On the mornings I don’t swim, Trix pads into our room and stands by my side of the bed, whispering, “I’m awake.”
“Would you like to come into the bed?” I ask. We both know this is a formality.
“Yes!” she says, and stretches out her arms so I can roll over and pick her up, then roll back, dragging her across me until she’s snuggled in the middle of the bed.
What is the age when your children stop automatically lifting their arms to you? I want to know, so that last time it happens doesn’t slide by without my noticing it.
Last night, Phil and I drove home after having a really great evening with friends, and we were doing the usual post-game recap. I shared a conversational cul-de-sac that I had wandered down with my friend Lauren, where we observed that we’re not going to so many weddings anymore, and she’s not knitting her amazing sweaters or hats for so many babies.
(At left: Isn't that gorgeous? I saved it because I plan to frame it as folk art.)
That stuck with me, and I told Phil, “Early adulthood, there were so many reasons to be excited — new job opportunities, new houses, new marriages, new babies. Potential is so exciting! Now, we’re all living with the repercussions of all those things, and the new thing that happens now is that our parents have started dying.”
This past Sunday, I swam the 2500 meter event at the Del Valle Open Water festival. It was … well, it was an ambitious goal. Prior to the race, the announcer said, “If you’ve never done a 2500 meter open water swim before, this is not the one to do on your first try. There’s no shame in dropping out now,” and I wondered if I should listen to that advice.
(At left: Me, minutes before that pep talk.)
Then I decided: Screw him, the worst thing that can happen is that I don’t complete the course, so I swam 2500 meters. Or, to be more approximate, 2750 meters because I am really bad at sighting in open water swimming and I kept veering off course and having to swim back toward the buoys.
But I finished, and the whole experience was awesome. After I had done all the post-race things like stuffing my face with hot dogs and snapping a selfie, I was heading to the car with my mom when the race announcer named the last finisher, then added, “She’s eighty years old!”
I turned to my mom and said, “There’s my new life goal. I am going to be an eighty year old who does this race in one of those Esther Williams suits with the pointy bra cups and a swimming cap covered in plastic flowers.”
“Lisa, she’s wearing a bikini,” my mom pointed out.
“Okay, that’s my new life goal. A dotage spent distance swimming clad only in a bikini and a glorious IDGAF attitude,” I said. 
It seems so crazy to me that we spend so much cultural attention winding up our (middle-class) kids and aiming them toward college and young adulthood, that we spend so much time obsessing over potentials and fresh starts … and we don’t spend nearly the same amount of time and attention saying, “We’re at the midpoint of our lives. How do we want the back half to go?”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this question: How do I want the back half of my life to go? I feel like I’m only at the beginning of framing the inquiry process. I’m still framing the questions I need to answer before I can even tackle “How will I live the back half of my life?”
At work, if I’m at the beginning of hashing out a complicated and unfamiliar situation, I’m fond of indicating where I am in the problem-solving process by saying, “Vast new vistas of ignorance have opened up before me.”
It’s faster than saying, “I am trying to figure out how to wrap my brain around what I don’t know,. Until I can figure that out, I can’t even begin to figure out what I need to know, or whether anything I already know will be useful here.”
Maybe, the way to get through any presumed midlife confusion is to reframe it: “It’s time to explore those vast vistas of ignorance! Whee! Adventure and potential still exist!”
I don’t know. I think I’m going to start with the goal of being an elderly swimmer in a radical bathing costume and work backward from there. There’s only another 30-odd years to finesse between now and then.
 I realize the correct answer to the question, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" would be "Death by drowning" but there were enough lifeguards there to prompt the blithe assumption, "Someone is likely to notice if I go under." So I shifted my answer to, "What's the worst thing that could happen? I don't finish the course and then I have to process my failure while putting on a gracious public face, which is sort of my idea of hell."
 I had to spell out the acronym, because my mom really doesn't like it when I swear. She was my race support crew because Trix had been invited to her dear friend's birthday party, and Phil & I felt that some things, like Thomas the Tank Engine cupcakes, are more important when you're three.