Monday, February 22, 2016

Mid-Life is Not a Crisis

"And then my doctor told me that this is just one of those things that happens to you when you are middle-aged," my friend said, staring wide-eyed at me and our other friend,  "Middle aged!"   

We all took a big drink of the wine we were holding.  I don't think the fact that we were out celebrating our 37th birthdays was lost on any of us.  And while I certainly don't think or feel that 37 is old, it's also fair to describe it as nearing middle-aged.  It's nearing half of the US life expectancy.  Mid-life.  

And boy, does our culture have some things to say about mid-life.  Mainly, that mid-life results in crisis.

"Did you hear that Jerry just sold all of his belongings to go travel the country in an RV for year?  He's clearly having a mid-life crisis." 

"Nancy quit her job and became a teacher.  A teacher!  She just walked away from a fifteen year career for a fifty percent pay cut to hang out with five-year olds.  Total mid-life crisis."

"All Greg does when he gets home from work is paint things.  These like, giant paintings of, I don't even know what they are.  He probably needs a therapist, not a paint brush."

"Mike joined an a cappella men's chorus.  Seriously.  He wears suspenders and goes to concerts on the weekend to sing for other people.  For free.  I mean, if he were really talented and getting paid, that would be totally different.  He's obviously having some sort of mid-life crisis."

You've probably heard the whispers.  Or maybe in your family or circle of friends, they aren't even whispers, but loud and shameless proclamations.  Either way, it seems that some of us stand ready to label the less than conventional choices of any human being between the ages of 30 and 60 a crisis. 

I think it's time for a little rebranding.

The problem with the word crisis is that we've long misused it in our culture.  Crisis means "a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point."  However, we tend to only focus on the negative aspects of a crisis, and use it more along the lines of this Merriam Webster definition: "a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention." 

When we gossip about someone's so-called mid-life crisis we are usually considering the new choice to be the situation that needs serious attention.  

The truth is, most of these choices do in fact stem from a situation that needs serious attention, namely the state of the person's life or heart or soul before they make the decision that is being labeled the crisis.

The situation that needs serious attention is that so many of us are buried under the daily requirements of adult life - the job, the bills, the parenting and the planning.  It happens slowly, like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, until one day we wake up and realize that we may have just reached the halfway point, and there are still some things we'd like to to do. To make.  To see. Or that we'd simply like to live the rest of our lives more awake.

There's this beautiful line in Joe Versus the Volcano (Wait... keep reading!  Don't leave just because I love Joe Versus the Volcano!) in which one of the characters says, "My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement."


Seriously, give Joe Versus the Volcano another chance.  It's Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and there's a volcano and a ukulele.  What's not to love?

I think that's true.  I think few of us manage to hold onto wonder throughout our lives.  I think we wake to glimpses of it, and some can grab onto those glimpses and stretch them into seasons.  Some even turn seasons into years.  But to live awake is a laudable goal, one we should applaud, not condemn.  When our friends and family members make choices that allow them to shed some parts of their former selves, or societal expectations, or even self-imposed ones, in order to live a life that is more fully aligned with their gifts, their joy, their wonder, that is something to celebrate.

Now, I realize that some mid-life crises are in fact true crises, particularly when they result in the emotional ruin of another human.  I'm not talking about celebrating someone's mid-life affair or mid-life gambling addiction.  But I am suggesting that we pipe down a bit about choices that look different than our own, choices that result in someone living a little differently than we live, or choosing to make less money than we make, or spending free time differently than we'd spend it.  Before labeling these things a crisis, maybe we should take a moment to reflect on what that person might be waking up to, and what we're sleeping through in our own lives.

To the couple who sold their belongings and spent the last year working from the road in an RV - you are not in crisis.  You are awakening to your sense of adventure. 

To the man who left his job to work for a start-up non-profit bringing water to those in need - you are not in crisis.  You are awakening to the need of the world, and your own capacity to meet it. 

To the mama who joined the roller derby team - you are not in crisis.  You are awakening to a need for novelty and friendship, empowerment and strength.  Also you're a badass.

I think we need new name here.  I'm not much of a marketing strategist, but crisis just doesn't do it for me.  Mid-life awakening?  Mid-life adventure?  Mid-life reboot?  Help me out here readers. What have you got?  

In the meantime, I'm eagerly awaiting my mid-life "crisis."

I welcome it with big, wide, open arms.  

As long as it doesn't involve running marathons.  Or jumping in volcanoes.  And I wouldn't complain if it involved living at the beach.







Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rules of Play

 
Playing games with Ronan while many months pregnant with Liam.   Also, see that Blues Clues notebook?  I cannot count how many hours of my life were spent hiding blue paw prints around my house.


“Mama, I’m a little sick,” moaned Ronan as he bent over the toilet, pantomiming vomit. It was his best attempt at empathy, and just shy of two years old, a pretty good one. He had, after all, spent the last month of his toddler life following me to the bathroom as morning sickness dictated my every move. I briefly worried that I was damaging him for life, constantly vomiting in front of him, then worried that my worry was damaging the baby growing inside of me and decided to shelve all the worrying for the time being.

Please continue reading this piece over at 28 Days of Play ...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stuff (Mis)Management


A few weekends ago, I spent five hours in my basement, moving shelves and rearranging storage to clear out space for a renovation project.  I also carried seven bags of trash and four boxes of donations to the garage.
See all that stuff behind in the storage area?  Um, yeah.  Me too.  That wasn't supposed to happen.

Okay friends.  I clearly remember handing in my letter of resignation as Stuff Manager last year.  I have tax receipts for the countless trips I made to Goodwill with my boxes of things.  I know that happened.  That was not in my head. 

So, how did I end up here again? 

I have lists of rationalizations, or what BrenĂ© Brown might call confabulations.  Her research explains that we are hard wired to fill in the gaps in our stories, and in the absence of data we’ll invent the rest of the tale in the easiest way possible.   In this case, I started to feel that familiar sense of frustration at dealing with all this stuff.  I asked myself, "How could I have let this happen? "  Then I came up with some easy explanations.  They even contain a kernel of truth, which makes for the very best confabulations because they are easier to believe. 

“I have more things to get rid of because I have a new, lower level of comfort with clutter and excess stuff. 

“This isn’t new stuff, it’s just stuff I wasn’t ready to get rid of last year.”  

“Most of the stuff left over isn’t even mine, I can’t force anyone else in my house to part with stuff.”

“I’m not managing the stuff, I’m just shuffling it into a new space because of this particular project.  If we weren’t finishing this space, I would be totally comfortable with the stuff where it was.” 

Unfortunately for me, I’ve read way too many all of Brown’s books, so I did eventually wrestle with the truth. 

I still have too much stuff.

Yes, we have less than last year.  The beer bottle caps are long gone, and so are (most of) the creepy ceramic fish.   Yes, I spend less of my time cleaning, sorting and organizing stuff.  Yes, I have trained helpers in my house and I reduced the amount of micro-managing I do in their areas (one peek in my son’s closet or the garage should confirm this). 

But there’s still too much stuff in this house for my personal preference.  There are too many files on my computer.  There are too many photos on my phone.  There are too many ideas and plans and checklists floating, unchecked,  in my brain. 

So, I’m back on board again this year for the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge.  I might not have as much physical clutter to eliminate, but I’m aiming to spend a small amount of time each day working on one area.  And since I don’t have as much actual stuff to purge, I can be more intentional about where I donate those items, which is very motivating for me.

If any of you are joining me this year, let me know!  I’ll be cheering you on!

In addition to the 40 Bags in 40 Days site, here are some other great resources to get you started:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Misadventures in Gardening





Once upon a time, there was a mama and a glass of wine and a simmering pan of roasted garlic. It was witching hour, that crazy hour of the day when the children are hungry but it’s too early for dinner and Dad is not home but it’s time to start cooking anyway and there aren’t enough snacks in the world to stop the whining.

I'm thrilled to be published at Mamalode today, please continue reading on their site ...









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