I am learning through my writing group, where the tale of my mid-life crisis is currently being critiqued (at least the first 150 pages), that one's mid-life crisis is ripe for the picking as far as mining your life for something to write about. At a table of mostly men yesterday, they were all puzzled by one entry from a woman about my age. Why should we root for her? They wondered. Why is she moving to another country with hardly any money? They asked. Why does she have two different last names? Why isn't she working/responsible at 38 years of age?
On my page full of notes for her, I'd scribbled, "Escaping from bad experience with marriage? Mid-life crisis?"
Well, the answer was "Ding, ding, ding."
EVERYONE I know who's over the age of 40 has known this kind of problem. Either following or against what you consider your better judgment, you choose a course of action that totally derails your life, like: getting married when you think it's expected an/or a sensible amount of time has gone by while you've dated someone, whether or not the two of you have the proper ingredients for a marriage that lasts; taking a job that robs you of your personal life, sanity, and health; putting all of your hopes and dreams into that ONE THING that will fix everything in your life, as in: once I get that surgery/ find someone to date/ get a divorce/ buy a house/ get a promotion, then everything in life will make sense and be awesome forever. In my case, it was buying a house on my own in 2007 that dropped to half its value and was riddled with sinkholes in sight of the backyard. (Shoot, it probably had Chinese drywall throughout too but I never found out. I got really sick there, though. Even stranger still, the rental house in New Town has been condemned for mold. When I said a few years ago that I needed to go somewhere to "dry out" I thought I just meant from all the crying. Turns out I knew more than I consciously knew...)
The only exceptions to this rule are the people I knew with small children in their thirties. It seemed to me, at least from the outside, that they were or are able to weather midlife better because they were completely distracted by their children's needs. I can only venture to guess that their karma bill was already paid up or that something wacky will find them down the line. But like I said, these people were few and far between.
I think the urge to escape is connected with the flight or fight response. When we can't fight a foe like the overall American housing market, we have to take to the streets, on wheels or running shoes. In the worst part of my time in Winterville, I had this constant urge to run, but I knew I'd have to run back "home" eventually. Still, the urge to run haunted me. Run away, run quickly away.
It's times like these when I am grateful for all the changes that have manifested in the past two years. My man and I are having our two-year anniversary this month and I couldn't be more thankful for all that we've brought into each others' lives in such a short time. Sometimes I think back on the bad behavior and difficult things I had to endure, and then I realize it's over. Thank goodness.
From a book I recently read (by Natasha Solomons): A man who has experienced great sorrow, and then has known its end, wakes each morning feeling the pleasure of sunrise.
Here's wishing you all the pleasure of sunrise (or whatever it is right now, wherever you are in the world).
Jane and author