The last few years of mine were a roller coaster of disaster. A trail of tears. A series of unfortunate events. I was referring to it as my ‘midlife crisis’, but my brother in law kept asking when that term expires. He said I have used it too many times now and that surely a midlife crisis can’t go on for three years, let alone indefinitely? I suppose he is right. So what do I call it? How do I define the moments, the changes, the decisions and the shifts?
Author Brene Brown calls the pivotal moments in her life her “Breakdown/Spiritual Awakening”, and for that I love her. Writer Jeff Brown calls them Breakthroughs and not Breakdowns and I am so digging the sound of that.
So do I have a catchy name for mine? Was it a breakdown? Or a spiritual awaking? A midlife crisis? Or all three? Was it ‘overprocessing’ as my therapist called it? Classic Co-Dependancy gone very, very wrong?by Brian Abbott
Call it what you will. I don’t have a definitive name for it at this point. I just know that when you get lost as an adult, there is no loudspeaker to call your name, to redirect you, to make sure you find your way home. There is no one to call to come get you, no one that yells ‘Hey you, you’re going the wrong way!” There is no customer service counter at the front of the store that gently takes your hand and says ‘little girl, are you lost?’ You have to figure it out for yourself, you have to make your mistakes, second guess yourself, and live with it. And that is hard. The paths we choose sometimes don’t make sense, or make sense at the time, but now…now how do you explain them? How do you not end up in this strange unrecognizable place, with your friends and family staring at you with that look in their eyes-THAT look. That look that says a million things all at once and none of them is what you need to hear.
I got lost slowly, a few missteps here, a wander off the path there, a trip, a fall, and then I turned around and my life was SO different. It was so far from where I thought I was headed, and looked nothing like what I thought I wanted. I remember vacillating between feeling strong and sure, and so very out of control. Whose life was this? Not mine. It can’t be. ‘Stop the train I want to get off! ‘ And other days it was-‘I got this shit, I don’t need your help. Fuck you! Gimme another cup of coffee and an extra Adderall and I will own this like a boss! ‘
But there I was standing in the middle of this MESS and the more I tried to control it and fix it, the bigger the mess got. And the minute I cleaned one mess up, another bloomed in its place.
It’s not a simple thing, stopping the train, which by now is lovingly called the crazy train in my house. Cue the sinister Ozzy Osbourne laugh…. It is by far the bravest move you will ever make, but sometimes you have to do it. Extend your shaky hand toward the red handle. Do not make eye contact with other passengers. Do not listen to anyone around you, but focus on that quiet place in your belly that is shrinking day by day. Focus right there, because if that disappears, you are screwed. That is intuition. That is your truth. And if you stop listening to that, you have lost who you are. Feel the cool metal handle and wrap your fingers around it. Yes, it is very comforting. Wrap your fingers around it firmly, take hold of it and realize that it is symbolic of you taking hold of YOUR LIFE, and pull. Pull like your life depends on it, because right now, it does.
I grabbed the red handle, and I am better for it. That crazy train screeched to a spectacular stop with sparks and noise and while everyone was looking around in amazement and confusion at what I was doing-I jumped off. And those people shouting at me not to, telling me that I was wrong? Looking at me with those eyes? I left them on that train. Let them take it all the way to the end. Have you ever really looked at a passenger on a train? They look drained, exhausted, defeated and sapped of all they once were or wanted to be. That is not for me. They can have that ride.
Photo by Brian Abbott
Do these people look happy to you?? Um, no.
For now, I am choosing to wander through the paths of my life. I am choosing to stop and breathe and explore and experience my life. I choose to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning alone, a glass of wine on my porch with my friends, a two minute snuggle with my youngest, a fleeting moment of closeness with my teen, and a peace I cannot describe with my husband. There was no train stopping at all of those places.
So what do I call it now? Breakdown sounds awful, and in so many ways it was. Spiritual Awakening sounds so new age-yet it was that too-an awakening deep down in my soul. Breakthrough, yes absolutely but that sounds like a brief moment, an explosion of clarity, and that it was not. I don’t think there is one term to describe it. And while I cannot say I am grateful for everything that happened, because let’s be honest, a lot of it SUCKED, I am grateful to be here now, sipping my coffee, sitting in the sun at my desk doing exactly this.