Hi. I’m Beth. I’m 42 years old and I am not having a midlife crisis. A midlife confusion, though? Yeah, that sounds about right.
See, I’m in this really weird stage of life right now and, frankly, it has confused the hell out of me. Maybe you can relate.
Confused in love.
Have you ever sat by a lake and watched the wind blow across it? One minute, the water is calm. The next minute, ripples are everywhere. White caps, even, if the wind is strong enough. You know that underneath the surface and all the way down to the very depths of the water, there is stillness. There is calm. There is a constancy and a peace. But when you concentrate only on the surface, you see the tumult. And the tumult scares you a bit.
Welcome to being married for 20 plus years.
I have officially spent more of my life with my husband than without him. Neither one of us would know how to be actual adults without the other, I don’t think. Looking through a shared lens at this life we’ve made together is the only way I know how to view the world. This, though, is a blessing and a curse. There is great blessing in knowing that you don’t have to do anything alone, unless you want to. There is a bit of curse in not being sure where to start when you think you want to try.
Confused in work.
Of the 20 years that have passed since college graduation, I’ve spent only six and a half in the work force. For 4.5 years, I was a full-time elementary school teacher. For two years, I was a part-time preschool teacher. The rest of the years have been filled with more jobs than I can list and that would all be filed under the title Homemaker…Wife…Mom…SAHM…Housewife…Domestic Goddess…what have you. Then there are all the odd “jobs”, of course. Blogger, blog contributor, wedding & funeral singer, swim team board member, music minister. I can’t imagine not doing any of them.
Monetize the blog, start a podcast, write a book, volunteer more for the kids’ schools. Take a break! Exercise more, pray more, go to Mass more, go to Adoration…at all. Work for the church, find an office job, substitute teach. All of these possibilities swim around my brain. All of them have been suggested by some friend or family member or another. Yet all of them have been shot down by some others.
But when I get right down to it, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Confused in parenting.
Parenting teens is enough to make anyone feel confused, if not downright crazy. Having to look up to see your sons’ eyeballs is disconcerting and exciting, nauseating and satisfying all at the same time. Knowing that your daughter is driving you absolutely bat shit crazy when you go shopping together, but seeing her grow into herself means you know that you’ve never seen anything more beautiful in your whole life. Teenagers stay up later and stay out later, which means you stay up later. And the worrying you used to do about when they would finally drink from a sippy cup or ride a bike on their own has turned into worry about whether or not they are ready to be actual adults.
And razors. There are razors everywhere. My babies are shaving their faces or their armpits or, God help me soon enough, their legs. Razors and deodorant and dirty towels and dirty dishes and shoes are all left in a Hansel-and-Gretl-like trail around my upstairs.
Up to this point, I’ve been the only female in my house that could use hormones as an excuse for moodiness, but no longer! There is some seriously wicked irony in the fact that our daughters are starting their periods right as our own bodies are starting to mutiny into perimenopause. How many different types of sanitary products can one household have, I ask you!
I’m on the verge of launching my oldest child off to college, beginning the firsts of the last with him as he starts his senior year. Meanwhile, I’m getting my youngest ready for the 3rd grade, continuing the last of the firsts with her as she faces her first year of real grades and standardized tests.
Confused in daughter-ing.
My parents are building a house. I jokingly call it their “retirement home” — get it? Hardy har har.
Anyway, they’re building a house and my dad is turning 70 and he’s retiring from a job that he’s loved and done for a lifetime. They’re talking western road trips and cruises with my aunts and uncles. They’re vibrant and active and hardworking. But they’re also putting hand-pulls in their new bathroom and talking about Medicare.
How are my parents the same ages that I remember my grandparents being? How am I the same age that my own aunts and uncles should still be? And for goodness sake, how are my ultracool, ultrahip cousins now in their 50s?!
I’m beginning to understand why this spot in life is referred to as being in the sandwich generation. Here we are, metaphorically sandwiched in-between parents and children whose needs and wants and relationships are constantly changing, supposedly being the ones who hold everything together. The peanut butter and jelly to their Wonder bread, you know? Jokes on them, though, because precisely none of us knows what the hell we’re doing.
Keeping the crisis out of the confusion.
Of course, this is just the big stuff, right? I didn’t even talk about the little, day to day moments that leave women in their 40s scratching their heads.
Therein lies the big question, though, right? How do we muddle through all of this confusion without falling into that stereotypical crisis? How do we see the calm water under the surface disruptions in our relationships? Decide what we want to be when we “grow up?” Act as both launching and landing pads for our children? Hold the sandwich of our families together as times change faster and faster?
Well, friend. As I am in the thick of it myself, I would be bald-faced lying to you if I said I had any semblance of an answer.
As far as I can tell, though, we keep on keeping on. We muddle through as best we can. Leaning on and learning from those who walk the path with us and those who are just a little farther along it than we are. Looking to God and not the scale, the mirror, or our bank accounts to find our dignity and our worth. Being open and honest and vulnerable with each other. Admitting that it’s hard, but doing it anyway.
Or something like that. Then again, what do I know? I’m so confused.