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my midlife crisis

credit: 30 Rock, NBC.

How’s my midlife crisis going you ask? Really well, thank you.  My midlife meltdown started about four years ago at 38, I’ve always been mature for my age.  By the time I turned 40, it was in full swing.  I was restless and anxious, questioning why I was feeling so unhappy.  I thought I was going insane, to tell you the truth.   I really didn’t understand what was happening. I felt unnerved, almost unhinged from my life.  I didn’t understand why I felt like I was slowly coming apart.

Over the last three years of being in therapy, I’ve realized that this is not uncommon and that I am not, in fact, going insane. The restlessness and feeling of being unhinged was part of me coming to terms with an enormous amount of grief and shame.  It was also a way of me coming to terms with the choices I have made, the good ones and less good, and being ok with those choices.  The feeling of never being good enough or not, “living up to my potential” was something that I have struggled with my whole life.  Now I know that these thought patterns are just that – thoughts.  They come and they go but they’re just thoughts. I do the very best that I can in my chosen profession and I’m proud of the work I do. Do I save lives? nope.  Do I have a ton of money? nope.  Am I changing the world? nope.  And that’s ok.  I don’t have to do anything of those things to be a worthy person, a good person, a successful person. 

It’s been such a struggle to get here.  So tough to even figure out what I wanted out of my life at this point.  And I was on a path to really screwing it up, to imploding myself and my life that I’ve worked so hard to build.

This the thing that I have realized about women in mid life.  We are so practical and busy, responsible for so many people and things, we don’t have time to really screw up our lives. To blow them up, to make a huge mess.  Most women I know in mid life are very slowly, but surely, coming undone.  They are struggling and fighting and clinging to what they’ve built. They’re trying their hardest and all they seem to get is tired.  And a feeling of aching loneliness.  Women in mid life crave connection and meaning and instead, many get isolation and an emptiness that comes with unmet expectations and a lurking sense of failure.  I don’t have any answers to this.  What this process looks like for me is different than it does for you.  But I think talking about it openly and honestly has been really helpful for me. I started to write this blog to create more connection, to be truthful and to show my struggles, insecurities and shortcomings.  A lot of people I know, men and women both, have told me over the last few weeks that they can relate.  Especially the parents.  Oh the parents.  They are hurting.  They are struggling to figure out why everything seems like so much work all the time.  It’s because it is.  It’s because when I got to midlife I didn’t understand why I didn’t feel completely in love with my life.  Isn’t that how you’re supposed to feel at 40? Like you’ve made it?

I’m going to let you in on  a little secret – I never thought I’d live to middle age.  My mom was 44 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and 49 when she died. I’m 42.  For the last 10 years, I’ve been waiting for the diagnosis, for tragedy to strike. I’m still waiting.  But now I know that these are also just thoughts. But now, I’m in midlife and I have to figure how what I want it to look like, what I want to do and how.  Upending my life isn’t the answer, that just seemed like a good idea for about a minute and then I came to my senses and moved forward.  Does your midlife crisis feel like an explosion or a slow burn? Do you feel sometimes like the train is coming off the track? It’s all normal, trust me.  xo Janet

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