It’s been some time now that I’ve associated the idea of midlife crisis with the end of the “I can be anything and do anything” opportunities and optimism of younger years when most everything in life is still at least a theoretical possibility.
I now reflect that a contributing factor to whatever sort of midlife ennui is experienced may also be associated with the unnerving awareness that the morning when I wake up and sense I am fully equipped to handle whatever this day brings may not come.
Only a decade ago, I was aspirational that I could follow a plan and get things in order based on an underlying paradigm that there was a certain age at which, if one tried hard enough, one arrived at the place of knowing how life worked. Even five years ago, I still believed that I could learn enough, improve enough, practice enough to really get the hang of living life and at least master most of the basics – leaving myself open, of course, for new adventures. The idea that I would someday arrive at a place where I no longer feared that the day might prove too much for me was plausible.
Midlife – crisis or no – in my life is a stretch where time turns and twists, managing to warp hours as I used to know them. A period of five years, which as a child was an entire lifetime, can pass like a month and a year can happen in a week. I look at Little One, our youngest, and expect to see a child that never existed – a combination of her at ages three, seven and ten, and get startled by her height, mature voice and demeanor, and the stunning fact that she is nearly 13.
The midlife celebration, which asserts that the 40s are fabulous (and they are) may follow a honorable adios to getting it all together. There’s freedom in recognizing I will never know enough or do enough to be fully prepared for even my regular and habitual circumstances. If I’m not going to work or learn my way to the place where I’ve got it down, where I’m fully what I thought “adult” would be, then what relief.
I may continue for the rest of my days to awake with some doubt about my capacity to do what needs to be done. Allowing that possibility, I’m suddenly released from striving for an illusory achievement. There’s room to shift to simply alright, maybe going so far as aight. Instead of hoping for some distant future when I’m really grown-up and have this life down, I’m at liberty to keep stumbling along and, if I really want to, stressing out. I can consider a work project, or deal with a relationship issue, welcome my old friend inadequacy and say “Hey, I guess we’re doing this together so we may as well have fun and get on with it.” I’m free to say “Thanks for all of it,” whatever each day brings and however prepared I am for it.