A week from Saturday, I turn 49 years old. One kid is already off to college and the second is close behind. I did a major reset of my professional life and my husband will be spending much of this coming year traveling. So it is just me and my dog. Our big old house is quiet.
For the past few years, I have been pondering my life and what it is supposed to be about. For 20 years, it has been about family, children, teenagers, driver’s licenses, boyfriends/girlfriends, midterms, college applications, yada yada yada. And now the children are leaving, my parents are struggling with age and health (mental and physical) and I am here. Midlife. And for our generation (the forgotten one), midlife sucks. I often wonder what other people my age are feeling. More specifically, what women my age are feeling. About this spot in life. Do they feel this way?
So. Many. Questions. Is this lonely feeling, I have a lot of the time, normal? Do other women my age feel this way? Why is there a hole in my heart the size of Texas? Will I get through midlife? Why am I so tired? Why do I feel crazy? Why do I feel lonely? Why do I feel unfulfilled? Why do I feel resentment towards my husband? Do I still love him? What will we do once the children are gone? Should I miss the children this much? Do I need to be this involved in their lives? Should I be more involved? Why am I a helicopter mom? Do I really need to know where my husband and children are 24/7? Why don’t I have anything to look forward to? Maybe I need a hobby? Is there something I can do to get out of this funk? Maybe it is the time of year? Winter in Wisconsin? Why don’t I have any gumption or drive to do anything? Would it matter if I were no longer here?
The answer is midlife.
As I roam around facebook/instagram, I see people struggling with the strange milestones of midlife: trying to figure out how to raise decent humans, losing or struggling to care for elderly parents, sending kids off to college, getting divorced, the empty nest, quitting stable jobs, deciding they are gay, leaving a former life. Yet social media makes these major struggles feel two-dimensionally flat, nonchalant, or just a matter-of-fact. Strange, because anyone who is personally going through any of this, would describe it as anything, but nonchalant!
Midlife (crisis or no crisis) is not two-dimensional, it is not nonchalant. It is VERY difficult and it is here. And I’m not loving it. And we need to start talking about it (not on facebook).
For the past three years or so I have felt unsettled. Not myself. Lonely and sad. The weight of the world sits on my shoulders, as I sit here in my old empty house (needing repairs that I can’t afford). I think about the sleepless nights, unnecessary worries, my dysfunctional family, my job, the budget, retirement (that I won’t be able to afford), our adult children, our elderly parents, and … the hot flashes. Oh yes, the hot flashes.
Yep, menopause. I believe it IS god’s sick joke to put women in the midst of perimenopause/menopause just as midlife hits. No stress here … The Bermuda Triangle? Interesting plot twist? Check mate? One of those fantastically inevitable parts of midlife for women (plus or minus five – 10 years) – a major obstacle to navigate while trying to get through this time in our lives. And with menopause, every woman is different. I have friends 51 years old with no symptoms, and friends, five to eight years younger experiencing full-fledged menopause. We are all different, and I am sad to say, midlife is here, the children ARE leaving, the parents are dying, and somehow, we have to get through it, and to top it all off, as crazy, hormonally imbalanced aliens of menopause.
I’ve realized our generation of women were raised to not make it a big deal of these things. To pass it off and just accept it. Struggle in silence. Nope. Not me. I can’t, and I hope it helps you to know, you are not alone. I am struggling, too. Matter of fact, while I was talking to an old friend on the phone, I was telling her about my disposition these days, and she said something that finally made me feel normal: “I’m feeling this way, too,” she said. Could this be? Are other women my age feeling the same, hormonally imbalance, rollercoaster of emotions and obstacles in this stage of life? Questioning all of the things? Children, parents, marriage, location, what’s next? Who am I?
My friend and I talked about some of the things that could help us both (and maybe help you) get through these emotions and obstacles:
- Rely on your friends
- Admit to the struggles
- Have an outing/plan a get-away
- Don’t make any rash decisions
- Eat right
- Find a new hobby
- Get fresh air
- See a therapist
- Be honest/real
- Remember, this is normal and many are feeling it.
My friend also found a book that literally hits the nail on the head called Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis by Ada Calhoun that blankets me with comfort (albeit cool … hot flash) while in this stage of life. If you are part of the forgotten generation of women in the throws of midlife questions, this might help. You are not forgotten. Your feelings are real. Others are feeling the same. We can get through this together.