Every decade of our life brings with it a few life changes. In your 20s, you are just about entering the big, bad world as a fully-formed adult, negotiating your way through it on your own. It is a somewhat scary but always exhilarating experience. Your 30s, more often than not, find you settling down, or at the very least, attempting to, with a spouse or a partner, with a couple of kids and in-laws thrown into the mix.
And, then come your 40s. This is probably the decade when you will experience the most life changes. And this may well be the decade that changes you as well.
As someone who is on that journey, allow me to give you a quick glimpse into what you can expect from your 40s, based on my own experience and that of my friends.
* Just when you think that your kids have now grown up and can cope on their own, you will have to become carers once again: this time to your parents or parents-in-law. With a bit of luck, these illnesses won’t be life-threatening. Perhaps a broken leg, necessitating a stay in hospital, and a long rehab process afterwards. If you (and they) are truly out of luck, it may be something more serious like a heart episode or a stroke. But no matter how quickly they recover and how good the prognosis, your life and theirs will never be the same again. Not just because of the demands on your time and energy. But also because parenting your parents can be heartbreaking, for both parties.
* Middle age will start to make itself manifest in your body. You will no longer be able to dance in heels all night without hobbling back home in pain. After a long night of drinking with your friends, you won’t be in a position to get up the next morning and get to work (Oh no! You’ll be in bed, groaning and moaning, and nursing the mother of all hangovers). There will be that niggling ache in your back when you pick up something heavy or overdo it on the cross trainer at the gym. Your knees will creak in protest when you take a flight of steps. I could go on, but I’ll only end up depressing both you and me.
* Just when you are in a position to afford eating out in fancy places, thanks to a generous company expense account, your doctors will put you on a strict no-fat diet (“Your cholesterol is off the charts,” he/she will harrumph disapprovingly). Just as you finally have enough disposable income to buy those designer suits you hankered after all your life, you will discover that you don’t fit into even the largest size on display. Made to measure, instead? You’ll have to get into your 50s before you can afford that!
* Did you really think that the worst bits of child rearing were over? Ha, bloody ha! Now, instead of those cute cherubs who climbed into your bed every morning and woke you up, you have two sulking teenagers skulking around the house, answering your every query with a grudging monosyllable. Their rooms are a mess; but you are not allowed entry, even for a clean-up. They spend all their time on their phones, Snapchatting and Instagramming; but you have been blocked on both, so you don’t have a clue of what is going on in their lives.
* This is also probably the time when you begin to panic about your finances. Your children – yes, the ones closeted in the bedroom, with ear-thumping music on – are unlikely to get the grades to get into top-rated Indian colleges. So it will have to be a university in Britain and America or Singapore, at the very least. Yes, you have spent the last decade saving for it. But who knew that the rupee would hit this all-time low? You could spend everything you have saved or even take a loan to send your kids to a prestigious college abroad. But what if you had a medical emergency or lost your job in the interim? How would you cope? Is it a wonder you don’t sleep well at night?
* And then, there is the bereavement and the loss. This is the decade in which you will begin to experience the loss of near and dear ones. And not just of your parents and in-laws, who are in the twilight of their lives. No, this is when you will lose a friend, an old school mate, an office colleague, someone roughly your age, to death. More often than not, this will come as a bolt from the blue and leave you gasping with shock and horror. There, you will find yourself thinking, but for the grace of God, go I.
Yes, I know, I paint a depressing picture. But there is much to be thankful for as well. You are still around. Your kids may not speak to you but (trust me) they still love you. And most certainly, they need you. Your parents may be shadows of their former selves, but their presence still adds grace to your lives.
Yes, you may well think that there’s nothing to cheer about getting older (or even, just plain old). But pause for a moment and consider the alternative. There, you feel much better, don’t you?
From HT Brunch, June 19, 2016
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