, and bipolar disorder. (That's a warning to all young girls - don't marry older men! lol)

Most women go through menopause, which ends natural fertility, in their late 40s or 50s.

Rates of infertility among men also increase significantly with age, with an abrupt decline in fertility after age 45. (Wow - that's younger than I thought!)

This then got me thinking about a mid-life crisis. Should I expect one? If not - can I use it as an excuse to act crazy?? I decided to research that also.

Apparently a midlife crisis is a term coined in 1965 by Elliott Jaques and used in Western societies to describe a period of dramatic self-doubt that is felt by some individuals in the "middle years" or Middle age of life, as a result of sensing the passing of their own youth and the imminence of their old age. (Okay, I understand that.)

Sometimes, transitions experienced in these years, such as extramarital affairs, andropause, menopause, the death of parents and resultant loss, or children leaving home, can trigger such a crisis. (Nope.. I can say no to all of the above. Well - I am on my second marriage. Hmm.. )

The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of day to day life or situation, such as in career, Work-life balance, marriage, romantic relationships, or losing a job. (work-life, yep - marriage (some definite changes! :-) )

Academic research since the 1980s rejects the notion of midlife crisis as a phase that most adults go through. In one study, fewer than 10% of people in the United States had psychological crises due to their age or ageing.

Personality type and a history of psychological crisis are believed to predispose some people to this "traditional" midlife crisis. People going through this suffer a variety of symptoms and exhibit a disparate range of behaviors.

Many middle aged adults experience major life events that can cause a period of psychological stress or depression, such as the death of a loved one, or a career setback. However, those events could have happened earlier or later in life, making them a "crisis," but not necessarily a midlife one. In the same study, 15% of middle-aged adults experienced this type of midlife turmoil.

Some studies indicate that some cultures may be more sensitive to this phenomenon than others, one study found that there is little evidence that people undergo midlife crises in Japanese and Indian cultures, raising the question of whether a midlife crises is mainly a cultural construct. The authors hypothesized that the "culture of youth" in Western societies accounts for the popularity of the midlife crisis concept there.

Researchers have found that midlife is often a time for reflection and reassessment, but this is not always accompanied by the psychological upheaval popularly associated with "midlife crisis."

So what happens????? And what is the comparison between men & women????

For the approximately 10% of middle aged adults who go through an age-related midlife crisis, the condition is most common ranging from the ages of 30-60 (a large study in the 1990s found that the average age at onset of a self-described midlife crisis was 46). Midlife crises last about 3–10 years in men and 2–5 years in women.

Individuals experiencing a mid-life crisis have some of these feelings:
-search of an undefined dream or goal (yep... )
-a deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished (a little.. not DEEP)
-desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness (I DO feel young)
-need to spend more time alone or with certain peers (*Definitely)

They exhibit some of these behaviors:
-abuse of alcohol (Nope)
-acquisition of unusual or expensive items such as motorbikes, boats, clothing, sports cars, jewelry, gadgets, tattoos, piercings, etc. (I wish!! HA HA - I work in non profit. lol)
-depression (not so much)
-blaming themselves or their partner for their failures. (Sure, that's normal - right??)
-paying special attention to physical appearance such as covering baldness, wearing "younger" designer clothes etc. (I've always done that. Plus, that would mean at 16 I was having a crisis. LOL)
-entering relationships with younger people (either/or sexual, professional, etc.) (Ummm.. er.. my husband is a cute little 28 year old from the Mediterranean. Ummm..)
-placing over-importance (and possibly a psychologically damaging amount) on their children to excel in areas such as sports, arts or academics. (No kiddos - woo hoo!)

Although mid-life crisis has lately received more attention in popular culture than serious research, there are some theoretical constructs supporting the notion.

Jungian theory holds that midlife is key to individuation, a process of self-actualization and self-awareness that contains many potential paradoxes. ( Oh yeah.. I am ALL about being self-aware.)

Although Carl Jung did not describe midlife crisis per se, the midlife integration of thinking, sensation, feeling, and intuition that he describes could, it seems, lead to confusion about one's life to date and one's goals. Later, Erik Erikson held that in life's seventh stage, middle adulthood, people struggle to find new meaning and purpose to their lives; their questioning, he believed, could lead to what we now call a midlife crisis.

Some psychologists believe men's midlife crisis is a psychological reaction to the imminent menopause and end of reproductive career of their spouses. Their genes may be influencing men to be more attracted to reproductive women, and less attached to their non-reproductive spouses. (biology.. I get it.)

So - with the 3-7 birthday coming up, I have come to the conclusion that:

1. Depending on which definition you look at, I could be about 2 years into middle age.

2. That I am exhibiting a few psychological symptoms.

3. I am DEFINITELY experiencing some physical symptoms.

4. I am completely full of sh*t and need to find a new subject to research tomorrow.

Night Night! ;-)

1 comment:

robby watson said...

Ill be 46 this yr. Physically im probably in better shape than at younger pts.in my life. But the kids growing up ,moving out,illnesses,surgeries,financial changes all that kind of stuff has been a tough road to hold...


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