My story is not unique or new, I am just like every other woman who made choices her whole life, worked hard, always with the future in mind, who wakes up one day to find that she is officially middle aged. I knew it was coming. My kids were finishing high school and entering college and my career had been put on hold to help them with the transition. I knew when I resigned my tenure at the college that I would be isolating myself a bit, but I thought when the kids get settled I would just pick back up where I had left off. I didn’t count on the possibility that I would question my passion for teaching and would start the long process of asking myself “what’s next”? This would mark the beginning of the next five years of soul searching, contemplation and waiting……so much waiting.
At this point, I didn’t know that I was in a mid life crisis, because you have to be at mid life for that, right? I was over 40, just like all the other women I knew at the time and most of us were asking these same questions as our families, and purpose, was growing more independent. It was actually great at the start. I had more time for working out, gardening and experimenting in the kitchen, all activities I enjoy. But over time I found that I wanted more: more human interaction, more purpose and more experiences. I decided to enter a culinary program to see if that industry held any future appeal. I really enjoyed cooking, baking and working in a commercial kitchen and met some great friends that I still see when we can get our schedules to align. However, the thought of “proving myself” all over again in a new field was overwhelming and I knew that I did not want to work the restaurant hours required for success in the hospitality industry. While I was wrestling with these major life adjustments, my husband was entering his mid life crisis and where my crisis was a quiet, internal struggle, his was a category 5 tornado that ripped apart the trailer park. Any woman who has dealt with a man in crisis knows how self absorbed and all consuming his world becomes. There was no room for my problems or concerns at that time, and how could I figure out what I wanted until he decided if he would retire? He spoke of moving to another country, changing jobs, retiring and traveling the world….and so on, and so on. So, I waited some more. I know how hard this question is and that there is no quick answer and I wanted to be supportive and give him the space and time to work this all out. That was three years ago and he has yet to pull the trigger on any clear decision, and I am tired of waiting.
This blog is an account of how I continue to cope with both of our mid life issues and where I find an outlet for those times when I am overwhelmed and feel weighed down by the enormity of these difficult problems. I have found that exercise has been critical for my mental and spiritual health. I have always enjoyed physical activity but at this point in my life, I have really come to understand the benefits of regular workouts. I signed up to train for a half marathon on a whim, and have finished two this year, I have started rock climbing (indoor and outdoor) and find that both of these challenge me and evoke a sense of pride upon completion. Pride in myself has not always been easy to find, so I have a new appreciation for it now that I am older. Another area that I find myself gravitating toward is time in the kitchen, cooking and baking are fantastic creative outlets for me. I find it calming to work in the kitchen and really enjoy challenging myself with difficult or new recipes. Gardening is another way for me to relax, create and connect with the outdoors and I have spent considerable time and effort building structures, experimenting with different plantings and weeding (so much weeding!). And, like so many others, I love to travel and explore new areas and cultures as often as possible.
It is my hope that I will be able to connect with others to share ideas, stories and life lessons and, maybe, provide some support to those of you who are also in this interesting phase of life.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase” -Dr. Martin Luther King