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’s “Finances 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.