I recently read a blog post titled This is 45 by Emily Mendell. She did a beautiful job describing life in so many ways and inspired me to reflect on my own life.

And so my friends, this is 45 and single. Again.

45 and single again is the detour in life that catches you so off guard your head still spins when you stand back and look at it.  It’s wondering where you went wrong while being amazed at all the ways you got things right. It’s wishing you could do things over and being eternally grateful you actually can’t.

by John Crossley, Flickr

45 and single again is realizing the emotional drama of your teen years passed in part not because you got older, but because you got married and left the dating pool. It’s asking your teens for dating advice and putting on reading glasses to check responses to your online dating profile. It’s listening with more compassion than you had a few years ago to your daughter’s romance dilemmas and crying with her over broken hearts– yours and hers. It’s telling your kids as you walk out the door that you’ll be home late and they don’t need to wait up for you.  It’s wondering what the person across the table would think of your son’s long hair or your daughter’s obsession with Taylor Swift while knowing that actually, you really don’t care what they think.

by Mav, Flickr

When your 45 and single again you stumble over grocery shopping and meals. One less person to cook for throws everything off. Leftovers become regular meals as you gradually learn to buy less, cook less, serve less.  You make mistakes, cook too little and end up plunking a jar of peanut butter on the table so no one goes hungry. Then you realize the kids are just as happy with ramen and stop cooking meals all together. And then you vow to do better, to have family time around the table with real food– but you know the food is only a small part of what’s missing.

45 and single again is realizing you can have a life. And being shocked. You drive by the Scuba Certification place you’ve seen every day for years and suddenly realize you can sign up without having to justify your actions to anybody. So you pull over and sign up. Right then. It’s realizing the world is so wide open there’s a feeling of vertigo as the possibilities spill out before you.  And at the same time, it’s feeling suffocated by options so limiting you might choke. It’s having the wisdom to know that money doesn’t fix everything, but the experience to understand that it can smooth a lot of rough edges in life. It’s sitting down after you sign up for scuba classes and giving yourself a stern talking to about your own budget. And then loving the classes while wishing you had a husband to take them with you.

It’s sitting in church, hearing that children need two parents, catching your child’s eye and exchanging a sad smile of apology.

45 and single again is suddenly realizing there are a lot of single women in this world, and you are not alone– in what you are experiencing or in the men you are trying to date. For every single man in this world there seem to be at least ten single women– and most of them are more beautiful and accomplished that you ever have been or ever will be. It’s consciously looking for the good parts of this new life as you realize you might be here a very long time.

When you’re 45 and single again, your bed is a place of mixed emotions. At first you sleep in the same spot you always have, right by the nightstand and reading light. The other side of the bed feels awkward and empty and you avoid looking at it.  But gradually it starts to feel like unclaimed real estate. You inch your pillow over, spread out, feel the coolness of the sheets on the other side. Then one day you sleep in the middle, right on that almost imperceptible rise that used to separate two bodies. It’s uncomfortable and you wake up disoriented, like sleeping at someone else’s house. But over time it becomes yours exclusively– this bed, these sheets, these pillows. And eventually it goes from being a place of emptiness to a place of solace.

Being 45 and single again is sleeping with the small bear your daughter gave you, to remind yourself that someone out there loves you.

45 and single again is getting back into the job market. Under duress.  It’s putting together a résumé that says nothing about your real skills or who you are. There is no place to put Dedication to Those I Love, Even in the Wee Hours of the Morning or Expert Negotiating Skills From Years of Mediating Sibling Rivalry. You are reduced to filling out applications for part-time employment at wages your children wouldn’t accept where the only qualifications are that you are a citizen and breathing. And then not getting hired. 45 and single again is an odd combination of being over-qualified and under-résuméd.

45 and single again is going back to college, finishing the degree you started before life took over. It’s sitting in class next to kids younger your own offspring, struggling to memorize things your classmates pick up after one pass. It’s wondering if your professor is single and hoping he’s not younger than you. It’s listening to a lecture on some aspect of life you understand all too well from years of experience, watching the professor struggle to explain it to these kids, and wanting to stand up and say, “Let me help you.”

45 and single again is proof that time travel is possible. It’s being whisked back to school and dating, backpacks and part-time jobs, living the life of a 20-something in the body of a 40-something, wishing the energy and excitement had come back along with the assignments and date nights. It’s standing against the wall at a dance watching a stooped gentleman with grey hair shuffle toward you and ask you to dance while wondering if you remembered to submit your paper.

What 45 and Single Again Moms are supposed to be

Being 45 and single again is balancing motherhood and romance and school and work– and never ever getting a break. It’s being the only one to take out the trash, pick up milk, listen to the kids’ sorrows, turn off the stove, fill out taxes, take the dog to the vet, pay the bills, vacuum, lock the front door, pick the kids up from school, or do anything else that needs to be done. It’s being on the job 24/7 with absolutely no possibility of getting a break. It’s keeping your cell phone on vibrate during the movie in case someone gets hurt and needs you. Right now.

What we actually are

45 and single again is worrying about your kids. Despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary, you fear your own mistakes will cause them to become homeless bums with an inability to form meaningful relationships. You watch them have crushes, date, fall in love and get married, and you replay your own life in your mind. Every prayer is for them to be happy and safe. Safe from accidents, from sickness, from heartbreak– from life. And while you have the wisdom to understand that this is not only unrealistic but unhealthy, you pray for it anyway.

At 45 and single, you are less judgmental. After all, your own life just bit the dust in a major way. At the same time, you have less patience for things that mean nothing.  The preciousness of time is becoming increasingly clear and while it’s not flying by as fast as it will at 80, the galloping pace is sometimes alarming. Trivial matters are pushed aside while seemingly small events– like reading to your kids– are cherished for the treasures they are.

by Tyler Nypen, Flickr

45 and single again is a pause in life– a time to consider the whirlwind of young motherhood, the crashing reality of divorce, the painful rebuilding– and to realize the person you have become is stronger and wiser for all the ditches you pulled yourself out of to get here. It’s looking back and looking forward and seeing that you stand at a pivotal moment, a time to redefine your identity. 45 and single again may be the very definition of a mid-life crisis, but it’s also the mid-life launching off point. Scuba classes, college, dating and children are the pieces you pull together and arrange on the floor in your room, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, rearranging and refitting into Your Life, Part 2.

This is 45 and Single Again. This is me.