There isn't much guidance for this stage of life.
When I was a teenager, there were magazines: Glamour and Mademoiselle, guides to the intricacies of fashion and the mysteries of sex. What else did a girl need to know?
As a young professional woman, I subscribed to a pile of periodicals designed to keep me abreast of my field and the advancing role of women in the working world. ABA Journal, OSBA Journal, local bar association journals, working women publications national and local. Fashion and sex still mattered -- I learned how to accessorize a suit and how to avoid the pitfalls of office romance -- but so did deposing hostile witnesses and writing briefs.
The world of young mothers is nothing if not prolific in words. As I moved into my thirties I was never at a loss for the magazines and books that enabled me to master the details of childbirth, infant feeding, potty-training, preschool selection and the developmental markers of every age. It went something like this: natural is best, breast is best, readiness is best, Montessori is best, self-determination is best. Not wanting to miss anything, I included a c-section, bottle-feeding, bedwetting, homeschooling, and Eclecticism 101 in my mothering repetoire.
The teen years are better left unmentioned. Suffice it to say that I found parenting easy, fun, and fulfilling for 17 years and then I found it bitter, agonizing and, at best, relentless. I am extremely grateful, and not a little surprised, that our household achieved a 100% high school graduation rate and now counts among its members three college students.
As I look around and ahead, I see that there is an increasing amount of information available for the aging baby-boomer. The first ones have just turned 60, after all. How to manage your 401(k). What to do if you unfortunately overlooked the necessity for a 401(k). Yoga for seniors. Financing assisted living and nursing-home care. The best retirement towns. Luxury eco-vacations for those who have advanced beyond backpacking. Hip replacements for those who have not.
But I'm not yet beyond middle-middle age. I am pretty much plop in the middle. In fact, with my grandmother turning 100 in March and me, myself and I turning 53 in July, I could quite literally be in the middle of my life.
And I'm finding it an uncomfortable spot, without much of a pathway delineated for me. I'm finding that almost all of my relationships are increasingly difficult -- most disappointingly of all, those with my children. I'm finding that my work life is providing too many challenges I don't want and not enough of the ones that I do. I'm feeling burdened by possessions and debt -- the very things that we work for 30 years to accumulate are the things we find we want the least. And my body is in a state of imminent collapse -- who knew that the suppleness and energy of youth were not eternal?
Fifty-three is feeling remarkably like 13: baffling and disturbing in every way. It was never in my plans to backtrack 40 years, but the work of midlife bears some strong resemblances to the work of adolescence. If my persistent ADD doesn't impede my progress, I'm going to explore these thoughts for a few days as this new year begins.