Middle Age(d).

I turn 40 this year.

I have to admit: I have mixed feelings about it.

A lot of the negative mostly has to do with my appearance in the mirror. I wake up a lot of mornings with these BAGS under my eyes.Ā  And I have some very clearly silver strands of hair which has recently popped up.

I also wake up sometimes with, um, sleeping injuries. My shoulders or my neck or my back or my knees, or my ankles ache from sleeping in one position on the rare nights where I sleep deeply and happily. One morning I got up and realized that the cartilage of my right EAR was sore from sleeping.

Seriously?

Beyond the physical stuff, I’m not sure I LIKE that Middle Age is staring me in the face. I’m old enough now to feel pangs of mortality; reminders I am not, in fact, superhuman, and that at some point my number will be up.

Worse yet, time seems to be flying by now. I swear, I blinked and lost a decade of my life. And I have this really strong gut feeling that there’s a real chance I’ll miss something if I don’t look up and pay attention.

I feel like Life is saying, Yo! Karen! This is IT – the way your life is going to BE. Figure out how to take advantage and grab onto happiness, girlfriend, before it’s over!

I’m pretty certain that my Summer of Insomnia last year was kind of my midlife, well, crisis. And for me, it all coalesced into a panic attack one day… while sitting on the Tobin Bridge in traffic, of all places.

It was this truth that did it: I might be, more or less, halfway through my entire life.

OMG. This is my life. Me, sitting in traffic, on a bridge, commuting to a job I wasn’t certain I even liked anymore. With a husband and a son and a dog at home.

The next real milestone in MY life? Death.

And that day, I couldn’t breathe, because all I could think was, Holy shit, what if I keep doing this for the rest of my life and I die without ever having been HAPPY?

**********

I could have reacted to all of this by doing something radical like, say, quitting my job, or leaving my husband. I could have gone on a “free Karen!” trip to an ashram in India or through-hiked the AT/PCT (still on my bucket list!) or gone into the wilderness of Montana or Alaska or whatever change I needed to get myself out of my comfort zone to foster change. Maybe I could have even written a memoir on it and made the NY Times bestseller list.

But I couldn’t. And so I didn’t.

Why not? Because I have a family that I love and cherish, and I have a responsibility to them. And I take those responsibilities seriously.

But I also have a responsibility to them and myself to find – and keep – happy in my life, too.

And OMG, you guys, I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time. But for some reason I never could.

For one reason, it’s so, well stereotypical. The hashtags for this kind of stuff would read #middleagefemale #firstworldproblems, you know?

Then, too, was the work thing. Until recently, I wasn’t actually certain that the issue WASN’T my career. That is, I wrestled with a whole lot of ideas: quitting work and being a stay at home mom, quitting work and going back to school to do yet something ELSE with my life, quitting work and creating my own business, quitting work to write a book.

I never could manage to quit work. For myriad reasons, but mostly which have to do with the fact that what I do is flexible, I make good money doing it, and I never have to worry about finding work or losing my job.Ā  I don’t love it – I didn’t grow up thinking, wow, I can’t wait to be an accountant someday! – but I don’t always hate it either.

I’ve also DONE the whole CHANGE EVERYTHING! thing with careers before. Accounting is actually my third career; I’ve been a recruiter and a product marketing manager, and I have spent more money on the schooling for those changes than I care to admit. So I can’t just keep trying on new careers to see what sticks anymore. I certainly can’t spend any more money on schooling, because that’s resources I’d be taking away from my family. I have a kid who will need a college education someday.

No. If I want something new, I will have to be damn sure that it’s a choice which brings me closer to happiness.

So now that I’ve quelled the whole run away and change everything! demon, I’ve settled into a place where I’ve been exploring the two following questions:

– Does lasting contentment that I’m searching for even exist the way I’m imagining it?

and, ultimately,

– How can I find happiness in the life I lead today?

So.

Um.

Welcome to my mid-life crisis.

šŸ™‚

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8 Responses to Middle Age(d).

  1. Catwoman73 says:

    It’s so stereotypical because it’s so REAL. And I think most women in this age range go through it. I started experiencing these feelings right around my 40th birthday as well. At 42, I have managed to put the desperate need to escape aside, but I certainly still have days where I look at my life and despair that this might be IT. This might be as good as it gets. Sigh. Obviously, I have no assvice or solutions for you, but I really wanted to share that I am in the same place. Trying to make my own happiness in a world that somehow seems to resist it. Sending hugs!

  2. Deborah Spears says:

    As I raised two sons, worked and finished my education, I got into the mindset of making sure my kids got what they needed. The right clothes, taking them to all the places like museums, historical sites, planetariums etc. vacation always included a place or site for education also. My life became kids first. As they got older, I thought it was the right time for me to go back to school and finish my degree. Then I worked to go up the ladder. After two marriages, the first ended in divorce, the last death, and the loss of my career job, I found myself in shock. I had a lifetime doing for others, working, going to school, I was left with nothing, no one. I moved back home to be near family but they were like strangers to me. I had been gone 20 years. I’ve changed and so have they. My kids are grown with their own families now. They don’t live near. My grandkids aren’t near. So I sit here every day trying to decide what now. It has taken me a while to realize why we are here. What is my purpose. I to grapple with mortality. I must begin to grasp each day and live it fully and be happy with me. It goes back to creation. God knew me before I was born. So this is a temporary place. All this life I’ve lived some wonderful and a lot bad was for me to come to know Him. That is what makes it all come together. This world as we know it will end. But we go on. He created us to have communion with Him. Now it all makes sense. I have finally found peace and understanding. Hope you will too.

  3. Turia says:

    This is one of the reasons I liked (against my best efforts) Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project and Happier at Home. I really like “stunt non-fiction” where someone does something crazy(ish) for a year and writes about it. I love reading those stories.

    But I can’t write them myself, because I have a husband and a son, and no matter what else is going on in my life, I’m not going to break my obligations to them.

    Rubin is the same. She has a husband and two daughters and obligations and she couldn’t just drop her life- she had to find ways to make the life she already had happier.

    That really struck a nerve with me.

    I feel like maybe you have posted once before about one of her books? I can’t remember. Anyway. I thought I would toss it out there. I’m currently working hard to make my one wild and precious life happier. Maybe we should start a support group?

    xoxo

  4. Mel says:

    Holding your hand as you turn 40. You know I had a terrible time with it 10 months ago. And I’m not really over my mid-life crisis. But I will say the anticipation of 40 was worse than the day after turning 40. It was like I was screaming all the way and then it happened and it was no longer in front of me and I could breathe.

  5. Justine says:

    I get it. I turned 40 right after I finally got employed again. I’d been to hell in a handbasket and ended up in therapy. But I also had two kids and a house and things weren’t so bad. I hated (still don’t love) my body. But there are a lot of things I can be proud of. When I think of all of the things I learned in the first half (?) of my life, I think, “wow, just imagine how much better the second half could be, now that I know what I know?”

    Not that this makes it any easier.

    I’ve got a hand here, too, if you need to hold it. Or a megaphone to cheer you on if that’s any better. šŸ™‚

    xo

  6. loribeth says:

    Welcome to the club. :p šŸ˜‰ I was still in the last throes of infertility treatment when I turned 40 (& I had to attend a baby shower the weekend of my birthday!!); once I decided (later that year) that I was done, I think I spent the next several years mourning the fact that I would not be a mother & trying to figure out what the heck the rest of my life should look like. I’m still trying to figure that out now, 14 years later, particularly since I am now unemployed — time (or lack of it) is no longer an excuse. šŸ˜‰ It’s good that you recognize what’s happening and are thinking about what this all means for your future. Everyone hears about men & their midlife crises (the Porsche that suddenly appears in the driveway, etc.) but I think it’s every bit as real for women, especially these days when we are juggling work, marriage, kids & aging parents all at once.

  7. Ana says:

    I’m turning 39 soon, but all of this rings true for me. I think its more a stage-in-life than an absolute-age thing. When you realize no big changes are ahead of you and you just have to figure out how to be happy where you are. Change is terrifying, but the thought of this being IT is also terrifying.

  8. I so relate! To everything you said! I am 40 in 2 weeks – eeeeek!

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