Friday, May 28, 2010

Belly Dancing, Botox, Tattoos...Mid-Life Crisis, Mid-Life Reinvention or Mid-Life Rebellion?

A couple weeks ago I was enjoying a rather pricey and extremely delicious bottle of wine with a few girlfriends. The conversation turned, as it is wont to do, on a number of topics. We skipped along, one subject leading to another, talking and laughing in that excited way people have when they really enjoy each other's company. One of the topics we skipped lightly over was that of the storied "MidLife Crisis." Not our assorted husband's mid-life crises--only one actually went out and bought a convertible Jag (and he has to share it with his wife.) No, the subject we danced over was our own mid-life crises.

But as these conversations often go, we spent maybe a minute on this and then flitted off to something else--I believe we started talking about sex, which, as everyone knows, is a far more interesting subject than whether or not we're going through early 40s angst. 

But over the next two weeks, my mind kept returning to the subject of a woman's mid-life crisis like a bee to a particularly tasty flower.  The idea intrigued me, because until someone brought it up, I figured mid-life crises were pretty much limited to the male side of the coin. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that not only are women as susceptible to those bouts of mid-life doubts as men, but perhaps even more so. Women, after all, (and here I am really, really generalizing, so if you are not one of these women, please don't take offense) are the ones who are more likely to adapt to accommodate the needs of others, rather than the rather than the other way around. In motherhood, in marriage, most women are likely to set their own desires aside for their families. Heck, Dr. Laura has made a whole industry of telling women they aren't accommodating enough and that is sole reason their marriages are rocky.*

So by the time a woman hits her 40s, it's very likely there is a definite feeling that she's just done putting everyone else's needs before her own. And she may very well be getting ready to put her own needs to the forefront for a while. 

So all this stuff was swirling around in my mind when I came to the sudden and somewhat obvious realization that I am going through my own version of a mid-life crisis. Now, I'm not gonna go out and buy a jag (not that I could afford it) or take up with that young, too-hot-for-his-own-good blond guy who works out at the gym (I'm certain he knows I have the "flames-down-below" for him--it's the drool on my chin that gives it away). But I have started doing things that four or five years ago I never would have even considered doing. One of those is taking a belly dancing class. Another is the Botox I got a while back (if you read this blog you know all about that), or finally getting that "Gallagher" (my maiden name) family crest tattooed on my hip. 

But it's more than these superficial changes. Beyond just the surface stuff, I've renewed my interest in spirituality. For years I've just gone along as the "good wife" attending the church simply because I thought it was what would make my family (read: hubby) happy. But after 10 years, I realized (well, I really knew all along) that I wasn't fulfilled. So now at 41 I finally have the confidence(or, at a minimum, am working on creating the confidence) to stop going to church for a while until I can figure out exactly what I'm looking for. It's been tough--you know my hubby is a deacon and he's been disapproving of my deviance from the expect path. Not tons of support there. But my friends are supportive, one in particular who made a spiritual journey of his own a decade ago. I seriously doubt that were I not going through this "midlife crisis" I would be on this spiritual journey now. 

The other thing that I've rediscovered is my identity as a woman. Beyond the whole "mommy" thing, I mean. I love being a mom, don't get me wrong. But I've let that role define me far too long. I sort of let the "woman" part of me be overtaken by the "mommy" part. I never was the "sweats-and-tshirt" mom or the "Lee Riders mom-jeans" mom--not even the "i can't drink because my kids will think bad of me" mom (both my girls learned to pour wine through the Vinturi by the time they were five) But whenever I thought of myself, I always thought along these lines, "I'm going to the store to buy healthy food because I'm a mom," Or, "I really need to vacuum the house because I'm a mom," even, "I have to get a facial today because I'm a mom." Then one day--a fairly recent day--it hit me: I'm a mom, duh, but I'm me first, and I deserve to do things for that reason and that reason alone. 

And lastly, all this mid-life introspection has helped me crystalize my goals. With all the falderall of raising two active girls (I spend far too much of my life in my car, ferrying them from one practice to another) it was all too easy to put things off because I'm a mom. But my "mid-life crisis" (for lack of a better term) has helped me realize that putting off my goals and claiming it was because of the kids is just an excuse--a bad excuse at that. Lots of women accomplish amazing goals as moms with young kids (uh, JP Rowling anyone?). I sort of let my goals slide 'cause I was lazy...honestly. Well, not lazy, in the strict definition of lazy. But lazy in that it was easier to make excuses than progress. So now I guess I'm using this point in my life to sort of re-invent myself--or, better put, re-discover myself. 

And to be completely, dead-honest with both myself and you, there is absolutely an aspect of mid-life rebellion. There are things I want to do. Period. So I'm going to do them. I really don't give a fart in a windstorm (thanks for the phrase, my Irish dad) whether other people think these things are okay or not. Like the Botox. Or the belly dancing. Or the tattoo. Or the sky-diving my friend Sue and I will do this summer. Or learning to ride a motorcycle at long last. I didn't do them before because they weren't the "right" or "safe" thing to do (in my somewhat narrow perspective of what is/was "right") Now, thanks to my "mid-life rebellion" I want to have these adventures. They're mine to relish....or regret. Hopefully relish!!!! And there is a real sense of freedom knowing that I'm making choices based on what I want, instead of what I think others want. 

The next time I am sitting around with my girlfriends drinking wine (which should happen fairly soon--we're pretty regular with our wine consumption) I am going to steer the conversation back to what we so lightly touched on those weeks ago. The subject of a woman's mid-life crisis. I am really, really interested in whether other people feel the same as me...or if I'm hanging out here in the wind all by my lonesome. Somehow, I suspect, I'm not the only one going through this. In fact, I'd lay money on it. As with all things, it's better to go through it with friends at your side. Then it's no longer a crisis, it's a party!

For a really interesting read on the whole woman-and-mid-life-crisis thing, check out this article from More:

*On a personal note, I bought into that idea for a long time, even going so far as to buy Dr. Laura's "The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands." After all, I thought, it must be MY fault my marriage was blah--not long work hours, distractions, bills, or over-familiarity. But the book's advice was a no-duh--I'd already been doing everything listed in the books as "sure fire" ways to make your man crazy for you again. After months of trying to give him even more attention, even more sex, and even more endless compliments ("Thank you soooo much for putting your underwear in the hamper! I know it's a huge inconvenience."), I gave up on "The Care & Feeding of Husbands" and went back to plain ol' me. In all fairness, though, one of my very best friends says the "Care & Feeding of Husbands" book saved her marriage. Rock on to her. But for me...not a super success. So not everything works for everyone.

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