Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Did I Get Here?

The older I get, the more I realize how messed up we all are.

Our friends. Our families. The parents of the kids your kids are friends with. The neighbors. Even the people who totally look like they have it all together. Yep, them too.

We've all got issues.

I remember being young and naive, not having any awareness at all that someday I wouldn't be young or naive anymore. I remember thinking that mid life crises were just things that people wrote about or talked about in abstract, or that they were the things that happened to the people in my parent's generation and that we wouldn't do things like that because we would know better when we were that old.

Not that we ever would be that old, because we wouldn't.

We would stay young and happy and optimistic and flexible. Things would work themselves out. It would all be okay, whatever it was, because we willed it to be.

Then suddenly we ended up here. In whatever version of mid-life we're in.

I think that most of us at this age are just getting along, just getting through. No one is really happy, no one is doing what they want, no one feels in control of everything in their lives. We all question what we're doing, and yet we all want everyone else to believe that we're fine.

Because we want to believe that we're fine.

When you first get married, we are fine. Usually. What no one ever tells you is that it doesn't stay that way. No one tells you that someday life will be complicated and hard and ugly. Or that someday being married won't have anything to do with being in love anymore. Or that marriage will be hard, awful work. Or that your partner might not be willing to do that work and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Or we assume everything will come easily, but then you can't get pregnant. Or you do, but then you lose the baby. Or you do, but there are serious complications and it's not fun at all. Or you do, but then you get postpartum depression. Or you get past all that, then have to deal with chronic health problems or sudden illnesses or kids who rage at you. You question if you're cut out for this at all.

Or things are all great for a while. You get married and you have the kids easily and everything goes according to plan until you find yourself sitting in an empty house while the kids are off at school wondering who the hell you are anymore. Your entire identity is wrapped up in someone else. More than one someone, and you don't even remember what you want or who you were. Except you're not that person anymore, you're this one. So now what?

Or you made decisions in the past, and at the time you made them for reasons. Good reasons. Important reasons. Then time passes and you're at the mercy of those decisions wondering what the hell you did. Wondering how much you sacrificed. Wondering how different things would be. Wishing you had it back, knowing that you never will.

Or you are working in a job in a field you never thought you would be. Out of necessity. Out of convenience.  Out of laziness. You aren't doing what you wanted. You're never doing what you wanted. You're doing what you have to just to make it to the next paycheck. Then doing it again for the next two weeks. You aren't fulfilled, but that doesn't matter anymore because it hasn't mattered in so long that you don't even remember what it looks like.

Or you start to feel the imposing weight of time. You start to sense you are running out of it. You try to cling to your youth desperately.


Or you find yourself staying up late or getting up early just to be alone, just to have three seconds when someone else doesn't need you. Or you find yourself trying to fill voids, try to figure out how to be happy again. You buy things you don't need, then you feel guilty about it. You still aren't happy.

Or you start acting selfishly. You decide you aren't happy anymore and decide that's all that matters. You cling to whatever you think will make you happy, even if it's just temporary. Even if it's destructive. Even if it hurts other people. Even if it chips away at your soul.

Or you find yourself torn between generations. Trying to care for the people you're supposed to, the ones you signed up for, then trying to care for your parents. And you can't do both right. And you're always letting someone down. And it's never enough. Maybe they're in the same town, maybe they're on the other side of the country or the world, and it's never enough.

Or someday you find yourself wandering life without those parents. You second guess the things you said and did. You contemplate your own mortality. You miss them. You know that you're floating around in this world without a safety net anymore. You realize all that in one second. You aren't anyone's child anymore. You alone have to be responsible. You wish for second chances. You wish for one more moment.

Or you're in one of those places and refuse to see it. You try to tell yourself that everything is fine. You convince yourself that you are happy. That this, whatever this is, is enough. You want to be fine. You want other people to believe that everything is fine.

But it's not.

We all have issues. We all collect them like souvenirs as we age. Some of us have steamer trunks full of them. We reevaluate. We question. We wonder.

Is this it? Is this the best it gets?

You hear all the time about how adolescence is the hardest time in life, with the most changes. I don't think that's accurate at all. I think middle age is harder because the stakes are higher. The further I get into it, the more I see it. The more personal tragedies I experience, the more I know it. In some ways I envy the people who aren't there yet.

I'd love to go back to being young and naive.

Middle age sucks.

Kids are testing us, pushing our buttons, straining our resources.
We are getting older. We develop health problems. We get gray hair and wrinkles.
Parents are aging, sick, dying.
Careers are stagnating, not what we thought they would be.
Marriages around us are falling apart, maybe even ours is.

Most of us can weather it and come out on the other side. We can walk right up to the ledge of crazy but step back. We can reevaluate everything in our lives and still find peace with the choices we made and where we are. We can be grateful for what we have and let go of what we don't.

Not everyone can.

Some of us start reevaluating things, walk up to the edge and jump. Some of us ruin our lives. Some of us have affairs. Some of us quit our jobs and try to reinvent ourselves. Some of us declare we aren't happy and decide we will do whatever it takes to be happy, even if it destroys our families. Some of us buy fast cars.

I was talking about this with a friend a few days ago, someone who's gone through a lot of life stuff lately too, someone who's trying her hardest to weather it all and not lose her mind, someone who understands me in a way few people do, and she asked me to smack her if she buys a fast car.

I promised I would...unless she buys a Camaro. She does that, I'm driving.

And yeah, we're totally going to Vegas.

13 comments:

  1. I call shotgun! Haha. Seriously, though, this resonated with me. While I hope that, at 24, I still have a while before I reach middle age, I am already witnessing and experiencing some of this. You know about some of it. Sigh. I really hope this year turns around for both of us. I think we've both already surpassed our quotas for crappy shit happening to us and our loved ones for the year, and it's only April.

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  2. I'd meet you in Vegas! :)

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  3. I may not be middle-aged yet but I can TOTALLY relate to this. Maybe it's having kids at a younger age & deciding to give up any semblance of a career to be an at-home mom but I've spent most of my 20's wondering, "What the HELL am I doing??" "Am I doing it right?" "OMG. Is it ALWAYS going to be THIS HARD?" Our plans for life aren't always the plans life has for us and it's hard to deal with the reality of it sometimes; the best of us deal and adapt and keep on truckin', just like I imagine you are. ;)

    And if you do try to run away to Vegas, you're going to need a minivan; we can't fit ALL of us in a Camaro!! <3

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  4. and *this* is exactly where I am....and it sucks. it sucks BIG TIME

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  5. I really needed this today. I've been standing on my own precipice these past few weeks.
    I hate the hormonal parts of this time of life. My hormones are out of control! (not in the 'Hello Sailor!' way but the Satan's running for cover way!)

    I don't think that there is a vehicle big enough for the "Midlife Crisis support team" headed for Vegas with you, Queen Bee !
    There's gonna be a convoy ;)

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  6. You have so eloquently put into words what I have had sputtering around in my head lately. I'll be 50 in less than 6 months and while I don't think I'm having a mid-life crisis, I've thought/do think about several of the topics you mentioned in this post. I think it is a time of reflection and a time to set new goals/adjust old goals. While there is definitely a downside to all of this, I do see some positive potential to all of the reflection.

    Michelle

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  7. I was in this same spot about a year and a half ago. Then I found my faith. Then I learned a set of brand new skills, sent my kids off to their first year of all day school, built a business and am happier and more fulfilled than I ever thought possible. I seriously let go and just let God work his magic. love you girl, your courage, your words (most of them ;). So many women need to know they aren't alone. xoxo

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  8. I have days like this too sometimes. I love this clip from the movie Parenthood where the Grandma uses a roller coaster as a metaphor for life. I cling to the roller coaster idea when I get tired and can at least be grateful that I am not on the merry-go-round.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z18vJwmxFFY

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  9. Middle age is where I'm at too. And it sucks. I'm not at all where I hoped to be in my life and the years now fly by faster than days used to. All I can say good about this constant turmoil that rages inside me is, is this life's way of making it easier for me to let go and die when my time comes? Or is it just another "eff you" from the world?

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  10. Wow...saw me in several pieces of this article. Haven't been unaware of it all, but I see it more clearly after reading.

    Michellel

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  11. It gets better. Yes, it sucks. Seems like you're never going to catch up, get it together, figure it out, but it's a lot like those awful teen years: there's a light at the end of the tunnel and it's not a freight train. I promise. Just keep breathing :)

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