I want to be a dame, damn it

I will never compete at the Olympics.

That’s a hard fact. Not that I had expected to one day find myself in a jumpsuit rocketing down a luge course or to be totally stoked after completing a double McTwist (whatever that is) on a snowboard. But I can’t even dream about it at this point. I’m still in my 40s but I might as well be 100. The Olympics are totally off the table.

I have never had the physical prowess or the discipline to be a world-class athlete. Deep down I know that. But what if I had applied myself?

I find myself asking that question a lot lately. I feel like I should have amounted to more at this point in my life. This must be why men buy sports cars and drive around with the top down. In the town I used to live in there was a guy who had to be in his 70s who would cruise around the river in a black convertible blaring old-timey music. A couple of the older ladies in the apartment I lived in “knew all about him.”

I suppose he was having a prolonged or very late mid-life crisis. I feel one coming on myself. The question is what will I do with it and will I be wise enough to come out of it? I don’t want to be a 70-year-old woman wearing a halter top and hot pants to the grocery store.

I don’t want to be a 47-year-old woman wearing a halter top and hot pants anywhere.

I’ve always secretly wanted to be able to sing. I can’t. I shouldn’t. But I do at the top of my lungs in my car. But what if mid-life fear sends me over the edge and I become a regular at karaoke bars, or worse, try to start a band?

I think this is the age where your confidence shrivels up like a petrified clementine, or you try to recapture your best years (if you peaked in high school, forget it), or, eventually, you become Dame Judi Dench—classy, funny, sure-footed, and undeniably fabulous. And if anyone does deny it, I don’t think she’d care. That’s what becoming Judi Dench is about.

It’s a scary crossroad though. You have to be made of sturdy stuff to tap into your inner  Denchness.

I’ll need to see clearly too. The key is to avoid stumbling around reaching for what is out of reach while recognizing what is within reach even if my vision isn’t what it used to be.

I have to believe some of what is still within reach is a kind of exclusive greatness.

At the Olympics they call that a personal best. Maybe it’s not too late to dream.


Have you seen my glasses?

My age lingers in the recesses of my brain, so much so that at times I really have to think about how old I am. I try doing the math: “What year was I born? What year is this?” Perhaps it’s self-preservation to forget certain numbers but it’s more likely to do with my estrogen levels going up and down like my patience.

All it takes to lose my train of thought is something small. Our cats have become like furry chalkboard erasers. When they walk past me, anything I’ve been contemplating is suddenly wiped away. There is nothing left but a cloud of white dust—the only evidence there was anything there in the first place, but like writing on a chalkboard, irretrievable.

The Healthline website says that during perimenopause, “memory issues” are “normal” and a “general fogginess is common.” I’m not sure I would describe it as a general fogginess so much as a Mount Everest whiteout.

Case in point: the amount of time I spend looking for my glasses has gone up by at least 82% in the last two years. Sometimes they’re on my head and other times they’re actually on my face. I can’t find the glasses I’m looking through, the glasses that improve my vision. Can’t see them anywhere!

There they are!

Sometimes I forget what I’m looking for mid-search. Sometimes I find something I lost the week before. Yay!

I was at a friend’s fiftieth birthday celebration recently; we played a Downton Abbey-type murder mystery. It didn’t take too long to crack the murder part of the evening but where the hell I left my glasses was another matter. It took a grid search to find them.

The worst instance of my cognitive failures so far happened this fall when I forgot my friend Kathryn’s birthday. Totally forgot. It was in October and I didn’t realize it until December. I associate her birthday with Thanksgiving because it usually falls on the same weekend. I remembered to eat turkey but forgot to eat birthday cake. I love cake but not even that was enough to ignite a small birthday-candle flame in my brain.

I’ve known Kathryn for 15 years. Shouldn’t her birthday be tightly affixed to some synapsis somewhere in my skull? Like so many of my thoughts these days they seem to be free floating and difficult to nail down.

When I finally did realize that I forgot her birthday, I wondered if in fact I had remembered but that I had forgotten that I had remembered. That’s how crazy this foggy memory business can be.

I wracked my brain to see if I could recall some shopping expedition in which I bought her something fabulous, but it was like staring into a black hole. There was nothing fabulous in it.

It’s not like I have kids and a busy career at the moment. There’s really nothing to blame it on other than crap biology.

The introvert in me that wants to spend time hiding behind the shower curtain at parties—I know that’s creepy which is why I don’t do it—is intensified by my inability to remember names. When I get introduced to people at parties their names are shaken free from my brain as soon as we release hands. I’m tempted to just start calling men Steve or Mike. Chances are good there will be one in the room somewhere.

The only really good thing about the “memory issues” associated with perimenopause is that social miscues or errors that I would normally worry about all day are simply forgotten. No effort. Just gone. Poof. It’s almost like losing your conscience but not quite.

These days I feel like everything requires my utmost concentration, like Superman when he’s using his x-ray vision. If I’m not hyper diligent, all is lost.

I have ideas for this blog at 1 o’clock in the morning. Because I don’t want to get out of bed and write the idea down, I say it over and over to myself until I think it’s locked in. Despite the mental rehearsals, when I get up,  I don’t remember I had an idea, or I remember I had an idea but don’t remember what it was.

I tried keeping a pen and Post-its on my nightstand for a while, just in case. But I would get an idea, fumble around on my nightstand patting everything with my palm—books, an empty Kleenex box, aspirin—and then hear the pen fall behind the nightstand. I would spend the next 15 minutes fuming about the pen. Thanks to the joys of hormonal fluctuations I also have trouble sleeping, so swearing under my breath about a pen does nothing to send me on my way to a peaceful slumber.

On the nights when I’ve been successful locating both the pen and the Post-its I end up writing one sentence over another in the dark and can’t make it out in the morning anyway. Or I forget I wrote down an idea in the first place.

If I stop posting on this blog you should assume I have, a) forgotten where I live, b) become immersed in the search for Post-it notes or my glasses or my cat or my keys, or c) I have forgotten I have a blog.

Should I remain silent for too long, do come looking for me.

Turn left at Albuquerque

At 47 there are things I think I should know by now, like how to fold a fitted sheet, or how to make jam, or how to successfully wrestle a piece of cling film over a plate of cold chicken.

I can get by without those skills. It’s easy enough to keep the linen-closet door closed, buy jam, and use tin foil.

But the skill I think would be most useful is knowing which way is north. Once you know that you can figure out the rest, I assume.

I come from a line of disoriented people. It’s a genetic failing. I don’t want to get too sciencey here, but the long and short of it is our “grid cells” are fuzzy, which indicates they aren’t very grid-like, I guess.

My grandmother always thought she was headed north, unless she was going downhill. Then, of course, she was going south.

My cousin Jenny has no clue where she’s going. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever see her again. I can imagine her driving from gas station to gas station asking for directions and then forgetting which way to turn out of the parking lot. On her first trip to Stratford (Ontario) from Holland Landing (near Newmarket) she somehow ended up in Hamilton. I’m not great with maps but I’m certain Hamilton is not on the way.

Of all the places to land, Hamilton is possibly the scariest too. I have gone in squares around the downtown for what seems like an entire afternoon. I often use moving landmarks like hot dog carts to orient myself.

In Hamilton I used the smokers standing outside the Tim Hortons, sipping their coffees, as I travelled up and down those one-way streets. “Have I been down this one before? Yup, there’s the guy in the grey hoodie with the plaid jacket. Ugh!”

The trouble getting out of Hamilton is the reason people live there. They have run out of gas, given up, and bought property.

I see a lack of direction as a flaw, for sure, but certainly not a lack of intelligence. If I recall correctly even Bugs Bunny made a few wrong turns around Albuquerque. But he still outsmarted Elmer Fudd, the Tasmanian Devil, Yosemite Sam, and a vampire. Mind you, none of them are Mensa candidates but when you add it all up, it’s impressive.

I don’t have a lot in common with Bugs Bunny when I’m behind the wheel. I’m more like Daffy Duck, if “you’re despicable” was updated to “HEY, *&%#!@, #$@%&, &**%@!#.”

Tony says I get lost pulling out of the driveway. That’s kind of true. I often don’t know which way to turn as I get close to the road, so the last few feet of the driveway can be harrowing. My indecision has caused me to skim the retaining wall beside the driveway causing my bumper to pop off on one side. I have to get out and smash it back in before my neighbours see.

One time I lost part of the bumper when I rolled over a chunk of ice on the boulevard. I had to get out and collect shards of red metal strewn across the sidewalk. It looked like dollar-store party streamers had exploded. The mechanic got those mega-twist tie things and sewed the largest pieces back on. Now the front of my car looks like Frankenstein. I can’t have anything nice.

It makes me look like a bad driver which is deceiving because I’m really quite excellent. I don’t go too fast or too slow, like everyone else.

I moved to Kitchener a few years ago and I have learned one route to get to each place I need to go—the bank, the grocery stores (two of them), the mall, bookstores and bakeries. One of the bakeries moved, I don’t have great hopes of finding it—no more Portuguese custard tarts for me.

I can also get to a few different highway on-ramps, and there’s a 50/50 chance I will choose the one headed in the right direction.

Kitchener-Waterloo is especially torturous if you have directional dyslexia because it’s the construction capital of the world. Everyday there’s a new street closure. It’s like living on a Rubic’s Cube that keeps turning.

On one of my darker days I came up to a road-closed sign, turned right, snaked through more construction down narrow streets only to reach another road-closed sign. I considered jumping into the hole behind the backhoe. It was only about three feet deep but still, I could have twisted my ankle. I was that distraught.

Now that I have GPS on my phone my life should be easier. But I rarely use it. I either don’t think of it or I think I can probably find my destination, plus if I have to listen to that bossy woman tell me what to do I have to turn down the music.  It’s just too inconvenient.

When I do finally pull over on the side of some country road as transports whizz past and rock my car as I type in my address, I kind of love the idea of GPS. It gives me confidence that I will get home. But then those horror stories of people who follow their GPS into the ocean or a swamp and die makes me think it might be better to go on instinct. I might be frequently late and panicked but I haven’t driven off a cliff.

Maybe, as my biological clock stops ticking my internal compass with finally kick in and my direction will be clear. I won’t worry anymore about never getting home, or ending up somewhere else, like Hamilton.