Thursday, June 01, 2006

Caught Between

My generation is often called the "sandwich" generation because we so often find ourselves in the middle, continuing our roles as mothers and fathers to children (sometimes adult children), and at the same time, still daughters and sons of aging parents - and we find ourselves needed by both groups. A whole generation is redefining what growing older means and where we find ourselves at each marker - from what we should look like to how we should feel.

There are some days that I feel every hour of my 51 years, other days that I feel 18, and still other days that I feel all of 80 years old. I can laugh about getting old and feeling old, when in reality, 51 is not old. But it certainly is not young, either. It is definitely in between. Many of us feel like Max Cannon's quote: "I am too old for an eyebrow piercing but too young for an eyebrow lift."

I'm reading an article called "What is Old Age For?" by William Thomas. He separates the population into three distinct groups: The youth, the adults, and the elders. Here is his idea:

Adulthood itself is a right and fine thing. I am an adult. I love adulthood. I find daily pleasure in living as an adult and have no interest in returning to the childhood I have outgrown. Nor am I ready to enter into an elderhood that requires perspective, experience, and judgment that I do not yet possess. Adulthood, rightly understood, provides us with a productive, potentially glorious interlude between youth and old age. The problems begin when we conceive of it as a permanent necessity, an apex of human experience that must be defended and enlarged no matter what the cost.

So maybe the reason I feel so in transition is that I am in transition. Caught between youth and elder status. That's why the label of Baby Boomer never fails to get my attention. It's the one group to which I know for certain Ed and I belong - Ed, born in 1946, represents the first of the Baby Boomers, and I, born in 1954, represent the last of them, give or take a few years for statistical purposes.

It is a shame that, with the aid of Madison Avenue et. al., we Boomers are fighting tooth and nail to stay in adulthood and not accept the natural transition to elderhood. William Thomas calls our present stage a "productive, potentially glorious interlude." I guess the key word is "potentially," for our lives are in the end what we make of them.

In his article, Mr. Thomas maintains that elderhood starts around age 65. I still have time left in my "productive, potentially glorious interlude." The older I get, the more I believe that accepting where I am today - at this time, this age, avoiding yearning for the past or worrying about the future - is the key to contentment. Acceptance is certainly the first step. If I can add actual appreciation to that - even better.

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