Then I grew up and I made all of that come true … I’ve been a teacher, a laywer, a writer and an artist, had four beautiful children, (one whose name is Miranda,) and I’ve traveled all over the world. I even met my first husband at a house that just happened to be located directly across the road behind my childhood bedroom window- where I stared out into the blue yonder and wished for an interesting husband. (It was at a college party, and I think he was drunk and on the roof of the house, and possibly even mostly naked, which I don’t think I imagined at age 7… but I digress…)
The point is, I have done the things I wanted to do and had a heck of a good time doing them.
SO NOW WHAT?
Some days I wonder if I need many more years on Earth. That’s morbid, I know. I don’t mean I want to die. But I would be at peace if that happened. I have had a full and amazing life. The problem is, it seems like it may be mostly downhill from here.
Some very notable people in our history have had issues with middle age. Some didn’t make it through, and took quick escape routes or did weird things like cutting off their ears (yes, I am thinking of you, Van Gogh…) I haven’t done anything drastic and have no plan to do so, but I understand their insanity some days. Mid-life is kind of tough sometimes, especially for those of us who think about things more than we probably should.
My mom, who is 27 years older than I am, said that she read somewhere that that the stage we go through during our 40’s is like another puberty, and that it is normal for us to think this way. It’s when we move beyond our “building life” stage, and get to a more content time where we get to be real adults and not worry as much about building our nests, but get to spend time enjoying them. But since I am in my 40’s and am not feeling that release of the past fun years that supposedly comes in your 50's yet, I admit, I am struggling a little.
I've done a ton of interesting things so far. My favorite parts of this crazy life have pertained to children, and I miss those years when my kids were preschoolers and I was in college and I got to spend relaxing days with them at the kinder-gym and parks and in our own backyard of the rental houses we lived in, in locations all over the two corners of the United States, (Washington State and Florida.) I hold onto those feelings by continuing to work with children as much as I can- I choose to work in schools as a teacher and director of gifted education, rather than holing up in an office building and using my law degree (that we are still paying for) to make a lot more money, because I get to laugh with little kids and see them grow like I used to get to do with my own little ones. And we do foster care for lots of children who are going through hell while their parents get their lives together- trying to make their days and nights a little brighter by having somewhere to stay that is safe and loving. I hold everyone else’s babies because I miss holding mine, and because there is something magical about children that keeps me spellbound.
I thought about having another child for many years. My husband didn’t want another one because we were parenting my other three kids from my first marriage, and we had a little one of our own. So, we did foster care and I taught in schools, and we went about life as usual. And then a little over a year ago, we got pregnant without really meaning to. We weren’t trying not to, but we weren’t trying to do so, and I thought I was getting to old for anything like that to really happen. It took a little longer than it did for past pregnancies for us to excited after thinking about how 18 more years of raising a child would impact our plans for the next couple of decades, but we fell in love with the idea of the baby and we felt like we were finally old enough to do all the best things for a baby- that we finally felt like we knew what we were doing, which we never really felt like when raising the others in the past.
And then we had a miscarriage. The autopsy showed the baby had genetic problems and had no chance of survival. It broke our hearts and I still wonder “what if?” But I also now have 18 years of not raising another baby. Which is heartbreaking, yet also a little relieving in a weird and guilty sort of way, because in 18 years I will be past retirement age (heck, some days I already feel past my ideal retirement age!) And I don’t know if I want to be a parent of a minor child for that long. Is that selfish? Yes, certainly. But is it crazy? I don’t think so. I may like to do all sorts of things and push the limits of what someone can get done in a day, now… but will I still feel that way in a decade? I’m not sure. And that makes me sad, because my identity has always been intertwined with raising my children. And now that is ending soon when my youngest grows up, which seems to be coming closer at a faster rate, every single day.
I’ve also enjoyed traveling around new places, and having a great time waking up at crazy hours so we can catch airplanes and keep up with time zone changes and rushing from place to place so as to see as many locations as possible in one map stop at a time. But I know I won’t be able to keep that pace forever into the future, as my body defies me and needs a little more sleep every year, and has a few more aches and pains than it used to. I can’t even eat all the amazing junk food that I relished unlimitedly for the last four decades, without gaining weight or feeling sluggish. What’s up with this mortality thing, anyway? I was sure enjoying feeling invincible.
I have had amazing love in my life, and two good marriages (with two men that I still love and consider my friends, even though I’m no longer married to one of them,) that resulted in beautiful and brilliant children and photo albums full of great times we spent together. I have memories of my other incredible relationships and even some great, but short, flings that I still hold close to my heart and smile about when I need something to make me grin or to laugh with my best friends about. But, I am settling in and feeling really content in my marriage and in my comfort zone. That being said, I am still a sucker for getting outside of that zone and I am ecstatic when my husband acts more like a suitor and thrills me with some romance. And when someone I look up to gives me a compliment I catch myself blinking my eyes and acting like a schoolgirl. But, then I go home and do some laundry in my beat up old t-shirt and shorts, with my hair unwashed with no makeup, and my husband still smiles at me. And then I am thankful I am not trying to survive in the dating world, or feeling forced to keep up that kind of pace. I am happier now with my home life than I used to be, when the world seemed to be full of oysters and I was collecting pearls. (Of course, if Jack Johnson or Justin Trudeau is reading this, I might still consider running away… but it would depend on my work schedule and volunteer commitments… haha.) I do miss feeling young and beautiful and sometimes even irresistible, though. I lived many years being told I looked younger than my age (which often meant people discounted me as not being as knowledgeable or capable, which was annoying too,) but time is catching up faster and faster these days. I need to learn to admire the beauty of being older. I'm willing, but sometimes I feel a little whiny about the changes that come with all that.
Don’t worry, I do look forward to some things… I am not depressed or without hope. There are still many things that are important to me, and I definitely need a little more time on this planet to get them done. I want to see all of my kids have families of their own and have more grandchildren than our adorable first grandson (who we love to visit and are sure enjoying being his grandparents, even though it sometimes feels weird to be a GRANDMA!…) I would love to do even more traveling. We haven’t seen Asia yet, or the Land Down Under. And I would like to write more, and paint and draw more, and maybe even make more money before retirement kicks in and we are stuck at a certain income for the rest of our lives. And I am lucky to have dozens of incredible friends who I have interesting visits with and who keep me laughing and entertained, and whom I hope I give enough love and caring to as well.
But, I feel like I want to do even more. And time is not on my side as much as it used to be. Do people get college degrees and change careers and do amazing things after age 50? Of course, they do. I don’t discount my ability to continue to do interesting things, and I certainly have more plans for things like that (it’s likely the only way I can meet my retirement goals above!) But it’s harder. And it’s different. I do see what my mom means about this age being like going through a stage of grown-up puberty. Instead of zits, I get wrinkles; and instead of having to decide if I'm old enough for things I might want to do, I have to decide if I'm too old. Do I shop in the junior department with the cute jeans, or get the grandma pants in the grown-up section? Do I take a matronly attitude with the younger generation when they act like I must be a crazy old lady because I don’t know the latest fads or understand their slang, or try to act like I care? I feel like that meme that says, “I’m 40, but I still feel like I’m 20… until I go hang out with 20-year-olds, and then I’m like, nope, never mind, I’m 40.”
It’s a weird stage. And even weirder when I’m so used to everything just working out so well. Even natural disasters didn’t used to slow me down, but this year the hurricane that tore parts of our roof off and twisted the whole structure on its foundation is throwing me a little. We have so much work to do, but we aren’t jumping up and rushing to do all of it when we are home, in between work days. It’s not like we are elderly, but we are more tired after work than we used to be. And I don’t feel like taking more vitamins or running more laps in order to jump start my system any more than I already feel jumpstarted by the alarm clock waking me after fitful 40-year-old erratic sleep patterns each night.
My new goals are to find some more great mentors- some older people who give me hope and who are interested in helping a highly educated but somewhat disenchanted midlifer, find more things to be excited about. And then I’m going to plan some more travel adventures and find ways to pay for them by adding a few more dollars to my paychecks in the near future. And I’m going to hug my high schooler more and send lots of loving texts to my newly-adult children (who may ignore them sometimes, but will still read them…) and visit my grandson when I can. And I’m going to paint and write to my heart’s content, as soon as we clear more of the hurricane damage! And maybe I will forgive myself for not saving all of the world’s children, and watch less news that reminds me of all the problems that I wish I had time on Earth to solve. I’m going to enjoy quiet evenings with my husband. And I will avoid any urges to cut off either of my ears in the process.
I think I might make it through this midlife stage without any huge crises. And if I slip a little, I will have faith that I will add those stories to the book of life and look back on them with fondness later. It is a journey, and I am hanging on for this new ride, even if it eventually kills me. (Which is guaranteed eventually for all of us anyway!)
This article is part of the Hoagies Gifted Education Blog Hop. You can find more articles on the "Ages and Stages" of giftedness at the following link: