When people ask me lately how I'm doing, I tell them, in a light and joking tone – but in all seriousness – that I'm having a midlife crisis.
I'm told a midlife crisis should entail flashy distraction: an extramarital affair, a shiny new sports car. In my case, there are long bicycle rides, the most recent of which was undertaken alone on the Fourth of July, 100+ miles of winding Connecticut roads from my home to my mother's where I met up with family and friends and celebrated the holiday, old school. (Literally - we went to see fireworks at my old high school.) The whole day was a pleasure.
That's the thing about midlife crises, they aren't straight-out despair and depression. There is something vigorous in them, a reclaiming of life's joy, a new-found intolerance of years-long low-level misery.
As long as I'm exercising, or with loved ones, I'm fine.
The down part comes only after several hours alone, during my solitary work days. That's when I start to sink. For the past two months, I've felt downright miserable a good deal of the time.
On the bright side (I know this will sound strange) I'm doing a lot of crying.
What's bright about this? The stuff I'm crying about is stuff I have needed to cry about for years: childhood loneliness and disappointments, dashed hopes, all the miscarriages, the divorce, the fact that I felt so poorly about myself that a marriage to someone who I knew wasn't deep-down sure he wanted to be with me felt like the best I could expect out of life, that such a thing, not so long ago, actually felt like good luck.
It's hard work, all this crying. I often feel feverish beforehand, heachachy, and afraid. The tears come in heavy, sweaty, snotty, guttural sobs.
I'm not doing this alone. I have counseling partners (we trade time in counselor and client roles, sometimes on the phone, sometimes in-person, taking turns caring and listening and handing each other tissues, trusting that this emotional expression is the path to healing). Sometimes I cry with J~. After each round, I feel lighter, better.
I love this midlife crisis, actually. I love that I can no longer tolerate a dull, low-level misery, that I can no longer mask it with a trumped up enthusiasm for a long list of chores. I love the sense that old limitations are lifting away, that slowly, subtly, I'm moving my life to higher ground. I feel brave.
I also have new thoughts about pregnancy, and the not-yet resolved Babies or Not question. More on that soon...