On midlife vulnerability and custard

Where’s the fucking zest?

Lisa Renee


Group IV, No 7, The Ten Largest, Adulthood, Hilma af Klint, 1907

“There is no greater power in the world than the zest of a postmenopausal woman.” Margaret Mead

I just went to the post office, my first outing in weeks after a long, miserable (supposedly non-Covid) illness. Driving there, I felt like a naked baby bird, possibly not yet ready for the chilly, spring world. After weeks of rain and budding, it’s gorgeous out there, leaning lush. The greens are popping and the sky is particularly big and wet, all conspiring to stir awe in my raw, post-sick self. I drove, gape-mouthed and slow, into the tiny town for my big adventure, shaky like a shut-in with a day pass.

Midlife has been a study in vulnerability, in ways I didn’t see coming and still don’t totally understand. Whereas vulnerability was a bug of my youth, it’s been a feature of my midlife. It was situational before, showing up in challenging circumstances or prompted by difficult people. I’m a little ashamed to admit that, in the before times, I viewed vulnerability as a sort of weakness. Now, in the after, it’s the default, the landscape of the highly sensitive person. The universe has a way of punishing me for stupid opinions.