Oh shit: is this a midlife crisis?

I think I might be having a midlife crisis.

But what is a midlife crisis? We joke about it when we see old dudes buying flashy, expensive cars–midlife crisis cars. I suspect tho that a midlife crisis is about something more fundamental: a sense of being at a new crossroads and having no idea which way is “the” way on any given thing, and feeling like the clock is ticking to sort it out. I’m 40 now and I haven’t reached that “Oh, aging is great–you stop caring and own it all!” level some people have. Instead, I feel like some things are moving right and other things are weird. Nothing, mercifully, is bad–but I would really like to get to the “I feel powerful and in control but also I accept I can’t control everything” stage and right now I just feel squished.

Like the mammogram I get Monday. Because I’m at midlife.

At least I’ve finally figured out how to best style my hair.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

I’ve had a fair amount of malaise lately and lack of interest in some of the stuff I love, even though it’s the part of the year when I have time for such things. You might remember me extolling the wonders of weightlifting, once. Yeah. I’ve been out of classes/meetings now for four weeks and I’ve barely made it to the gym more than once a week. We’ve had some glorious weather, and I haven’t often gone for walks.

On the one hand, I’m at the point where I’ve decided that I think I’m maybe ok with my body as it is, but I think I then use that as an excuse in my litany of excuses to not work out. Even tho I like working out. And I know that working out is one of the keys to, ya know, not falling so much when I’m older. Being able to lift heavy stuff now. That kind of thing. But I’ve lost my mojo and I end up in a “I don’t need to chase some thinner body so why bother?” trap. I did a run/walk yesterday, tho–I felt a glimmer of wanting to move, so I threw my gym clothes on and got outside. I’ve had some pent-up aggressive energy and so I pounded it into the pavement. I met with my trainer at 10 today, too. I want to be both ok with who I am, physically, and wanting to keep it up and even improve it without all the baggage of size and weight. We shall see, as it’s hard not to get stuck in there.

Another example: it’s been great grilling weather but I haven’t felt like cooking much.  I’m good at it and generally enjoy doing it but lately? Meh. This means our dining out costs have gone up a lot. And that’s fine–getting out for dinner also gets us out of the house, as two of us are home all the time. The house can feel small when we’re both working in it all day. But then that also becomes a circle of justification, and I can feel guilty about a justification circle like nobody’s business.

Then there’s work.

This summer, I’m eyeballs-deep writing a chapter of the manuscript I’ve either wanted to work on or have actively been working on for many years–actively, since 2016, but since parts of it are coming from dissertation research, we’re talking well over 12 years, 15 in some cases. It’s going ok, I think, but again I feel at a crossroads: I’m generally plagued with feelings of inadequacy about this whole project. Knowing that any work promotion I’m going to get rests on it is alternately motivating and crushing. I don’t enjoy working on it much. I think the topic is important and god, I want the raise that comes with promotion, but also, maybe my whole argument is wrong and I should shuffle off now.

Occasionally I think about what kind of person finishes a book–what feelings I can imagine myself having–and that’s kind of motivating. I’ll be proud. Accomplished. Tired. I don’t know that I’ll ever do this again but maybe it’s one of those things where once you do it the first time, the second time is easier. A different crossroads.

And speaking of work, there’s some stuff going on there that has dragged me down for days even though it’s not my circus–there’s literally nothing I can do about it. I take a lot of solace in my side work: it’s given me confidence in ways my regular job can’t, and it’s assured me that I have more skills than just teaching history. Not that that’s a small skill, but I lost a lot of years worrying that if I ever lost my teaching job, I’d just have to shrivel up and die because I’d have no other choices. Getting my job in 2008 as the country fell apart economically and thinking I’d be laid off for sure fractured my brain in ways that I’m still trying to repair.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the rage.

My mood has been swinging like a pendulum into what I can only characterize as PMS-level anger. I get angry over all kinds of real stuff but also all kinds of dumb things. It’s exhausting. Googling suggests rage evidently can be a part of perimenopause. Hooray. Another crossroads.

I have been meaning to write for The 76k Project’sFinances after Forty” series but each time I tried, I got bogged down in my own insecurities of who I am, who I was, and who I want to be. One of the entries, by Late Starter FIRE, included something about an awareness that this life isn’t a dress rehearsal. While I know that consciously–I mean, duh–I realized that I’ve often been living in postponements. I have a back-of-my-head thinking of “maybe another time” or “maybe next time” on any number of issues. After reading that post, it occurred to me at a gut level that I’ve got time *now* but there’s no guarantee of later, nevermind another go-round. And that has me feeling better, stronger; if I don’t do the things I kind of want to do now, that’s on me. That if, in a crazy example, we wanted to move abroad we could just do so rather than not. It’s not something that only other people do, or me, at 35 again in some mythical parallel universe. Maybe, then, all of these issues are only partly midlife crisis and partly midlife opportunities.

I like the sound of that.


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8 thoughts on “Oh shit: is this a midlife crisis?

  1. Hello. New here. That rage you were talking about doesn’t sound very healthy or normal. Do you know other women who have rage like yours that you can talk to?

    What about spending more time with family? That can help.

    1. Hi Julia–
      Welcome, but please know I’m not looking for advice. I was airing a number of issues, and I’m dealing with them as I do. Frankly, since 2016’s election my basic rage level is high; it takes very little to go from a gnawing general anxiety thanks to current events to anger over things in my day-to-day life.

      And please don’t presume family’s an answer, or that I do not see my family. For many people family is the point from which much suffering arises. I’m lucky that mine is pretty average in terms of frustrations and joys, but they aren’t the solution to my venting.

  2. I can only imagine all the work and stress entailed in putting that manuscript together. Fingers crossed that it comes together well and that you get the promotion & raise you’re looking for.

    I, too, feel some mid-lifey uncertainty right now and, yeah, since the 16 election I’ve got plenty to feel rage about. I like to think that all of this IS normal, contrary to the first comment. That these emotions are part of the process of being a human and looking around at what’s happening.

    1. Thanks, pal. I’ve written a lot this summer but there’s still so much to go and I’d really like it to be in enough shape and out with a publisher that I can apply for promotion next September, but we’ll see.

      Thanks for the validation, too. I think there’s a great deal to be angry about, irrationally or no.

  3. Okay, ever so slightly late to this post, but I get it. I’m about to turn 41, and I’d probably be described as having a midlife crisis. I’m dating guys significantly younger than me (and, yes, plural) and generally being lackadaisical about things like a good diet. I’m pretty okay with my body, but losing that last five or ten pounds would be nice.

    Meanwhile, I’m hedonistic, at least when it comes to food (and the aforementioned men haha). I have virtually no willpower to stay on target with my diet. And it’s a minor miracle that I’ve kept up working out as much as I do, which lately is only three times a week instead of the five I used to manage with relative ease and a minimum of whining. (The whining has increased exponentially.)

    Also, I too just had my first mammogram. And got called back for a retest, which took a few years off my life fright-wise.

    So I feel ya, lady. I really do.

    I think what we need to do is just accept that this is how life is. Rather than always being in a state of preparing for a time when we’re better — about eating, working out, dating age-appropriate men, whatevs — accept that maybe this is how our lives simply are. And that it’s okay. Not to say that we stop trying to better ourselves, but instead to decide to also embrace the here and now. Because, as you observed, this isn’t the dress rehearsal. And I for one tend to treat it that way.

    So I need a two-pronged approach. First, to start working on accepting the imperfect parts of my life rather than beating myself up about it. Second, to take action on some things I keep putting off, like charitable donations. Which I just finally got around to this month. Gotta put my money where my liberal bleeding heart is.

    1. I love this comment. And good for you and your hedonistic self 🙂 I’ve been trying to walk near-daily since I’m not getting to the gym much at all. I’m hoping to get back in at least one more day (I go every Friday to see my trainer) and walk most of the others and in doing so, hopefully keep that middle-body spread where it is. But I love your approach–embracing the here and now and who we are within it.

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