Change Your Expectations

Babies indicate hope.

You May Kiss the Bride

The amiable Eastern Orthodox priest administered the rite of marriage in a beautifully elaborate service to my niece and her husband, blessing the couple with words to the effect: go and procreate. Many of us in the congregation tittered, knowing that my niece was in no hurry to start a family. This delightful young couple had plans to revisit Europe and buy a home before settling down.  

Change your expectations.

The popular TV show The Waltons glorified the days when couples began their families in the ancestral home or a rented residence. Property ownership came later. That was the case for my husband and me, purchasing our first property after the birth of our second child. We didn’t attempt the Waltons status until we became Grandma and Grandpa. Although one could argue that we were a Ma and Pa when my mother spent her last years with us. For details, read my blog posts.

Although my niece and her husband intended to wait to begin a family, horror stories of friends stranded abroad following COVID testing tethered them to the States, giving up their dream of a return visit to Paris. The real estate market of low inventory, rising prices, and unsteady inflation locked them out of home ownership. As self-declared matriarch l advised them to change their expectations. Their time will come. Not very reassuring words to young people who have yet to experience the inevitable ongoing cycles of financial boom and bust of the modern world.

Good advice, but what does it mean?

The three 40-ish women met in graduate school and were proclaimed “the old farts”. As one of those old farts, I often demanded to understand how the massive amount of interesting information we were absorbing would be applied in our future careers. More than once my classmates reprimanded me when the professor decided that my question would be appropriate for the exam.

Change your expectations, I tell my beloved niece and nephew. Change your expectations, I tell myself. With apologies to my niece, her husband, and, hallelujah, future baby, I admit I don’t know what that means for me. It’s time for the exam and the question is how do I apply my life experience to cope with aging during unprecedented times? With retirement, I had planned travel, new friends, an active social life, new hobbies. COVID decided otherwise. Now that the world is opening again, I find myself feeling lost. Friends have died, family have moved, other friends are disabled or preoccupied with their own families. COVID’s repeated threats make me cautious to jump into a new lifestyle.

Maybe It’s My Clothes.

I consider a change in wardrobe. Fashion has never been a foremost priority for me, and, in spite of my friend Nancy’s earnest attempts, I had not yet developed a retirement dress style before COVID. The pandemic anchored me home in my jammies and knee surgery into my recliner. Inspired by a recycling service, I sway between tossing out my entire wardrobe and waiting to see what I need. But I have been waiting for two years. How long do I wait? Should I just settle for new jammies? I consulted Nancy, who said, “NO!”

As I dropped off a keepsake for cleaning at a local jewelry store, I admired the beautiful pieces on display while seeing no future ever wearing such gems. I didn’t feel sad because I never would have worn such quality jewelry previously. Surprisingly, I felt perplexed, like I don’t know who I am. Aren’t we supposed to find ourselves in midlife? I thought I had it figured out. The stunningly simple ruby-diamond necklace mocked me: my time had passed, there would be no opportunity to wear such an adornment even if I wanted to.

Change your expectations. Expectations rely on a modicum of predictability. I expected to travel because I am healthy and the world is learning to control COVID. But the body can turn on itself in the blink of an eye as my friends and I have learned personally. Meanwhile, global unrest has released a Pandora’s box of threats pushing us further into nationalism and global annihilation.

Signs of hope:

Two young couples whom I love dearly are expecting babies soon. They will continue to progress through lives of family, careers, hobbies. Their dreams are sidetracked but not extinguished as evidenced by the baby bumps. They will learn to manage their expectations. For older people, there is less room to veer off the path. I don’t want to feel that I am biding time until the world settles because I know there may be few tomorrows before the world comes to rest.  

Lest you think I am in despair, I am not. I have joined two very supportive writing groups, play with two baby boomer rock groups, and am planning a cross country trip this summer to escape Arizona heat, reunite with two branches of the family, and greet a new grandbaby. I just need to figure out what to wear.

Author: Mary Cornelius

I am an aging woman who writes three blogs.

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