“I know why men in their forties buy motorcycles and impractical cars,” I mumbled to myself on the eve of my birthday, as I slogged through my first Midwestern winter in a decade and a half. Seasonal Affective Disorder? Clinical Depression? Midlife crisis? This winter was dark. Cold. Sad. Disheartening. We all face such times regardless of geography. This was not the winter that I wanted.
Soon enough spring began to flirt with me, and I was re-enlivened; I needed to think of the upcoming year: would I buy the house I’m renting? Would I buy a different house? Would I live in a cardboard box? I did not know. I looked at houses with my realtor. The budget looked grim – unless I was to magically gain handyman skills and find the money tree, I was going to be chained to a hovel for the next thirty years at 4.2% interest.
I felt old. I looked forward and I felt older. I looked back and I regretted things that are not regrettable. I looked in the mirror and saw a sad woman.
I heard someone say recently that midlife is hard because it is too easy to look backwards in nostalgia rather than forward in planning. Truth. Children have grown and gone. Marriages have grown. Or gone. Or staled. Still, if I have 48 years more to live (thanks for good genetics, Grandpa Johnson and Grandma Rob!), then the hovel wasn’t looking too good.
We all reach impasses with ourselves, and we must reach inside and decide what we want to do with them. I was Eeyore – ask my sister. I was annoying – ask my friends. I ate and drank too much – ask HyVee. Perhaps the solution lay in buying that hovel and digging in my heels. Resignation was the featured dish this past winter, and I ate it lukewarm with a chipped spoon.
No, the solution was not to go backwards. What did I need with an old house, a yard, a leaky basement, and crippling mortgage? I needed a new condo with nice rooms, good paint, and space enough to live, sleep, and eat. And a budget to allow travel and well, a renaissance. Sounds better than midlife crisis, right? Renaissance.
Nineteen years ago I had a jolting rebirth. I left my then husband on the mission field and returned home with one suitcase and two small children. I had nothing. Thanks to the support of my family and my own strength of will, I reorganized and went forward. Since then, I have unwittingly embraced the idea that having the stuff of a household is security. And, although not a hoarder by any means, I have too much stuff. Too many belongings. This spring, it’s time to lose some weight.
I am losing the weight of old expectations to create intriguing adventures. I am losing the weight of unneeded stuff via Craigslist; I’ve sold an item a day. (People will buy anything!) I am losing the weight of the expectations of others; I will do what I want to do. It is time to challenge myself in new ways with interesting expeditions that I am creating. I don’t want to sit in my hovel and say, “It sure would be cool to…” yet never do that ellipsis thing. I’m not content to be an old woman staring sadly in the mirror.
What are you wanting to do? Now is the time. Get the house. Buy a goldfish. Sell your furniture. Have a child. Whatever is your thing now – do it. It may cliche to note that Thoreau wrote, ““The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” Well, not me. I’m about to lose the weight of insecurity and the extra furniture that goes with it to pursue my renaissance.
Every day begins a new year.