I have decided that I need a lobotomy or a conversion experience or both to expel the demons of MID-LIFE CRISIS lurking within!
We have all witnessed the predictable path of men’s mid-life: the younger woman, the sports car, the sudden interest in physical appearance. Cliche, right? I lived through a mid-life crisis, of sorts, with my husband who is 11 years older than me. His was definitely fraught with personal and financial torment, but it brought us closer instead of farther apart. It made our family stronger. Now it’s my turn. And thank goodness I woke up and recognized it for what it was (is) before it was (is) too late. True to my character, I’ll refer to my mid-life crisis in one simple phrase: OVER-INDULGENT.
My life is becoming the metaphor of drinking from a fire hydrant to satisfy one’s thirst. It’s too big, too much, too fast. I suspected that navigating my children’s adolescence while walking through my own mid-life might be tricky. They need guidance, wisdom and support from a SANE adult who is willing and able to step outside of the self and enter the world of the young adult’s psyche without the need for affirmation or adulation. Let me repeat: without affirmation or adulation. That’s the part that stings! Four years ago, when my daughter began her journey into adolescence and our family was undergoing a massive uprooting from our rural dream life back to the city, I used to joke innocently, I thought, about “Momma’s not getting a lot of love back these days.”
The unsolicited hugs and flattering emulation had come to a screeching halt. I was becoming “invisible” and it hurt.
Fast forward four years later with a husband who is turning 59 and a son in the throes of adolescence, too. I realize my entire identity has been wrapped up in 3 separate individuals for more than a decade – my children and my husband. And I am angry with myself. I feel robbed of my youth. I am going to REBEL!!!!!
Enter “Party Girl” Joanie, living large in the city. Meeting peeps for drinks. Sipping on amazing wine while making dinner. Just being glamorous, right? WRONG. Oh, so wrong. One drink every other day became two drinks every night. And recently, it became A BOTTLE. There was never ENOUGH of ANYTHING to affirm that I was ALIVE and SEPARATE FROM MY FAMILY. My own cool mid-life self – living as though I had 9 lives. But I only have 1. Time to re-evaluate.
I thank GOD for the wisdom of my 15-year-old daughter and the unwavering love of my gentle husband who have enlightened me of late about my reckless behavior. But in a way a rebel can accept and digest – non-threatening. My daughter simply asked me recently whether I would be willing to remain sober long enough to pick her up at 10:00 PM from a party. Simple and direct question, right? It felt like a thunderbolt jarring my brain into a million pieces! What is WRONG with this picture when your daughter has to ask such a question?
My “aha” moment was brief and we all escaped relatively unscathed. I am 36 days sober today and plan to stay that way – after all, I am just as “interesting” over-indulging in sugar-free popsicles as I was champagne! Now to the paradigm shift in my parenting and relating to young adults versus small children. As tough as it is, I am beginning to accept that I can shift from a total domination decision-making model to a shared one with my kids.
When my daughter was about 3 and struggling with sharing her toys at play group, her adorably honest retort to the nonstop encouragement from adults to “share with others” was: “I want to share with ME!”. This is the battle I find waging within my middle-aged heart and soul as it confronts the challenges and responsibilities I have taken on in my life. But I am not going to express my frustration in ways that drive my family apart and tear at the fabric of my most important relationships any longer. I am putting my “BIG GIRL” panties on and moving forward towards 50, muffin top and all.
Yes, you heard me right: I am at that delightful age where I weigh more than my IQ!
So, together with my bruised ego and expanding waistline, I choose to embrace Mid-Life and all the AWKWARDNESS it brings. Ironically, I am going through a more awkward phase than my adolescents. But it is THEIR time of discovery, not mine. I can choose, every day, to “rebel” a little in ways that are harmless and not self-destructive. I think I will get a Mini-Cooper!