Having a Midlife Crisis? Here’s What To Do.
One day I decided to google “Mid Life Crisis.” What did I find? A lot of information on surviving my husband’s midlife crisis. Perfect! Except for one thing. I was pretty sure it was me that was having one.
Yes, traditionally when you think of a midlife crisis – you think of some 40 or 50 something guy buying a sports car and trading in his first wife for a trophy one. But you see, I am not interested in a new car. My gold minivan is well – practical and messy and awesome with the sliding doors. I could care less about cars anyway.
As for a younger guy – I already did that younger guy thing when I was 30. Plus, my husband would really not be happy.
So if I wasn’t roaring around in a race car or scouting guys on the nearest college campus, how did I even know I was having a midlife crisis?
I knew because I suddenly surveyed my amazing life (husband, 5 kids, great friends and a career as a writer) and thought, “Is this it?” Have all the choices been made? The paths chosen? Normally a busy and content person, I suddenly felt restless.
Now that I’m in my forties, I’m definitely middle aged. But the weird thing is – I don’t feel that old. I mean, it was just a few years ago, I was graduating from college, walking down the aisle, having my first baby. But somehow the years have whisked past and they don’t seem to be slowing down.
One day I looked in the mirror and thought to myself – “This is the best I’m ever going to look! It’s all down hill from here.” How’s that for depressing? And I just wondered where the hell my youth went.
And I kind of want it back. Okay, I really want it back. I wish as a nation we’d stop focusing less on getting to Mars and more on inventing that time machine. But since none of us can miraculously make ourselves 18 again – there needs to be a Plan B. And I’ve got one for you!
(Quick disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I am not a therapist and you should seek medical help if you suffering from depression or any other serious mental health crisis.)
The key to Plan B is to somehow to weather a midlife crisis without blowing up your whole life. Or spending hours in the fetal position while you sob and reread old letters from your high school boyfriend. You’ve got to figure out a way to mix up your life, without destroying it. Which can be tricky if you feel a bit trapped by the responsibilities of being an adult.
You need to find your wild side. Sounds like a cheesy greeting card, right? But seriously. Whatever that means to you. Is it coloring your hair? Getting a tattoo? Have you always wanted to visit Paris? Or run a half-marathon? (I refuse to accept that people actually want to run full marathons.) Maybe it’s starting a small business. Or organizing a white water rafting trip. Or moving to a new city. Or taking a nude sculpture class (I’m not sure if that means you paint in the nude or the class paints portraits of a nude model, but does it matter?). The point is – you’ve got to do something.
Because if not, the midlife crisis can fester inside of you and it will eventually bubble to the surface. And it probably won’t be pretty. You’ll suddenly be screaming at the pizza guy because they put pepperoni on it instead of mushrooms and you’ll realize, “This may not be about the pizza.” Nope. It’s about your life. And your desire to feel alive and free and well, like yourself again.
So write down 10 things you really want to do and for gosh sakes, don’t put “return library books on time this month!” This is not about self-improvement. It’s about finding your inner joy. It doesn’t matter how crazy the things are. If the idea makes you smile in the carpool line, you are on to something.
Pick a few things on that list and MAKE THEM HAPPEN. Now some might not be a good idea. For example, if “date my smokin’ hot tennis coach” is on there and you happen to be married, I’d definitely skip that one. But you can figure out a way to get to Paris. Or take an art history class. Or be the captain of one of those duck tour boats. It’s your wild side. I’m not judging.
Because once you shake things up a bit, you will probably feel less trapped. Less bored. And more grateful for all those amazing things in your life.
The truth is there really are some advantages to growing older. You don’t put up with crap anymore. If someone’s a bad friend, you move on. You know people’s lives as presented on Facebook aren’t real. You know what’s important. You really do care less what people think. And this really is a new freedom.
So am I out of my own midlife crisis? Not yet. But I’m getting there. I realized that I needed to escape my suburban town as often as I could for some city grit. I planned a few trips back home to New York City to see close friends and get my Manhattan fix. And I’m also hoping to head back to New Orleans for a weekend with some college friends. Just booking plane tickets starts to lift my spirits.
I’ve always been hesitant to leave my kids and go away for myself – thinking that every detail just wouldn’t work without me. But guess what? It all works out fine when I’m away. Differently. But completely fine.
In fact, my kids suddenly really appreciate that woman who shuttles them everywhere and reads them stories at night. And when I return, less restless, less bored – I can hardly wait to feel their arms around me again.