You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’.
-Leigh and Clark, Come From The Heart
I have a head of hair covered with a mayonnaise-avocado-apple-cider-vinegar concoction under a turban of Saran Wrap, trying to work out how I’m supposed to rinse it out in a half-hour when my feet only just got into their Baby Feet booties, and I’m not supposed to move for the next hour.
What will happen, I wonder. If I leave this in too long, is my hair doomed to carry that greasy Soul-Glo look to school on the first day (school moms can be so cruel), and perpetually smell like salad dressing?
I decide to dive into recording medical receipts on my Excel spreadsheet while I wait for my extremities to marinate. All the while, my phone keeps pinging with reminders to schedule my next mammogram and colonoscopy appointments, and I get a text from my friend Jackie following up with a referral for an electrolisis procedure on my chin.
As I look up at the microwave clock, I realize that after all the rinsing, I won’t have enough time to go to the grocery store alone. This means dragging the chickens along post after-school gymnastics class in some spun-out state that usually results in a broken record of “Stop it”s and “Knock it off”s. It’s not a trip I can skip, however. We are out of the vegetables and healthy protein choices that are key to Ray’s new, “I’m-turning-47-and-all-those-cheeseburgers-are-catching -up-to-me” diet.
Wait . . .corn salsa counts as a vegetable, right? And I’m pretty sure those leftover hot dogs are organic. . .maybe we can skip the trip. . .?
I’m going to need my wine tonight.
Just like every. Other. Night.
Oh, my God. What is happening to me?!
I vaguely remember this stage of life seeming so far away, and the butt of weeknight sit-com storylines. That song, “When I’m 64,” sounded so cute and charming. I’d find myself sympathizing when I’d hear about my aunt’s hip issues, or my sister-in-law’s cancer scare. And I would shake my head disdainfully at the many references to “mommy’s glass of wine”, from the female friends on my Facebook feed.
Well, now it looks like my train is coming in the station. Here I am, and I check almost every box on the list of inevitabilities of middle-aged women. Including mommy’s wine, which materializes almost every evening.
I mean, I have a really great life, don’t get me wrong. I’m fortunate enough to have a husband who loves both me and our girls immeasurably. I’m in reasonably good health. We have a roof over our heads, cars that function, and credit cards that work. With the kids going back to school this week, I am back into my routine: traffic, school, gym, errands, school, after-school extra-curricular activities, traffic, home, dinner, bed. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
It’s beginning to dawn on me that I’ve been so careful to create a regular predictable schedule, that things have become rote. In becoming rote, nothing is surprising. Or fun. Or exciting. Even my adventures with the chickens turn into a routine that usually means my watching them have fun at discovering some new thing, while hanging back in adult conversation with some accompanying parent that either involves some new divorce, or planning for the next school function/after school activity.
It hit me: this is that mid-life crisis thing! I always assumed people were just being dramatic and self-pitying. But now, I totally get it. Oh, my gosh. It’s real.
All the things I was so passionate about just no longer seem accessible. I think it’s because I was passionate. Optimistic. Young. Energetic. All of which seems to escape the “now” me. “Now” me is tied down by real-life logistics that make all those dreams “then” me had impossible without some serious selfish upheaval.
I’ve seen what happens next. It’s been happening all around me. All the people my age seem to be starting to head down this road. For some, it means some crazy journey they suddenly take (read, Wild, only imagine an older version). Some attempt the marathon. Some divorce. Some chop their hair, or lose a ton of weight, or buy that car. Some change their career, or go back to school.
My problem is, I have no clue what to do next.
I don’t know what my “BIG THING”, my “BIG WHY” is, anymore. When I was 20, I was going to New York to study acting. At 25, I got my tattoo, and set out to suck up life with the fearlessness only mid-20’s can offer, heading to Austin to find a long-lost cousin (this was quite the family drama, which I won’t get into . . . nonetheless, an absolutely epic adventure). In my 30’s, I set out to be Superwife aiming for the epitome of a power family of awesomeness. Took up a running obsession, and entered every race I could find. Mid-30’s, I was Supermom supreme, balancing now two kids, their schedules of all-important enrichment, and uber-involvement at their two schools. All the while preparing for a successful real-estate career to commence as soon as the kids were tucked safely in classes full time.
40 came . . .
No more career (See My Exit Letter), which makes me feel a bit like another dependant child in the family.
Can’t go back into theatre (my passion), too much time away from my family.
Not running races anymore. Hurts my knees, and I’ve reasoned it’s too damn expensive to buy a medal that goes into a box in my closet.
I go on a diet. I grow tired of being hangry. I see no results, anyways. I eat. I go back on a diet. I get hangry . . .
I work out all the time with the sole purpose of staving off death, and not allowing my body to punish me by advertising my age. I also like my wine. But it’s often just going through the motions.
I find myself growing numb to the world around me, with no clue how to break the funk.
Kids are so great, they still have their whole lives ahead of them, and are completely clueless. But happy. So friggin’ happy. Probably because they’re clueless. What a luxury.
One afternoon, I watched my little one just singing and dancing down the aisle of Target because she had a song from Moana stuck in her head. Later, at the grocery store, my older one begged me to let her take a twistie tie so that she could make a magic wishing ring out of it.
I think I might be on track to find a way out of this. Watching my kids creating fun wherever they went, I began to realize that I don’t play enough these days. The kids can entertain themselves for hours just pretending. Or climbing around. Or singing. And they seem to have boundless energy.
It’s not the solution, mind you. But it’s a step in refocusing my energies, maybe. Which could lead to finding that passion again. And figuring out a way to fulfill that piece of me that I was missing.
So, last week I’m at the store. The song, Call Me Maybe comes on. Irritating, yes. But one of the few songs I actually know the correct words to.
So, I start singing. And dancing a little. Just a little. I’m not going on the intercom and belting out the lyrics, or gyrating madly on top of the self-check register. I’m not that crazy. I left the store with a smile on my face that hung out for the rest of the day.
Then, at the playground? I joined in with the kids on the monkeybars and climbing sets. My five-year-old and I must have had at least 50 races down the tandem slide (she won most, but that’s probably because of her sister who blocked my way most of the time). I realize that these kids are crazy coordinated, and that I need way more calluses to be able to get across with the ease that they do. Also, now I’m considering Ninja Warrior classes.
Yesterday, the kids skipped their gymnastics class so that we could get a surprise icy treat at Icekimo. It was too damn hot, and it was worth playing hookey for.
I’ll admit it. It felt . . .fun. And I wonder. . .the people who smiled at me. . .? I wonder if they weren’t the teensiest bit jealous that I had no problem just being . . .free.
What’s restraining us as adults from just having fun? Unadulterated, pure, straight-up, no-judgements fun? Could our up-tight attitudes be what’s contributing to our early onslaught of wrinkles? High blood pressure? Mid-life crises?
I didn’t find my “BIG WHY” that day at Target, or on the playground, or even at Icekimo (although that came pretty damn close to heaven right there). But I did find that by just giving myself permission to have fun, and in letting go of preconcieved behavior habits and routine, I found a refreshing energy I haven’t felt in years.
I do have to take time to talk myself into remembering to let go. I often find myself pausing before responding with my automatic, “no”. But it definitely is a start in a positive direction. I find myself smiling a bit more these days.
Ray: “You’re acting goofy.”
Me: (Smiling sideways) “I think I need to play with you more.”
Ray: (Also smiling sideways) “Well, if you need some ideas . . .”
Ok, so not exactly what I meant.
This is going to take some time. I’m not sure what the next step is. I do know I want to sieze on this feeling, and try to continue to find it.
Does this mean I will be the crazy-yet-adored-old-village-lady? Am I going to be the one to eventually embarrass my kids? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am going to continue to explore the different paths that lead out of this mid-life crisis. I’m not going to let this thing beat me.
Hell, I’ve made it this far.