There was a time when shopping for lingerie perked me up. I enjoyed looking for the perfect brassiere that could make mountains out of molehills and the laciest, skimpiest knickers to match. Such self-delusional bras are called push-ups for literally what they do – they give a little boost of confidence.
The feminine form metamorphoses with age. The ever-changing landscape means having to get new bras every now and then. When I was nursing my eldest daughter, I needed a bra that could suppress the masses. Engorged with milk, my breasts swelled from demure to ostentatious.
Over time, contents have shifted and moved like tectonic plates. Searching for fitting lingerie in my 60s is like treading around booby traps. Gravity has won, another reminder that I have been around for 62 years.
I wonder if it was happenstance that Josh Groban’s You Raised Me Up was playing just as I was in a fitting room at the mall trying on a bra.
Say what you will about the joys of growing old and juggling a grandchild on your knees, the truth is you will have creaking joints, a double chin (or three), a widening girth, and cellulite all over your body.
These are the signs of the times, they say, but you don’t make it into the elderly demographic without a few battle scars and wrinkly skin, do you?
If life wants to play a joke on us, chances are it will happen around our middle-age. How we deal with it defines the quality of our last few chapters in life. As Charles Swindoll, an American evangelical Christian pastor, puts it: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
It also seems that at some point in our life, there is a possibility of getting derailed from placid routine. Mine got derailed when my husband had a health scare in 2014 just after his retirement. Thankfully we crossed that hurdle with grace and equanimity.
I believe we are all broken in some way, in different ways perhaps. That is why we need courage and fortitude to live – to face whatever life throws our way which is not within our plans.
Life can mess with us in other ways too. Our stamina flags, memory unravels, much of what once gave us pleasure and satisfaction is gone. But as it turns out, happiness is still very much on the horizon.
Mid-life brings some latitude to do as you please. Even indulging in selfish pleasures and thoughtless fun seem like a harmless aberration from the norm. Everyone needs a break to recover the joy of living. The now-or-never mood is never more keenly felt.
It has dawned on me that my future is shorter than my past. There is an awareness of death that did not exist before. In fact, a few of my peers have bought their burial plots. With life as capricious as it is, buying your final resting place is no longer far-fetched. It could be the far-sighted thing to do.
We all have such things to deal with in the autumn of our lives. We don’t live as vibrantly as before. In fact, my social life has been reduced to shaking hands with other churchgoers, and the occasional invitation to meet a friend. It does not matter; I vote for a quiet life anyway.
Grieving for the younger me does not describe me now as I have long buried those little losses and moved on. As Elizabeth Bishop, one of the finest poets of the 20th century, wrote: “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”
The loss of a nimble and lithe body or the sheen of young hair are small losses. Losing a loved one to death counts among the big losses. But that too I must accept. I don’t know why it rains when we least need it or why a life gets snuffed out in its prime. There will always be questions without answers.
For now, it is enough that there are those who love me standing by, legs that can still swing out of bed, places to go to, things to do, and lots of pretty lingerie in my drawer. Surely that’s enough? It has to be.