Mammograms. Therapy and Other Midlife Firsts

3 years ago

Last week I let a woman who reminded me of my grandmother get to second base. It was my first time so I was nervous, but she was a pro.

In fact her cheerful manner as she squished my breasts into the mammogram machine actually may have made the entire experience less awkward than the first time I was felt up—at age 15.

What made the day even more memorable is that not more than an hour before my topless experience, I was deep into my first-ever therapy session. If I had added a colonoscopy to the day, I could have celebrated a trifecta in personal and emotional space violations. But since I’m no longer an overachiever, two firsts in a day seemed sufficient.

Not only was I taking care of my health, but it was a day of real personal growth. In my 20s, the self-analysis always came after the groping, never before.

Really the entire week was a lesson that you’re never too old for firsts. I’ve written in the past about how approaching middle age can make you feel like you’re done with all your “first times” (i.e., walking, marriage, children, dyeing your hair because it’s gray and not because it’s fun and trendy).

Mammograms and therapy weren’t exactly the “firsts” I was looking forward to in this stage of my life, so I’ve been creating my own and I hope you are too.

So last week was also the first week of my 20-week training program for my first half marathon. Now as much as I love 5K runs for charity, 13.2 miles always sounded like a slow and torturous way to die. It actually still does, but for some reason, just days after I turned 40, I was Googling local half marathons and thinking, “if a 75-year-old can do this, so can I.”

My aging body isn’t so thrilled with this newfound aspiration, but too bad. I will literally be running my ass off for the next four months. Why? For no other reason than I need to add another “first” to my life.

“Firsts” have always been intimidating to me, and the thought of running five days a week definitely freaks me out given my tendency to injure myself. Yet, as I’ve aged, I’ve found that “first times,” so rare it seems, are also exhilarating. They make me feel young.

Some people claim that to live life to its fullest, you should live every day like it’s your last. For those of us prone to nostalgia and melancholy when it comes to life ticking by, the thought of last days isn’t inspiring, it’s downright depressing.

So I propose that instead we spend our days seeking out more first times. There are millions of things to do in this world. What if each day, we tried to seek out something new.

A lifetime of first times. What could be more terrifying and exhilarating than that?

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