Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mini Mid-Life Crisis

Is it possible to have a mid-life crisis at 32 years old?

Talking to my buddy about this, she, very wisely, inferred that my current emotional turmoil could be boiled down to mid-life crisis. She and I are similar, in that we are very young, society-wise, and yet, we are both facing a mid-life crisis of sorts. We both married and had kids in our 20's. We started early, and therefore, mid-life has come earlier, eh?

I find myself wondering if I'm still attractive. Pretty, even. I have gray hair that I color, zits that I hate, and wrinkles that come out of no-where. My body has been through child-birth war --the sagging, stretch-marked skin feels so... old. Old. My feet are horrendous, my spider veins unsightly. The genetically-given bags under my eyes seem to grow with age. My children ask me about the blue veins in my hands.

I don't mind getting old. Honestly. I don't. It's something we all have to do. I don't regret --for even one second --that I used my body to give life, even if that meant sacrificing my youthful beauty.

But am I still beautiful? (This is rhetorical. Please don't answer any questions until the end of the session. Thank you.) If I had to --if Brandon unexpectedly died and left me alone, and he better not, because I swear, if he died and left me alone to raise these kids I will KILL him --if I had to attract a member of the opposite sex in order to provide a father for these kids, would I be able to? Moot point, I know, but still...

I'm not as witty. Along with the body, the children took my brain cells. I realized that next month marks 10 years since I graduated from college. Ten Years. Brandon's cousin needed help a few months ago on a musical theory project. She was analyzing a piece of music --this was my forte, dear reader! I could analyze the crud out of Mozart! But could I remember anything? Nope. Nothing. I knew some basics, but not enough to help out the HIGH SCHOOL student. Basic math eludes me. Critical analyzation of literary works at Book Club are hard to grasp. I can't remember Piaget's theories by heart. I can't even remember my competition pieces on the piano! There is very little (piano-wise) that I can play from memory anymore. I actually NEED the music now. Sigh.

I get it, though. Un-use and inactivity renders me forgetful. It makes sense. It reminds me how we need to make sure we are always growing in our testimony of the Gospel --if we are not growing, learning, continually trying, then we are regressing, losing, forgetting. I'm not in college anymore. I am no longer staying up late to practice the piano, write an essay, analyze Schubert, or memorize studies on infant brain development. My brain is being used for other things: remembering 7 separate schedules, learning how to best clean up cat feces or baby throw-up, wondering how to plant a garden, calculate the bills, pay the taxes, etc.

So, I'm okay with it. Is it sad? Yes, in a way. I do mourn the loss of my brain, but I understand what's going on --I'm using it for other things. I'm focused on the "now." I'm thinking about what it is I need to be thinking about at this moment. As I should be.

But sometimes I still wonder, am I still smart? Wise? Educated? (Again, rhetorical).

This mid-life crisis of mine is a dangerous place, I've decided. It's not a place that is reserved only for those who have reached middle age --I think we all go through "mid-life" crises several times in our lives. I think we reach a point when we ask ourselves, "Is this what I really want? Is this what I thought it would be? Is this what I'm supposed to be doing? Who the heck am I, anyway?"

There are options when we reach these crises. They are:
1. Bail on those who love us and run. Like this woman.
2. Start over. Like this woman. (I loved that book, btw, because she actually had the "start over" option, unlike the lady in #1.)
3. Ignore it and kill everyone. (That's a oversimplified example; my apologies.)
4. Realize that this is normal, reassess, retrench, relearn, and move forward, knowing that nothing is permanent, life has a purpose, and sometimes, the light around the corner is much, much closer than we realize.
5. Number 4 and lots of chocolate (raw and sugar-free, of course. Ahem).

I tend to want to do #1 and #2 --I don't ignore stuff. I usually head it off at the pass, hit it on the head, face it, whatever-cliche-you-want-to-insert-here. But I also know that I don't want to run away (I dearly love my hubby and kids and the covenants I made), nor do I want to live my life without chocolate. So I must, dear reader choose #5.

It's not easy, though. Sometimes I think giving up and running away would be the easy way out (although I've heard from some who have made that choice that calling it easy is a "Myth."), but I know it's not true. It just delays the inevitable guilt and/or regret along with a big dollop of loneliness. That's not to say, of course, that in extreme cases... but I'm not going to talk about that because I'm not talking about extreme cases. I'm talking about ME.

And here's something that I talked about with my buddy that really hit home for me (which I told her to blog about, so if she does, which she still should, my apologies):

Why do mothers feel like they have to be SOMETHING with mothering on the side? Why do we do that to ourselves? Why can't we say, "Oh, I'm a mother, and on the side I do pretty much nothing else because mothering is hard work and everything I am and everything I do and everything I stand for exists in mothering those little children even if you think that my writing, singing, piano-ing, part-time working is actually for my own personal benefit, it all fits into my mothering because you can't separate me from the children and vice versa even if you wanted to because we are connected on a soul level, and every intellectual and emotional improvement on my part automatically transfers into the "mothering" area because those little souls have ALL of me, whether I want them to or not."

I tried to explain to my friend once (who was single, but is now married, and now, I'm sure, "gets it") that being married cannot be separated into categories. There aren't any "boxes" in marriage --the sex affects the parenting, the bills affect the sex, the children affect the bills, the dirty dishes affect everything -- it's all connected in this crazy conglomerate circle and state of BEING. Marriage is so complicated, and the tentacles of marriage grasp onto every facet of your life: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. This is why divorce, in most cases, is so devastating. It rips apart that state of being, and the wounds are raw and hard to heal.

Motherhood, I've decided, is like that. It's another new state of being --of existing. Great way to describe it:

Making the decision to have a child - It's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

It's like that. You cannot disconnect yourself from your role of motherhood without inflicting everlasting pain. It's simply impossible.

And so why do we play it down? Why do we act like it's just something we "have to do" until they leave and then we'll get to "what we were meant to do??" Hey, now, before we get all upset, I'm the first woman out there who will jump at the chance for a break away with her spouse or a girls' night out. I'm not saying that a woman has to completely lose her individuality in the name of "motherhood" --in fact, if I'm saying anything it's that a mother's specific individuality is what BLESSES the children she is raising! What I'm talking about is the relational mid-life crisis thing I'm having; I'm searching for a way to get through it slightly unscathed, and part of it is realizing how drastically important my roles are as a woman. My mother role. My wife role. My CEO of the household role.

It's all connected. Which is why I think it's all a little messy in my brain right now. And Satan, that jerk, is having a hey-day with me, I think. Temptations are coming at me in ways I never thought they would, and it's been tough, dear reader. Very tough.

Anyway, do you see my point? Do you suffer from a mid-life crisis? Did you? Will you? How do you view motherhood and/or marriage? Especially in light of it being a new entity that normal mid-life crises would slaughter if given the chance?


Biological Fantasyland said...

I couldn't have said that any better! You rock! I totally agree/feel the same way. I needed to read this today, thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Marriage is so complicated, and the tentacles of marriage grasp onto every facet of your life: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. This is why divorce, in most cases, is so devastating. It rips apart that state of being, and the wounds are raw and hard to heal.

That is well put, and you are right that motherhood is really the same way.

It is also true that Satan is a jerk.

Cardalls said...

wrote something similar last week on this blog:

Choosing to be a deliberate mother and not allowing other pursuits to cloud that choice is actually very liberating! Said NO to a committee at the school today even though I wanted to do it because it meant being away from my little ones A LOT untilschool gets out. The committee gets the shaft...not my littles!

Anonymous said...

I love a good Cheryl brain dump---little nuggets of wisdom and profundity abound.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I could go on and on and on about this (which is, frankly, why I'm writing a book), but to spare you my 3-part workshop, I'll just say this:

Yes, Satan has a party with stuff like this.

LDS women tend to get the big picture: we see and understand the overall importance and critical role of motherhood, but we struggle so much to see it/recognize it in our daily lives down in the trenches. All I can respond to that is this (and it's basically a summary of the 3-part workshop in my mind): Everything we do to worship is repetitive-- think temple, sacrament, etc.-- but we're not discouraged by it because we recognize it as a development of our faith and character. Everything we do in motherhood is repetitive and seemingly mindless, but is ALSO worship. (Insert lots of stuff here about our efforts copying the ministry of the Savior) This is why our homes are a temple-- NOT because they are clean and reverent like the celestial room, puh-lease-- because they are where we do SACRED work, live out our covenants, and repeat-repeat-repeat Christlike actions.

Next time the little devil in your brain starts working his "magic," think about that over and over and over again. Think of a mid-life crisis as a chance to EMBRACE what really matters most and let the rest run off like rain.

Cristy said...

Very much along the same path my brain has been going... lately (forever it seems?!) I have really come to terms with the fact that I AM a Mother. That's it. Maybe being out of Utah has helped me be more confident with that. My whole street is woman who work full time and a nanny pulls up to raise the kids, or they are in day cares camps etc. It's no life I tell ya. I see the way sometimes they envy the fact that I get to stay home. I realize I am super lucky. I always used to SAY that, but now I KNOW it. Not that it's easy, but it's something.

michelle said...

I'm gonna throw this into the mix as you mull. I think she brings up some interesting points that, if considered in light of the eternal importance of motherhood, to me bring a little bit of...something. I think for every woman, these questions will be handled a little differently, and I'm not sure her solution would be 'right' for some, but I still thought she had some interesting things to say.


michelle said...

p.s. I think there is a reason that we hear a lot about motherhood in the Church -- it's because God knows that it's hard and He knows that we need regular help to recenter on what matters most. Nothing matters more.

But that doesn't mean nothing else can matter to us as we are moms. And that, to me, is a tricky, tricky concept to engage without potentially swinging to one 'side' or the other.

michelle said...

Here's another post that made me think of you -- which really echoes a lot of what you are feeling, I think.


Laura@livingabigstory said...

Wow! Another amazing post! I actually have been having these thoughts a lot since the death of my mom a few months ago - who do I really want to be? I love how Steph said that mothering is also worship - I totally agree. For me I also have realized that much of my crisis right now stems from realizing that I still need to challenge myself as I did before I had children. So I'm trying to do a 40 before 40 -- 40 things I want to do before I turn 40 next year (EEK!). All of them are hard in some way for me because of fear (i.e., learning a new skill, displaying a talent, buying something that I really would like but have been afraid to buy). Since I made that list, I'm feeling *excited* again.

Long response -- but that's what has helped me....