Little Old Betsy

I was having some really, really massive anxiety about turning thirty-nine. Like, you know those nights where you can’t get to sleep and you start thinking about what it will be like to die and whether it will be scary and whether it will hurt and whether you will really exist in some way after you do and you are both struck by terror at the thought that you might and that you might not? And you sit there, filled with existential dread, because there’s no way to chicken out?

That’s how I felt about turning thirty-nine.

The thing is that I’m closing off avenues, passing by streets that I am never going to take. And, obviously, if I wanted to take those streets, I could have. So, on the one hand, I’m fine with not having gone down them. I am freaked the fuck out by the visceral realization that some of them are closed off to me forever. Can’t change my mind, make my way back to them, and take that path instead. I made these choices, so I don’t have those other ones.

I think the reason this bothers me is that I think a lot about my Grandma Doris, still alive and kicking, her mind still mostly working, her body still mostly working, singing her camp songs to herself each night as she goes to sleep in her big bed, because, when you’re ninety-two, that’s who’s left who can still sing you the songs you knew as a child–you.

Barring accident, I’m someday going to be a little old lady, like my grandmothers. And I don’t know why, exactly, but it weighs so heavily on me that I am making choices right now that will affect the ease of little-old-lady-hood of her/me, that woman who will be the one who remembers the songs my grandma sang me, who knows all the stories I know and will tell them back to me, there, in the dark, as we’re waiting for sleep to come.

I want to put us in the best possible situation. But, if I’m fucking up somehow, in some way I can’t quite see, the time is literally growing short in which I can fix that shit. If I even can. If I’ve made some wrong choices with dire consequences, it’s too late now–not to mention how late it will be when I realize it–to fix it.

That scares the shit out of me.

And yet, what can you do? One day follows another. You can’t stop it from happening. You slide through days like you slide through an icy intersection, pointing your life in the direction you hope to go, hoping you’ll get there in one piece.

So, it’s my birthday. And I’m glad. And not as freaked out as I was yesterday.

14 thoughts on “Little Old Betsy

  1. It sounds like you’re going through at 39 what I’ve done for 50. For me it was more of a ‘what if I’d gone that way and really, really liked it? Too late now.’ I just keep reminding myself there a still a lot of options-just that some of the ones that I’ve been thinking about so long aren’t there any more.

    Happy birthday!

  2. There are still lots of roads, and lots of choices, ahead of you. Really lovely ones, that you wouldn’t have had access to if you’d made those other choices back in the day. That bit never quite ends. And it seems to me that you’re going in directions that will make you a pretty cool old Betsy, and see you situated in a place you enjoy — as much as anyone can ensure anything like that.

  3. LOL!

    You’re going through a standard mid-life crisis. “This too shall pass.”

    Sorry, but I had to laugh at your worrying about becoming a “little old lady.” I don’t think there’ll be anything little about you. (Please laugh. I don’t mean it as an insult. Just a touch of reality.)

    Personally, being a lot older with no future other than drudgery to keep rain from falling on me, I think you’re doing OK, what with being a published writer with some level of fame and appreciation, if not fortune.

    Happy birthday. You’re at Jack Benny’s ideal age.

  4. Happy Birthday to you! 39 was rough for me, too, because a dear friend died at that age and I thought for sure I was going to do the same. I’m still here, quite a few years later, and I’m sure you will be around for some time to come!

  5. Happy Birthday!

    I totally get it about doors closing as you age — it is really hard to accept that there are places I will never go, projects I will never do, people I will never talk to again, etc.
    BUT! There is a corollary. To have the kind of neighborhood and local friends you’ve known and loved for 20 years means staying in one place for 20 years. To find out what it means to have a 40th wedding anniversary (generally) means you’ve given up all your boyfriends. Keeping too many doors open means that you will never enter any of them fully. It seems to me like you’ve chosen a city, a career, a partner that you are really happy with, and that you’ve found a talent — a truly enviable state of affairs at 39. Lots of people never get there.

  6. Belated, but happy birthday. 39 did not freak me out, but the feelings you are describing here are hitting me now, as I creep up on 41.

  7. Happy birthday, Betsy!
    You share a birthday with my dear friend and costuming mentor who isn’t around anymore to enjoy them so I hope you had a nice enough time for two.

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