Friday, March 22, 2013

Is It My Mid-Life Crisis Yet?

How do you know you are in the throes of a mid-life crisis? Age can be something of an indicator, but it’s not as though you can really gauge your midway point. Is it thirty? Thirty-five? Forty?

Being the proactive sort of gal I am, I began really putting some thought into how my mid-life crisis was going to go when I turned thirty. I mean, how often are you handed a big, fat excuse to act completely irrationally while you are an adult? If you squander this one, you have to wait until your dotage for another opportunity, and by that time, you may not give a damn anymore. Best to strike while the iron is hot.

I didn’t plan the event, but I was on the lookout. Periodically, I checked myself for unexplained impulses to purchase sports cars. There was a twinge or two, I’ll admit; those new Dodge Chargers are pretty hot. But for the most part, my irrational urges were fleeting and resistible, so I just kept waiting. Yes, I left my job, but that had more to do with my children’s special needs than any overwhelming need to cling to my fading youth. The years came and went, until I found myself at forty without any sports cars or other signs of temporary insanity.

In my line of work, I talk to a lot of writers. Authors are essentially storytellers, and so over the course of swapping tales with my colleagues, I discovered something that surprised me. Despite my diligent self-awareness, I seem to have missed my mid-life crisis. Looking back, it’s an obvious thing. Frankly, it is embarrassing that my powers of discernment and observation are so weak that I could overlook the signs.

All hell was breaking loose and my kids needed me and I was always one cup of coffee shy of a total nervous breakdown when I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Maybe that is a good enough excuse for my oversight. In any case, the facts speak for themselves. I left my paralegal job. Not long afterwards, I found myself working as personal assistant to a professional medium/clairvoyant/life coach. It was through this work that I experienced ghost tours, séances, house cleansings, grief counseling, and missing person searches and was exposed to a variety of spiritual paths and ideas. I even picked up some pointers and practical tools for small business owners and entrepreneurs. I was writing, as well. Then I found myself meeting other writers in a Skype-based writing circle. Some of the women I met founded their own publishing house, and I edited their first novel as a favor. This turned into my current “day job” as their lead editor. I started blogging. My doctor helped me quit smoking for good, and I had my first really spectacular car accident. I buried my last grandparent and my mother-in-law. I got my first tattoo on my fortieth birthday and finally found the courage to tell my parents that I couldn’t follow the religion in which they’d raised me. I was published for the first time. I began speaking out against injustice instead of keeping silent, and I became an advocate for myself, too. I rediscovered old loves and rekindled my interest in the arts and began to learn again. I remembered how to live again.

All of this happened between 2010 and 2013. Three years. Was it my mid-life crisis? I’ll admit that “crisis” would have been an apt description at certain moments over that period of time. Change is never easy, and some of the challenges I had to confront were serious and painful.

One of the thoughts that shook me out of my stupor back in 2010 was an upsetting one: every time I described myself, I used the past tense. How could someone still in her thirties have so little in her life that every sentence began “I used to…”? I used to sing. I used to dance. I used to write. I used to paint. I used to explore. I used to go to concerts. I used to go to the theatre. I used to. But not anymore.

One of the things you’re supposed to learn from your mid-life crisis is how to let go of youth and embrace your future. It’s a tough transition. What I discovered about myself was that in letting go of my youth, I’d let go of who I was, leaving myself nothing with which to build a future. So I didn’t buy a sports car or run off with a pool boy named Rico. Instead, I became myself again. If I needed “permission” to make these changes, chalking it up to my mid-life crisis was as good an excuse as any. Whether it was legitimate or not, I’m certainly not going to apologize for it now.

I don’t know if this is really my mid-life crisis, but it’s been an interesting ride so far.

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