If I reach back into my memory, back before the kids and the husband, stretch past the boyfriends and the general debauchery that defined my twenties, strain past that first bittersweet taste of adulthood, I can just about remember what life was like as a teenage girl, how weighted with importance everything seemed. Back then, before your personality had time to gel and set, it didn’t take much to make you feel like the world was ending. The mere hint of a cold shoulder was enough to send you running to the girls room. Tripping and God forbid falling in front of cute Stevie Jones was evidence that your life was ruined. Heather not talking to you or Tracy not giving you the time of day because she was too busy making out with Kevin by the lockers was enough to get you excused from gym. The thrill of the hummingbird wings of your heart racing when the boy you had a crush on sat next to you at lunch. The agony of I-can’t-even-remember-his-name calling you ugly in front of a gaggle of (short, pimply) boys, making you want to melt into a puddle on the floor like the Wicked Witch of the West until there was nothing left but a pair of pumps and ankle socks.
LIfe as a teenage girl is little short of bionic. Every emotion is amplified, every feeling exaggerated. From the heights of cloud 9 to the pit of despair, all in the space of a seven period high school day. Somehow most of us survive. Things level out and life becomes a little less like a roller coaster at Great Adventure and more like a nice, gentle ferris wheel at the fair. Sure, there are still ups and downs, the cart rocks a bit in the wind, and there’s always the niggling fear that a screw is loose, but the daily highs and lows don’t seem so steep, so graded, so stomach churning.
Then one day you find yourself crying over a long distance telephone commercial. UpWorthy videos suddenly become a form of torture, emotional bamboo shoots dipped in estrogen and shoved into your cerebral cortex. Ads in other languages, ads that you can’t even understand make you weep. For the most part, you are able to wipe your eyes on your sleeve, sniff loudly and get on with your day. Until an hour or so later when the spaghetti sticks together and you have to repress an urge to throw the whole grain tangled mess, pot and all, on the floor and angrily declare your intention to NEVER COOK AGAIN.
All of a sudden you’re tripping down those high school corridors of bionic emotion all over again. Heather is mad at you and Tracy is debating whether or not to have sex behind the bleachers and what’s-his-name thinks you’re ugly and it’s like all those years have been compressed and you are once again trying to remember the combination to make it all work.
What fresh hell is this? I have to do this again? Screw you, Mother Nature, are you for real??
Yesterday morning my husband was forced to listen to me rant, possibly even rave, about how much our health insurance sucks. The thing is, my husband knows our health insurance sucks. He agreed with me at the very beginning of the ‘conversation’. But that wasn’t enough. I needed him to know in great detail how much it sucked and what they could do to improve it and who could I write to and WHY WASN’T HE FIXING IT AND AGREEING WITH ME??? Fast forward to the afternoon when my Facebook feed was peppered with photos of friends sending their daughters off to school for a Father/Daughter dance and just like that…sobbing over the asparagus. Not teary eyed with a tinge of emotion, mind you. Great, heaving sobs. I won’t even go into the convoluted train of thought that derailed in my head, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the amplified, exaggerated reactions. Again. Like a sixteen year old, but with crow’s-feet and gray hair.
There’s very little neutral ground here on the fairway of your forties. I believe I recently used the word ‘fascist’ to describe someone who wanted to do away with teacher appreciation day. And I meant it, for those few seconds anyway. A friend sent me en email including a slide show documenting the birth of their second child and I couldn’t tell my husband what it was because I was crying too hard. Don’t even get me started on fuck-wittery that is The Hobby Lobby mess. Rant, sob, rant, sob. It’s amazing that my husband still ventures into the kitchen these days, unsure if he will find me cooking dinner in a puddle of tears or threatening to brain someone with a frying pan.
Oh the descent into this fresh hell is dizzying for sure.
You can change sheets that have been soaked though with night sweats. Chin hairs can be plucked. Gray hairs can be dyed. You can fake it till you make it in-between the sodden sheets. But oh the hormone roller coaster! You’re well and truly stuck. You can’t just leap off mid hill. You can scream all you want but no one is going to stop the ride so you can get off.
I’ve started running to help balance out the rage against the machine, which helps. So far I haven’t had to run blinded by tears and breathing great, hiccuping gulps of air because, gee, that’d be really fun. I’m exhausted. The physical running tires my body. The book writing is emotionally draining, soul sucking at times, and very, very lonely. Add the ups and downs of my current hormonal state of affairs and it’s any wonder I can keep my red rimmed eyes open long enough to threaten to hurl dinner off the balcony. To go from high to low and back again takes a lot out of you. It’s like running an emotional 10K every day. At least at sixteen you had the energy to bounce back. And perkier boobs.
So for now I’ll just keep going to bed a mere hour after my kids so that I have enough energy to make it up…and down…the next set of hills. But if you hear someone screaming in between the tears, it’s probably me.