Recently I turned 46. For-ty six. Midlife. What is happening? I’m suddenly on the downward slope to reaching half a century years old. 40 is solidly in my rearview mirror, and 50 (50!) is looming. I am closer to the Golden Girls than high school. My teenage heartthrobs have gone from gracing the cover of Teen Beat to that of AARP. I’m not ready for this.
I swear half a hot second ago I was 25. Okay, more like 35. Whatever. Somedays I still feel like I’m 30-ish. And I can convince myself, “I am so NOT old.”
But then one day I bought dog food. And the 12-year-old cashier said, “I’m really sorry, I have to ask everybody, do you qualify for the senior’s discount?”
Which, in and of itself, was horrifying enough but the same day? Luke Perry died. Of a stroke. He was 52. A mere 6 years older than me.
And I came face to face with the realization, what if I’m next? What if this is it? What if this is as good as it gets? Will I be one of those people – you know the ones they always warn you about – lying on my death bed, looking back on my life with regrets?
Is this what a midlife crisis looks like?
For a while now I’ve been half-expecting my husband to walk through the door, sports car keys in hand. After all, isn’t that what a midlife crisis looks like?
Men have them all the time, right? If they don’t go out and buy a sports car, they’ll go out and find themselves a younger model, or suddenly start going to the gym 10 times a week, caught up in the
delusion notion that they can trade in their dad bods for Zac Efron’s. Or they’ll announce at dinner, “I’m quitting my job, moving to Hollywood and becoming an actor.” Now THAT is a mid-life crisis.
But wait. What about women? As I lay awake at night, reflecting on EVERY SINGLE choice I have ever made, the soft glow of my iPhone illuminating the dark as I Google Botox and Ultherapy, I wonder, am I the only one who feels like this?
Do women have midlife crises too? I start to take a good hard look at the women around me. I talk to one of my best friends, who also happens to be a clinical psychologist. “Most people who end up in my office are middle-aged women who gave up their careers to be stay-at-home moms.” Ouch. That’s me.
But it’s not just SAHMs. Almost all the women I know are in a period of “What now?” For years we were all drunk on the Oprah Kool-Aid. The idea that women could “have it all.” We’ve gone to university, built up careers, had babies, decided to stay at home, or climb the corporate ladder. But at what cost?
Many of my girl friends are on anti-depressants, in therapy, dealing with overwhelming feelings of anger, loss, exhaustion, guilt, and fear.
Three have initiated divorces in the past 6 months, all with the same sentiment. “I just finally reached my limit. I looked at him and thought, I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.” Two of them have just lost parents. Another one is dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Life is so much harder than they ever thought it would be.
And yet, looking at them from the outside? You would never know. Women are masters at hiding. We are conditioned to be “fine.” To be there for everybody else. We are sandwiched between caring for aging parents and raising our own children. Who has the time or the luxury of indulging in something as seemingly selfish as a midlife crisis?
And honestly? I feel guilty for struggling, for feeling like I’ve lost a part of myself.
Or maybe I just haven’t found her yet. Because my life? Is pretty damn good. I’m one of the lucky few. My marriage is still going strong. My children are all doing well. I have lost a parent and come out the other side, no longer whole, but no longer broken either.
And yet, I worry. About the future, our finances, my kids. I thought by now I would feel settled and secure. Instead, I look at our bank account and question if giving up my career was the path best chosen. I battle with the image I see staring back at me in the mirror. The woman with chin hairs and wrinkles and jiggly bits. Daily I think of the things I should be doing. The things I haven’t done. The places I have yet to see.
I worry I will die without really accomplishing anything.
I see flickering film reels in my mind and I wonder if I’m starring in the right lifetime movie. Is this where I should be by now? Have I done enough? What should I have accomplished in my almost 50(!) years of life? Did I choose the right path? Where do I go from here? I can’t shake the feeling that life is slipping away and everyone else is on a party cruise ship and I’m left, standing alone, on an island, watching them go. I’m legitimately running out of time.
But maybe this is what humans go through. Men and women. A re-awakening of sorts. A “middlescence.” A time to reassess who we are and what we want on this one-time ride around the Merry-Go-Round. A chance to really grab a hold of life and live it with intention. I don’t know. Maybe I’m the minority. Maybe it’s all just hormones. But somehow? I don’t think so.
What I do know? Is women have midlife crises too.