I was walking to my bathroom the other day, just as I’d done a million times in the past. I glanced up and noticed my hot pink toothbrush sitting in its holder. There was something distinctly different about it this time. It was covered in a dusty substance. I stepped closer to get a better view. I then looked in horror as I saw my once beloved dental hygiene product engulfed in cobwebs like it was the backdrop in some haunted house set. As I looked into the mirror, I barely recognized my own reflection. My hair hadn’t been washed or combed in who knows how long. I’d barely showered and worn a hole in my favorite pajamas from too much wear, yet wear them I did. What was happening to me? Where was that pretty girl who used to always be the life of the party? When did I become okay with just surviving, instead of thriving? Deep back in my eyes I could see that the girl of my past was still in there somewhere, I just had to find her again. Because if I didn’t, that thing in the mirror that I didn’t
even know was going to fast become the woman of my future.
When I was eleven years old, just a week away from summer break, I was at a friends house and waiting patiently for my Mom to come pick me up and take me home. My friends Mother came in and announced that I was going to be staying for dinner. We squealed with glee like only two schoolgirls can. Later that night, I was informed that I was going to be staying with their family for the remaining week of school. As excited as I was to spend a week with my best friend, I was confused and worried about what was going on in my own home. I was continually told that nothing was wrong and to just enjoy my last bit of 5th grade. I tried, but I grew more homesick everyday. I was still a little girl, and I wanted my Mommy. As soon as school was done, my friend’s parents loaded me into their car. I couldn’t help but notice a few suitcases in the back. The car pulled on to the highway and my world was shattered as it was explained to me that my Mom was in the hospital. I was assured that she was fine, completely healthy, she just went to “get some rest”. We were headed to the airport so that I could go stay with my older brother in another state for the summer. He had moved out of the house many years before, since then it had just been my Mom and me. Off I was on my own to stay with a relative stranger.
Three months later, I went to spend my 6th grade year with my Aunt and her husband. My Uncle was the first one in this entire nightmare to not treat me like a child, instead he told me the truth. My Mom had suffered a nervous breakdown. She was at a hospital sorting out her feelings, emotions, and mental stability. No one told me that first week because it was assumed she’d be out in a few days. No one explained during the summer in hopes that she’d get out any time. But my Uncle was a
straight shooter and thought it was time that I knew the truth. My Mom, the only person I had in the world was going to be gone for a while. Even once my Mom did get out, we never discussed the time that she was gone. If it ever came up, it was always referred to as the time that she needed to “get a little rest”.
Now that I am the same age as she was then, with an eleven year old of my own, I have become painfully aware that was my Mom’s midlife crisis.
I’ve spent my life in fear that the same fate would happen to me as I got older. It took until I caught sight of that toothbrush and the rest of my abandoned, once lovely appearance, that I became painfully aware that it had happened to me as well, just in my own way. I too have fallen to the pressures of life, aging and single motherhood. But instead of going to a hospital for a year, I changed careers. I locked myself into the comfort of my bedroom, avoiding the outside world. I ignored my home, my loved ones and my emotions and allowed myself to become numb. I had spent a year doing the minimum necessary to get my daughter and I through the day, and not face those demons that were knocking on my proverbial door. I was waist deep in a midlife crisis of my own.
Once we reach middle age, no-one wants to admit it. (In fact, when I told friends of my own age that I was going to be starting this series, I was met with “but why? You are far from that.”) We all fight it in our own ways. Some buy sports cars. Others date/marry people half their age. People experiment with drugs or go on benders. All in some failed attempt to recapture our youth. We make jokes about people in this position because it is easier to laugh off a feeling that is very real and serious. An emotion that we are lucky to get the chance to indulge in (not everyone gets that option).
It is said that “youth is wasted on the young”. But isn’t age sometimes wasted on the old, as well? With age comes wisdom, yet sometimes we don’t appreciate it. Our years teach us what mistakes not to make again. Personally, I would not want to be 21 again if you paid me. Those weren’t the best years of my life; instead they were full of heartache and unfortunate decisions. It took all of the years behind me to make me the woman that I am today. So now I find myself middle aged; no longer wanting the restlessness of my past, yet not quite ready to wade into the overly calm, steady waters of my future. That is where the “mid-life crisis” comes from, I think. It’s the struggle with the in-between. Stuck in the middle and not sure which way to go from here. Instead of mourning this time, it should be celebrated. And learned from, more importantly. Midlife should not be a “crisis”, instead it should be just another step in this fantastic journey.
As I sit here, just days after another late 30s birthday, I realize that I can not fight it. I also can not hide from it. I am in my midlife. But the most important part of that phrase is LIFE. If I continue to wallow in the fact that my life is half over, then I will miss all of the great things that are yet to come. Instead, I will put on my best outfit, my biggest smile and live my life to the fullest. I am not sure of what is ahead but I am no longer afraid to tackle whatever life can throw at me. I will instead face it, with a few more wrinkles, a new haircut and the knowledge of my years past beside me. The next chapter in this thing called life starts right now.
Jodi Renee’ Thomas spent the majority of her adult life as an alternative fashion designer/dominatrix, until the writing bug called her away. She believes in living life to the fullest, and then chronicals her antics on her blog “Confessions of a Party Girl.” She is a proud pupil of the school of life, in which each semester she gets varying grades from Suma cum Laud to this lesson needs to be repeated; but she keeps going strong. By day she is managing editor for DStripped Magazine in which she has a featured column entitled “Relationship Rehab.” By night, she trolls Facebook and tries to write articles that entertain and inform. She happily lives in the sunny state of Florida with her aspiring writer/designer daughter Xoe Lizbeth, and her cats Rocko and Shaft, who like to help her type.