Friday, May 18, 2012

A Midlife Musing

            A good friend of mine once posted this question on Facebook.  “What’s the difference between a midlife crisis and a midlife awakening?”  Plenty of answers were offered, but the one I remember most vividly was this, “A midlife awakening creates a midlife crisis.” 

            I can relate to that.  Reaching the age of 45 almost two years ago spurred my own midlife awakening, which in turn brought on a major (!!!) midlife crisis.  I was completely unprepared for this turning point in my life because I lived in denial that I would ever experience one.  I was not going to be the kind of person who was so desperate to hold onto a rapidly receding youth that I would do anything I could to pretend I was not aging.  I wasn’t going to be a caricature of a midlife crisis.

            Then I turned 45.  Now let me explain.  I did not wake up on my 45th birthday in mourning for my lost youth.  It was just another day.  I’m not sure that I was consciously aware of anything out of the ordinary on that day, other than I wasn’t happy that I was spending another birthday overweight, overtired and unsure of what I wanted out of life.  My awakening was an evolving process that culminated in the realization that 45 years had passed in the twinkling of an eye.  If I was lucky enough to live till I was 90, how did I want to spend the next 45 years?  Especially, ESPECIALLY, knowing how fast that time would go.  How did I want to spend the next 45 years of my life?

            Even though I had sworn never to engage in classic midlife crisis behavior, I did undergo some pretty dramatic physical transformations.  I lost a lot of weight, which I’ve written about in a previous blog.  I grew out my benign but age appropriate bob of a haircut.  I colored my hair even before I turned 45, but I generally stuck to the safe brunette shades of my natural color.  Not anymore people!  I didn’t realize how dramatically different my hair color is until I returned to Iowa a few weeks ago.  Friends, acquaintances, even my own parents didn’t recognize me at first because according to them I’ve gotten so blonde. 

            Fear not.  I have not embraced my inner Marilyn Monroe.  I am not sporting a platinum coif.  I like to describe my hair as a combination of warm honey, caramel and some blonde highlights.  But I digress.  My hair is several shades lighter.  Why?  Why not? 

            I think those last two words are the crux of my midlife crisis.  Why not?  Greater than any physical transformation I have undergone is the mental, emotional and spiritual transformation I have made and am making.  What struck me most about turning 45 was that I had lived a great deal of my life in fear.  I was afraid of taking big risks.  What if I failed?  And if I did take a risk and it didn’t pay off the way I thought it should then my fear quadrupled.  One example of this was that I applied to some graduate programs about seven years ago and didn’t get in.  Instead of trying some other schools, I gave up, convinced I just didn’t have the right stuff for doctoral work because I couldn’t bear failing again. 

            But it seems to me that life is all about failure.  Failing at something means I risked something.  I tried something.  If I’ve failed then in some strange paradoxical way I’ve succeeded.  Failure means I didn’t let fear keep me from investing myself in something or someone.  Failure means that in small ways or large I’ve acted with courage.  That’s what I’ve realized in this time of midlife crisis.  Fear may have dominated a large part of my first 45 years.  But it will be courage that lives large in the next 45.  After all, why not?


  1. Wow Amy ,that was deep.True though. Loved it ,been there, and trying to live it now but I still feel 32 !!! Love ya!

  2. I love this Amy! You are truly gifted!