When I was younger, I thought a midlife crisis was when old men bought shiny new cars to look cool in front of young ladies and old women took salsa lessons with swarthy-skinned men in tight pants to "spice things up." When I was in my early 20's I thought it was an immature excuse people used for cheating and shirking their responsibilities. I'm so fucking above that shit, I'm going to age gracefully and be amazing for the rest of my life. I'm never going to be like those people who get plastic surgery and waste money on fast cars and act like they're teenagers when they're (gasp) 40. How common. How pathetic.
And here I am, in my late 30's, wanting an eyelid lift and a tit job and maybe to to jump off a fucking cliff, here to tell you I was wrong.
This midlife crisis shit is no fucking joke.
My husband's studio closed in April. For the second time in less than three years, we were left flung to the wind, without a safety net. The first time it happened, I felt strong and determined. I packed up our old house, sold it and we moved all the way from Chicago to Utah. It was a difficult time, but in the end a great thing for our quality of life. Now, it hit me all over again, but this time Utah was home. I was in love. In love with the mountains, with jiu jitsu, with my burgeoning independence and my growing circle of friends. But there wasn't steady work in Utah at that moment. I was heartbroken, pleading anything to stay, I'll get a job at Costco, you can do freelance, we'll move into a tiny cheap apartment... To which, my husband said, "Well, it looks like San Diego or Seattle are good bets."
It was in that moment I realized how much I gave up in small concessions over the years until saying, "no, I'm not moving from my home" turned out not to be my equal say on the matter, but became an outright act of rebellion.
For over 12 years, I have been sans an outside life, gestating babies, nursing babies, raising babies and running all aspects of my household. I've been cooking, cleaning, bill-paying, scheduling, care-taking, moderating, ass-wiping, puke-mopping, and being the general go-to beacon for all the information and catchall tasks that pertain to my family. But I have had no career, no real stake in my own life - I'm subject to the whims and duties of family, the states my husband can find work, and the stages of my children's' development. This is nothing to judge. It is what it is, both good and bad. I chose to be a wife and a stay at home mother. I love my husband and family more than myself. But it still fucking stings to come face to face with what I sacrificed, especially in times of consequence.
In the end, his studio was bought by another large entertainment company and we're safe, financially. But the fact remains, my heart was cracked open and the blood is spilling out everywhere, whether I like it or not.
A midlife crisis isn't some vain attempt at being young. A midlife crisis is knowing you have no time left to fuck off, take a chance or be great. This is it. You need to live NOW, but you are not free to indulge. So your soul pounds at your chest like a battering ram and you try to hold it in and be quiet and still until it stops pounding. Please stop pounding.
This isn't something a book club or ladies night can even touch. This isn't a glass of wine and a nice, long vent about mom stuff. This is I need to get lost, I need to climb a mountain, fling myself over the edge, find my voice, create, get dirty, fight, fuck, have long drunk conversations about politics and philosophy, look up at a sky full of stars and feel like a mote in the abyss or the conductor of a grand symphony of atoms and possibilities. I need to remember - or rediscover - who the fuck I even am anymore. What fulfills me? I miss paint, and astrophysics, and the ability to just go where my gut takes me, not where we all can compromise on, and stay there until I'm fucking done, not when everyone else wants to leave.
As it is, I cannot take a shit in the morning without clearance from four other people. I can't move about without attending to everyone's needs, first. I can't "just go" anywhere. I can't "just do" anything. I certainly couldn't look up at stars without perpetual interruptions of "I'm bored" "did we bring snacks?" or "Can we go? I'm hot/cold/getting bitten by mosquitoes." As I'm writing this piece, I have a 5 year old crying his eyes out about a video game and tugging at me. There is never a moment I am alone or completely unattached from the incessant interruptions of responsibility; not when I pee, not when I have sex, not when I want to work, not when I try to unwind. It's always there, in the background, like when you're at a party but your husband keeps flashing you the time on his watch, to say goodnight and get the kids home because they are starting to act shitty. The clock is ticking away, always. The stagecoach is perpetually one minute from becoming a pumpkin again. It's a state of anxiety all unto itself.
It sounds selfish, I know. Like, hey I want to run around and be fucking twenty again - here, dear, you hold the bag while I go navel gaze and "find myself." But that's not where it's coming from. It's coming from a fear that I am one doctors appointment away from my stage 4 diagnosis and all I can say is, "I yelled a lot and made a bunch of sandwiches nobody ate." I just want to feel the wind in my hair one last time before I die or grow so old that I'm not able-bodied enough to appreciate it.
It sounds superficial, I know that, too. Like, I just want to be sexy and free and silly things, like fake boobs, tattoos, going to a nude beach or getting high with a bunch of wannabe poets will fulfill me somehow. But that's not what I'm talking about, either. I just wish my body would stop growing old until after my kids are grown up and I can get the fuck out of this cage. But time marches on, with nary a shit to give about how much of it I have left.
I can't even explain this. It's like I want to fling myself over the edge and totally self destruct - or stick the landing and be fucking brilliant.
That's not even a metaphor.
I was at the aquarium the other week, looking over the second-floor balcony at a giant whale sculpture hanging from the ceiling. I was gazing at it's fin, approximately twenty or so feet from the railing and maybe ten feet below. Suddenly, my pelvis started tingling and butterflies rose in my gut, as if I was going to make the attempt to leap onto it. Only not just as if - I felt like I might actually jump. I had to get the fuck away from the ledge, I was going to jump - it was visceral.
My husband is a good man. He could probably use a break, too. He doesn't deserve me going off the rails. My kids are my whole heart, they need a mom who is present. I was supposed to be that mom, the one they could come to. The one with the great life advice and patience. I want to be good for them, but, I can't move. I feel so guilty for having such a short fuse, though I can't even help it.
This is like when you're in extreme pain and you just need everyone to shut up and be quiet so you can persist, silently, in one spot. Just. Nobody. Move.
My family didn't sign up for a wife and mother who falls apart. I didn't sign up to lay my whole life's direction, autonomy and ambitions down, either. What do I do? I don't fucking know. I'm not Elizabeth Gilbert and I can't go Eat, Pray, Love around the world on someone else's dime. I really have nowhere to go and nothing to do and no god to find. So, I'll wait, I guess. Wait for the pounding to pass, and for time to cool my jets. Isn't that what most of us choose, in the end? In the meantime, I'll keep doing this little Iron Beaver thing and lift and train and try my best to be good and patient and true for the people I love the most.
And I'll take you assholes with me, if you want to keep following.