Some may think that “middle age” is a time of your life when you can start to breathe and enjoy life a bit, and yes, I do think there is some truth to that unless, of course, you are in my boat. This ship rocks and rolls to its own beat, timeline and navigational system. Just when you thought the seas where calm, typhoon Stacy hits the shores. As my children are starting their ascent into adulthood, exiting the safe confines of my ship, I am finding my world starting to becoming off-balance – not quite a mutiny on the bounty off balance, but I am definitely navigating through some uncharted territories. What is the phrase, “up creek without a paddle?” That certainly feels like me at times!
Despite all my chronic health issues, all in all, life has been good. Granted “good” is a relative term that we assign to it our own personal value. If graduating from college, having a family, engaging in a semi-successful career, and watching two incredible young people evolve into adults is good, then yes, my life has been very good. I guess I never really put much thought into life post children and post marriage. No one really plans to have a marriage end and parenting is so self-encompassing, you never allow your mind to imagine a life when you are not a constant caregiver; elbow deep in diapers, homework, soccer games, and teenage drama. You never look too far ahead. Well, guess what? I crossed that threshold of both, and I am asking myself, “Is life still good?”
Yes, life is still good, but hard and complex, and at times very frustrating and emotionally exhausting. I have never taken the easy road in life, and have always loved a good challenge. I am not afraid to work hard and I always set my goals high, but I think I am ready for some smooth sailing and a change of pace for just a bit. A cocktail on the deck kind of break. The past seven years have been a hard sprint, and although feeling these feet pounding the pavement has been exhilarating and life affirming, I think it is time to take a breather. My sneakers are getting a little worn and even the toughest sailors pull into port to rest from time to time.
Here is the problem, If I am being completely honest, how the heck do I do that? I have never been one to settle, and this crazy mind of mine goes at lightning speeds thinking of the next thing that I need to do, or what I have yet to accomplish. The longest I have been out of work was three months after the birth of each of my children. I do not know how not to be pursuing something. Surviving cancer twice has only added a new layer to my already complex psyche and standards. I do not want to waste time or take life for granted. Tomorrow is not promised, and I do not want to regret anything that I choose not to embrace today. So this girl has got a quandary on her hands; continue to set sail or stay ashore awhile. Or there is a third option, find a good therapist on speed dial.
There is no rule book for this leg of my journey. No family members to model after, no guidelines or standards, just me and the world at my feet. It mirrors my life almost 23 years ago when I was preparing for my college graduation. Perhaps this is where my discomfort comes from – no rules to set me in a particular direction. Despite my free spirit and wanderlust, I do like routine and playing by the rules. I find comfort in the stability of familiarity. I love to be adventurous and risk taking as long as I can come home to my familiar safe zone. In little over a year my youngest will be embarking on his own future, and I will no longer have the day-to day responsibilities of being a full-time parent. My routine will change, and what was once a norm for me, will no longer exist. My safe zone will be different if not entirely redesigned.
Perhaps new norms can surface as I welcome change. I do long for the day that I can run around the house in my underwear after 20 years of looking out for little ones lurking around the corners. I will be able to shower with the door open without sneaky eyes peeking around the shower curtain or adult yells from the other room, “Mom, really? Shut the door!” So as I start to ponder on this next chapter, I am beginning to see some of the silver linings. It may be just the freedom to run around my house half-clothed, but it is something, right?
I think the emotion of letting go of the past and welcoming the future has always been hard for me when it is not on my own terms; especially when it comes to the two loves of my life, my children. I never imagined motherhood could and would leave such a stronghold on my heart. I marvel at how they have grown and have brought me such pride and joy, but I also weep knowing that I have raised them well and need to let them fly the course that their hearts direct them. The relationship transformation from adolescent child to adult child is one that is welcoming and also heart wrenching. My children probably have seen me cry more in the past couple years than they have in their entire life. My son, I think, routinely expects it. If I have not sobbed in a while he probably thinks, “Oh boy, there must be big one coming soon!” He did witness his sister graduate and go off to college which involved his normally rational mother lose her shit a few times. We, as mothers, survive, but it is definitely an adjustment on many levels. You begin to come to terms that you are no longer needed on a daily basis, and that opens room for void.
What do we do with this void? If you are single such as myself, maybe it is time to find a new partner in crime or even better yet, travel! Although the dating scene for me has been nothing less than insane, I have not put much energy into it lately as the cancer shenanigans and raising my children have been my main priorities. But the times I have, Lord have mercy, what a comedy bit. I think I am better off sticking with traveling. These stories really have to be shared in person and over a glass of wine to experience the full effect. Let’s just say there was a firearm, a foot fetish, and requests that crossed beyond my moral standards. I have enough to tell a therapist and I do not need any additional trauma to pack into those sessions.
After these less than desirable dating episodes, I am not looking per se. I would much rather meet someone organically like I used to back in the good old days. The days when you would go out with friends and be introduced to one of their single colleagues, friends, or acquaintances – it was just so easy. Now half the population in my age group is married, and those that are single come with a good share of baggage. I am no light suitcase either. Anyone who reads my blog knows some of my challenges, and the number of bags I drag behind me. Light is not a description I would give myself.
I love technology, but honestly, online dating is not my forte. Fake photos, less than poetic exaggerated bios with cheesy one liners are often what I experience. No judgement to those who enjoy it, or who have found success. It may work for some, but I fear my next experience may end up being a future Lifetime movie special if I venture down that path any further. I will stay aboard my ship cruising along doing my “thing” until I find a nice sailor passing by during my travels. I am not lonely, and I enjoy my independence very much so there is no rush. I guess another silver lining to this next chapter – I can focus on establishing relationships. Hopefully healthy and safe ones.
My middle-aged years have been extraordinary in more ways than one. I have been blessed with many great experiences, loving family, and dear friends. I have also endured much pain and loss, but nothing that I cannot rebound or grow from. Often I feel as if I am walking through a dark hallway bouncing off walls, which can be a normal occurence for me on any given day, but I am discovering that half the fun is learning how not to worry about the next step, and let my senses guide me. It is o.k. to stumble and fall, and if you need to take a break before getting back up, that is o.k. too. I love the expression, “Life is a journey, not a race,” and as I have become more experienced in life, I am learning to embrace the journey, even if it is not what I had planned for myself. Sailing through my midlife adventures will undoubtedly not be short of laughter, tears, and some hair-raising experiences, but I am going to do my best to embrace and share them. After all, why should I keep all this fun to myself?