The Making of a Mid-Life Crisis

I was thinking about things this past weekend while changing out my earrings for February and regretting the Coke I’d downed earlier with a huge bowl of nachos (no regrets on the nachos, thankyouverymuch). I used to abuse my body with alarming regularity before I got smart and realized exactly what was causing my skin problems (mostly corn syrup), and while my body was young enough to weather the abuse then, it’s older now, and less tolerant of poor choices.

But changing my earrings out – seven of them – for the season reminded me of the first time I had multiple piercings in my ears, between when I turned eighteen and could sign for such things myself, and my mid-twenties when I cut my hair off and decided the original seven piercings didn’t go with the new “do”, and looked too “out there” for the professional look I thought I needed back then. Or did need, rather. I was “homogenizing” myself, blending in with the workforce and trying not to draw attention to how I looked, so people would hopefully focus on what I said and did. I was young, and looked younger, and I was learning a lot and trying to prove myself in my job.

Yes, plenty of people choose to do that with visible tattoos, piercings, funky clothing and hair, etc. And more power to them, I say. But I don’t regret adopting a more conservative look and demeanor for myself during those years. It made things a lot easier on me, I think. With every small change I made, I noticed measurable differences in how people treated me. Wearing my hair up more often, then cutting it off. Dressing more professionally/less casual and wearing makeup resulted in a very noticable difference in how people responded to me when I was talking or trying to explain something. Those things made it easier for me to sort of “grow into” my job with less barriers due to my physical appearance – mostly with people outside my own department.

Adopting a fairly professional demeanor at work was a way of protecting myself too. My very first job as a teenager and on through college went about as you’d expect, with a lot of personal sharing among staff, and also a lot of backstabbing and personal vendettas that left a rather sour taste in my mouth. I was so tired of it all and hurt that people who had acted friendly toward me actually didn’t like me much at all that I was determined not to ever let something like that happen again. So I put up a wall – separation of work and personal life, and for the most part, I did that by adopting a professional demeanor that did its job well. Maybe a little too well, I’m realizing now. But at the time, it’s what I needed.

I’ve mentioned before (I think) that I stopped getting tattoos because my husband doesn’t particularly care for them. I was taught that wives are to be subservient to their husbands, and even though my own personality and feelings are somewhat different than that (*ahem*), it’s hard to leave all that ingrained teaching behind. I felt like subjugating my own wants and needs for those of my husband was just what a good wife does. Turns out, it’s a great way to lose yourself and become resentful of the limitations that you’ve placed on yourself (my husband never once even hinted that I should stop getting tattoos – it was all me).

What does all this have to do with a mid-life crisis? Basically, I spent years “toning myself down”, blending in, acting “normal”, and keeping a safe, professional distance from people. I kept my appearance neutral, my tone moderated (for the most part), and focused on doing whatever I could to…not be “liked”, really, but to be an “acceptable” person for people to be around. I kept the most real parts of myself to myself, hidden under layers of virtual “beige”, assuming that’s what I needed to do in order to be tolerated and get things done. And for awhile, I think it was (the real “me” is not always the easiest to be around – I am rather…quirky, to put it nicely).

The thing is, you can only do that for so long. Eventually it starts to wear on you, and you start thinking about how you used to be. And you question if that old “you” was the real you, or if the beige “you” is the real one, or if you’re not either of those things, but something else entirely. Did I make the right decisions? Did I marry the right person? Did I do the right thing staying in the job I have, or should I have looked for something better? What if I’d chosen a completely different life – would I be happier? Or would it be worse? Maybe the same, in a different way?

I was between thirty-five and forty when these questions and other unsettling thoughts started plaguing me. I thought I was too young for a mid-life crisis, until one day during the tail end of it, I came across a couple of articles that said women often experience one right in that general age-range. And the key thing for a lot of us is…we’re trying to figure out where we lost that piece of ourselves that’s missing. Often, the search for that starts back in the high school/college years.

This is long, and there’s quite a bit more to the story. So if you’re interested, stop by next week for another slice.

2017 in Review

Well now. That was kind of a bumpy year, wasn’t it? Mercifully, it seems like it flew right by, but man. I had such high hopes and…well…I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I’d hoped to.

I basically have three sections to my resolutions every year: Personal, Writing/Publishing, and Work. Out of all the items I had for those three sections, I accomplished exactly 1 item on each list. Like many others, I got caught up in watching politics, work was busy, writing was…moving forward, but it took most of the year to find a daily (nightly) “flow” again, and I ended up not publishing anything and slightly behind on my bookkeeping, though not as bad as in years past.

The three things I “accomplished” were really only partial accomplishments, but it’s something. In my personal resolutions list, one goal was to give myself a pedicure every week along with my manicure. This goal stems from the fact that my toenails grow insanely fast, and the bottom of my right foot is crazy dry, cracked, peeling, etc (so not nice). And I’m really not good at foot-care, which doesn’t help.

I don’t do a full pedicure every week because it takes forever, but I do soak, file and moisturize my feet every Saturday night now, which means I notice when the nails are too long and cut them before they can start causing problems. I’ve also started moisturizing them more often on other days, which means that while my right foot is still pretty messed up, it’s far better than it was. At least when I don’t pull strips out of the callus like I did last week (ouch).

The point being, I am taking better care of my feet, and the fact that this “better care” hasn’t solved the problem completely has led me to look at other potential issues, which will play into next year’s resolutions. Healing from the inside out, so to speak. But I’m also taking better care of myself in other ways, and much of that has stemmed from just focusing on better foot care.

As far as writing/publishing go, the one thing I actually sort-of accomplished was setting aside time for business-work: bookkeeping, promotion, site updates, etc. I haven’t been good about keeping up all year, but I did a heck of a lot better than in years past, and that will make doing my taxes next year less of a chore. I still need to work on refining this over the next year…a lot of things have changed with my schedule and what I want to accomplish in that area, so it’s a work in progress. But I feel like I did pretty well, considering the business work is my least-favorite part of writing/publishing.

I don’t post about work goals online, for obvious reasons, but I did accomplish one of two goals for last year, and I feel pretty good about that.

The other thing I did wasn’t even a goal, but it was the simplest and also hardest thing to accomplish, and it took me all year. I finally got back into the daily writing habit, and have been writing just about every weekday for the last several weeks. It took me *so long* to find habits and routines that would support that after losing the habit a couple years ago. But I’m back on track now, and it feels really good. Mentally stabilizing as well.

So, definite progress forward this year, and I’m actually quite looking forward to 2018. It’s gonna be a good year, methinks.

Monday, I’ll post my resolutions for the new year, and my plans for making them happen. Now it’s time to take down Christmas, restore my house to its normal state, and shovel about a ton of snow…