Midlife crises have a deservedly bad rap.
They bring to mind young blondes on the side, racy sports cars, hair plugs and a general lack of grace. Think of the cringe factor while watching American Beauty. Bingo. There you have it.
Males get the worst rap, as midlife crises go, because they tend to be the most flagrant violators of social mores. But my fellow females have been known to raise an eyebrow or two also.
I am somehow, magically, avoiding the existential craziness that comes from midlife. I think this is because I’ve matured into my limitations.
Yes, I said limitations. This will not be a rah-rah coaching session on how to overcome them. It’ll be a gentle admonition to face them and accept them. Midlife crisis avoided.
You can blame Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project”, for this musing. I’ve been reading her book (yes, I’m always late to the party) and she talks a lot about just being Gretchen. About loving the idea of playing chess or frequent theater trips, but accepting the fact they just don’t make her soul sing.
I think we all could take a page or two from Ms. Rubin’s book.
For instance, I think it’s safe to say that I will never become a ballerina or the diva of a Martha Graham dance company. I’m pretty sure no one is looking for a mid-forties wannabe whose dance lessons consisted of “creative” dance in an elementary school gym, wearing a red bandanna, black leotard and black tights while trying to channel the movements of a kite in the wind. I mean, I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty positive on this one.
And yet, I love dance. I love to dance in my home, at weddings and anywhere music is playing. Could I have been a professional dancer? I think probably, if my parents had seen this as an acceptable career choice. But dance lessons just weren’t on the agenda at my house, no matter how much you begged. Math and spelling homework were the clear winners.
Do I sit around regretting not being a dancer? No. I have found other loves and talents to feed my creative fire.
So, I do not angst about things for which I have talent but did not get a chance to pursue. I either decide something is feasible or it’s not. And if it’s not, I use my energy to pursue other outlets, not to angst. How very Midwestern of me.
Then there are the talents and desires I want to have, but just don’t. People who like extreme sports are seen as daring adventurers. I’d love to be seen as a daring adventurer. But truth be told, I’m not. I have no desire to skydive or bungee jump. I don’t want to try blowfish (I struggle to eat salmon).
When exploring online dating sites for an article, I realized how very boring I just might be. When filling out the interest inventory, I could not check off a lot. I used to play tennis, but not really much anymore. I run, but at a pace where old men and dogs pass me. I love to sail, but am usually not the one doing the tacking. I do not mountain climb or participate in triathlons.
I like to read and write. I love cooking and wine. I do so love a good movie or play. I like to hike but not if you make it a competitive sport. I enjoy metaphysical lectures. Museums, concerts and dancing. Travel. Evenings with friends around a fire.
Makes me sound very bland, does it not? I hated that version of myself when filling out my profile. And yet, I was honest. As a result, I got paired with plenty of totally inappropriate men. Amazed me how the dating site matchmakers thought I would want to date a male version of me. I don’t want the meathead athlete but the male version of me drives me crazy.
In midlife, looking at yourself squarely in the mirror causes plenty of crises. Sure. You realize not only will you never be a vet (too much math and science), a dancer or an astronaut (see vet), you also have changed. The crinkles around your eyes, the crepe-paper quality of your neck, are here. To stay. You see that you are still working on patience but have not mastered it. That you still tend to interrupt people when you get excited. That you never mastered the fine art of folding that damn bottom bedsheet.
But, if you’ve done your job right, you’ve created a lot of good with this first half of life. In my case, I have two boys that mean the world to me. I have put my writing out into the world and it has made people laugh, cry and think in new ways—goals that were important to me. I’ve added some beauty to this world in the form of flowers planted, kind words offered, jokes provided. I’ve held the hand of loved ones who were dying, letting them know they were anything but alone as they approached the threshold of a new life.
These are not earth-shattering contributions to the world. Plenty of other people have done similar things. But I’m not plenty of other people. And what I’ll be held accountable for is if I’m leaving this place better than I found it.
I am, in myriad small ways. Despite my many limitations, I have developed strengths and used them to the best of my ability. It’s really all that is asked of any of us.
Midlife crisis avoided.
32 Comments Add yours
As usual… well said!
Great post…love your voice and writing.
I’m taking a choreography class (and am more than a decade your senior) and loving it. It’s been an interesting exercise (pun intended) in what my body can still do, and damn gracefully, even as I struggle to shed 30+ pounds…50 lbs off would be optimal but that might mean cutting off all my limbs. It’s a nice change to focus on my grace, strength and flexibility not OMG the size of my ass!
The only good thing about one’s 50s (far as I’m concerned) is it’s the decade of “I really don’t give a shit.” You run out of time, money, energy or interest in 90% of whatever you used to obsess about. Kind of freeing, actually.
Thank you for the kind words. I love that you’re taking a class. My favorite people are those who begin a bold endeavor, or a small one, no matter their age. And I love that the focus is no longer on the weight loss (negative goal) but now on grace, strength, etc. I’d run toward that goal with joy–the former, not so much. And the way you describe the 50s? I’m heading that way already, but good to know that I’ll finally reach that destination. It’s been a long time coming:).
Weight loss is tedious — and extremely difficult after menopause when your metabolism basically stops dead and allows you 1500 cals/day. Good luck with that. So a shitload of exercise is the only hope for me, plus moderation.
I get very bored and learning new things, while somewhat terrifying, is good for the soul, mind and body. Ice hockey next!
Drat, I posted a comment and it seems to have disappeared (or you’ll get this twice!) that is a wonderfully honest post, and so relevant. I spent decades thinking I was boring (now I know I am and I’m delighted!) x
I so relate to this post Kay, I spent decades trying to be more ‘interesting’ because I thought no one would like boring old me, and I kept searching for a ‘better’ version of me. What a waste of time that was! I’ve finally met someone who is the polar opposite and I couldn’t be happier. It sounds like you’ve made many people’s lives much happier in your time and you certainly make me feel glad every time I read your posts.
Such a kind and generous response! Thank you, I’m glad you’ve found someone who has made you happy. And you sound anything but boring in your posts:). I was thinking how much I’d like to have a cup of tea and some good conversation with you .
You have definitely added beauty to my world. My memories of being a 20 something would not be nearly as technicolor without you in them. Wishing I had more of you in my 40 somethings….
Thank you, Nina! Possibly one of the nicest things you could have said to me. When are we picnicking on a beach again without a care in the world? 🙂
Love this Kristine! Found this years ago and try to live by it daily, otherwise the pressure of having to do more gets overwhelming; “What is Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I love the way you write. I have read other blogs you have written and yo keep it real with a side of sarcasm. It’s a treat.
Thank you! And thanks for stopping by. Will try to continue to keep it real:).
A great post on self-acceptance.
I have never tried online dating. Is ‘likes to play scrabble’ on the interests check-list?
Whenever I review a book, I always go onto amazon and read the negative comments first. In regard to ‘The Happiness Project’ someone commented the author was born into money, her husband is a super-wealthy financier, she gave up her law degree to stay home and write her book (as money was no object), she has a husband who adores her and beautiful children. Oh, and in-house help with the children and domestic chores. Why wouldn’t you be happy?
Needless to say, as I was battling with my divorce at the time, I did not read her book.
I hear you on the author. Although, she is upfront about the fact that she knows her problems are so very First World. We’re wired differently, this I know, but I’m reserving an opinion until I finish the book. Balancing it out with The Buddha Walks Into a Bar, which is much more free and easy:).
I would to hear what you thought of the book(s) when you have finished reading.
Liked this a lot. The culture at large fetishizes youth and ambition — so this POV is unusual and refreshing.
I loved the sentiment of this post and I plan to think of midlife crisis avoided as a catch phrase. With your great words behind it.
I sometimes feel a sense of grief for the things I know I’ll never do. But, life is more about simplicity now, because that’s what makes me happy – I won’t put pressure on myself with a bucket list of unachievable, or actually, unwanted, things to do.
Earth enhancing is much more important than earth shattering I believe.
What a great way to frame it!
Wonderfully written. So true for most of us. I am reading Gretchen Rubin as well 🙂
I’m glad to hear you can embrace your limitations as opposed to lamenting them. Personally, I feel like I’ve been in a “midlife crisis” all my life, in the sense that I’ve constantly been evaluating my priorities and have never really felt settled into a groove as far as living is concerned. I like it that way, actually.
Oh, Chris. I can embrace them now but I used to make a habit of annihilating them. Which was great in some cases, and miserable in others. I find I get so much more enjoyment and happiness out of the process when I just accept them instead of declaring them my enemy. And those that continue to nag, I know are worth chasing.
I don’t think you sound bland – not in the slightest!! You’re a wonderful writer. Thank you for sharing your gift. xox
Thank you very much, Amy:). Vanilla is nice but nobody wants it as a steady diet, right? I appreciate the kind words.
Another home run, Kristine!
Mid-life requires these adjustments to attitude. Nicely done.
This is lovely.
Every once in a while I feel sad about the things I didn’t do and now will never do…but then I remind myself of what is good. And I read a ton of blog posts and find out that I am far from alone.
Love this: Despite my many limitations, I have developed strengths and used them to the best of my ability.
I didn’t realize it until I read that line, but I’ve done that myself. Maybe I didn’t notice it because I was so focused on what I couldn’t do and hadn’t developed.
This was really, really good. Thank you. =)
Love the aha:). Thanks for stopping by.
Brilliant. Poignant, meaningful and funny.
Thanks, Jim, for stopping by and for the kind words.