The coronavirus cast a spotlight on the strength and resiliency of Generation X. That is great! Well-deserved. Overdue. Articles and news stories have celebrated our adaptability and independence, and our ability to fill hours upon hours finding something to do. But these quarantined times have been challenging for us in other, sneakier ways. 2020 reminded us that we “middle children” are truly in a period of aging.
Midlife is marked by several exclamation points now, as we realize, once again, that we are neither here nor there. Most of us GenXers, now 40 - 55, may seem luckier than most in quarantine. I have not had to wrangle young kids into remote school. Unlike the many Millennial parents shown on the nightly news, I was not tearing my hair out trying to entertain my kids. If anyone in the house needed entertaining, it was me, hoping my tween and teenage sons would come out of their rooms to engage (beyond the need for a bagel).
As I see myself on video with Millennial coworkers, I realize I should probably use this “extra” time at home to work on staying younger-looking and healthier. Face masks, moisturizers for day and night, scrubs, cuticle oil, exercise, protein shakes – there has been time to do all of it. No excuses. But getting “beauty sleep” eludes me. I read books about Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun, and that’s me. So I buy melatonin gummies and “heartburn plus sleep” chews, and pray they work. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t; I am not sure why. Can half a Xanax at bedtime, once in a while, hurt? I don’t want to look tired. I don’t want to feel tired. But being in quarantine, and being 50, is exhausting.
And my mental well-being? I try to light calming scented candles while I work, sniff peppermint oil each afternoon, and pet my dog all the time for oxytocin boosts (and because I LOVE him). My mom tells me to try yoga, or meditation, but I’m still too worked up to sit still.
At 50, I feel stuck in the middle of nowhere. When I get on the Peloton and “filter” the board, I choose “female” and some days, guiltily, still hit “40s.” But I am hitting “50s” more and more. It just doesn’t seem like that’s me! Restless at 3am, Facebook memories pop up of me at forty. I clean up a decade of photos in my iPhone. If we weren’t in a pandemic right now, I don’t think I’d focus on all this so much.
No – looks are not everything. Our health and our families are more important. My point is just this – this pandemic has forced me to look at everything so closely, including myself. Maybe it’s easier to look at what’s on the surface. Maybe it’s just trying to be comfortable in my own skin. Maybe 2021 will just feel…beautiful.