Ummm. Hi. What’s new? How’s life? Anybody have anything interesting to say? Because I really don’t. In fact, I haven’t really had anything interesting to say for a couple of months. I’m… stuck. Hello, MAW, meet Midlife Crisis! Welcome to my world!
How do you know if you’re in the middle of a midlife crisis, anyway? You know those pamphlets you see in doctor’s offices, with a series of questions, pamphlets such as, “Are You an Alcoholic?” or “Are You Depressed?” or “Are You a Serial Killer?” Here’s my pamphlet for “Are You Having a Midlife Crisis?” Please note that I have absolutely no qualifications for this, have not read a single book about midlife, do not know the actual definition of a midlife crisis, and have never spoken to a professional about it. I’m going on gut instinct here, people. Anyway:
Are You Having a Midlife Crisis? Plus, Dos and Don’ts for Those Who Answer ‘Yes’
1. Are you in mid-life? (Obviously. And yes.)
2. Do you feel stuck? Check the following:
–in your career?
–in your personal life?
–in your place in the universe?
(yes, yes, and yes)
3. Do you often wonder, “What happens next?” (Yes.)
4. Do you often wonder, “Isn’t there more to life?” (Yes.)
5. Have you considered buying a boat, a red convertible Porsche, or a Harley? (Yes. Porsche. Obvs.)
6. Do you dream of having an affair? (No! Hah! Nailed that one.)
7. Are you beginning to question whether you’re making a difference in the world? (Yes.)
8. Do you dream of quitting your job and working in Starbucks just so you can chat with people, write on chalkboards, not have to think too hard, and drink free coffee? (Yes.)
9. Is your family getting tired of your loud sighs and blank gazes out the window? (Yes.)
10. Has your body suddenly begun aching even though you haven’t lifted a weight or run a block or done a sit-up or push-up in a year? (Yes.)
If you answered yes to, hmmm…, let’s say, four questions, then you may be experiencing a midlife crisis. (Have you ever noticed that those quizzes never give definitive answers? They never tell you, “Hell yes, you are definitely a big, fat alcoholic! Wow! You’re on a slippery slope, lady. Get help now!” Or, “Boy, how could you have not known what a gigantic bi-polar personlity you have? You need meds, stat.” And wouldn’t that be strangely soothing, to have a concrete answer to a tricky question?)
Back to my midlife crisis brochure. The back panel would read:
Dos and don’ts for those suffering a midlife crisis:
DO reach out to your squad (I read in Time magazine today that “squad” is the new slang for your group of friends — see how hip I am?) via email, text, FaceBook and — yes, I mean it — the phone. In fact, the phone really is the best choice here. Stop isolating and give your besties a call. Chances are they are having the big MLC as well, and you can cheer each other on as you try to fix your respective worlds.
DO head to the nearest bar (unless you are a big fat alcoholic), with as many of your squad as you can gather, to compare notes. (You can go to a coffeehouse, too. Or out to lunch. Or meet at someone’s house. It really doesn’t have to be a bar. If you do go to a bar, drink responsibly, folks! Choose a designated driver and… wait, wrong brochure.) Anyway, it really, really helps to know that you’re not the only one having these thoughts.
DO call your favorite shrink, unless you are so tired of whining to him/her off and on for the past 20 years that you’re sick of the sight of their face and the sound of your own voice…. in which case, um, maybe read Oprah?
DO seek out posts from your crabbier/more cynical group of FaceBook friends. They are sure to be experiencing similar emotions and, if they are honest enough, will make you laugh by posting about them. Avoid, for awhile, the friends who post that their child has just been voted Chancellor of the Free World or that they have just won three consecutive Iron Man races on three consecutive weekends — they may be awesome friends and their child may indeed be Chancellor of the Free World, but you do not need to hear that right now.
DO take to your bed for AT LEAST one full weekend day, if not for a full weekend. Or several weekends. (Instructions for taking to your bed: gather chocolate and/or wine, your favorite brain-candy novel, and a list of shows to binge-watch. Close all blinds. Lock the bedroom door. Surround yourself with at least seven pillows. Before diving gleefully (and guilt-free: that’s very important) into escape-mode, practice the following tactic three times: should there be a knock on the door, shove the wine and chocolate under the bed, tuck the book/iPad/phone under your pillow, and throw the covers over your head as quickly as possible. Use the seven pillows to make the bed look pillow-lumpy and not person-hiding-under-the-covers lumpy. Note: if you are watching TV or YouTube videos, DO NOT turn them off. That will give away the fact that you are there. Instead, leave the volume on and hope the intruder will assume you forgot to turn it off when you bustled out to earn money, clean the house, drive the children places, run errands, become Chancellor of the Free World, or do something else productive.)
DO NOT go to your husband more than once or twice about this because I can almost guarantee you will not hear what you need to hear right now. He may be the most understanding man in the world, but the likelihood that he will hold you, suggest that you quit your job to become an artist, or stroke your hair and say you’ll figure it out because you are smart and wonderful, is low. In his head, he may be thinking those things, but it won’t occur to him to say them (because he is a man). Instead, he will try to fix it (because that’s what men do). He will say, “Why don’t you find a new job?” Or, “Why don’t you try going to the gym more often? You always feel good when you work out.” Or, worst of all, “Are you having your period?” or “Are you going through menopause?” Also, chances are high that he may be going through his own midlife crisis. He will listen thoughtfully to you while stroking his chin, but he’ll actually be wondering if he should grow a goatee. (Question: what about my women friends whose partners are women? Are they more understanding than the men I am depicting here?)
DO NOT have an affair. I’m not speaking from personal experience, but I’m pretty sure that would only add to your troubles. Unless you are very unhappy and it’s necessary, or you meet your Prince Charming or… what the hell do I know? Go on and have an affair if that’s what you need to do. I don’t judge.
Finally, DO NOT force yourself through it by sheer willpower, adding more and more to your plate and pretending that you are fine fine fine. I’d say it’s a probable twelve to seven (Guys & Dolls? anyone?) that you will burn yourself out and self-destruct. (Of course, I may be advising against that route simply because I have never been the type to power through by sheer will power; I’m more likely to escape and hide for a time, and if you power through by sheer will power, then I will feel worse about myself because I will compare and find myself wanting.
And so, to keep me feeling good about myself, be nice and go to bed. Have fun. Let me know how it goes.