I Planned to Have My Midlife Crisis With “Patience” and“Exuberance”
Instead, I got mourning, neck pain, a pandemic, and taking care of my dog.
When considering my upcoming midlife crisis, I planned to experience it with patience and exuberance. I was turning fifty and I was going to be patient with myself and my large pores, and my wizard-sleeve arms, and the extra fifteen pounds I never lost, and all the clothes draped over the ottoman in my closet, and the fact that I hate to cook, and that I have a bad neck because some nerve is pinched and I can’t turn my head to the left half the time.
I was going to exuberantly embrace it all.
Then I woke up and told my husband. “I’m in terrible pain,” and laid down on the bathroom floor. He looked at me and said, “Do we have to go the emergency room?” I said, “I’m seeing stars.” He said, “Go get in bed and put your feet up.”
He brought my two ibuprofen and a glass of water and fed me an apple-sauce cup. He spooned the apple sauce so quickly into my mouth that I started laughing. “Don’t laugh,” he said, “you’ll aspirate.” That’s how my husband talks when he is in doctor mode. But the ibuprofen did the trick with the pain, and the apple sauce settled my stomach, and, with my feet elevated, I fell asleep.
The next morning I woke up and went for an MRI. So much for exuberance and patience. More like pains in the neck and ibuprofen.
I never had an MRI before and it was scary. When the tech sent me into the tube, I yelled out, “Are you kidding?” He brought me back out and asked if I was claustrophobic. “Yes,” I said, “I wrote it on the form. I am very very very claustrophobic.” He said, “Let’s see how it goes.” And I agreed. When he offered me a blanket, I thought he said Valium and said, “I’ll take two.” Only when I was tucked beneath two thin cotton covers, did I realize he said blanket.
I laid there for twenty minutes hoping they would figure out what is wrong with my neck or nerve or vertebra or whatever fifty-year-old problem I’ve been having. I listened through yellow, foam earplugs to this weird banging in my ears. I kept my eyes shut the entire time. In my mind, I sang I’ve Been Working on the Railroad over and over again with each of my kids in the kitchen with me, as in: Eli’s in the kitchen with mommy. Eli’s in the kitchen I know, I know. Eli’s in the kitchen with mommy, strumming on the old banjo. I repeated the song four times with each one of my three children and the dog in the kitchen with me. Then I mind-sang The Circle Game and Hotel California and Free Falling and I shot the Sherriff until my MRI was finally finished.
I wanted my midlife crisis to be part of the divine order of my life: I was a kid, I grew up, got married, had kids, found myself, turned fifty, had my midlife crisis, etc., etc. It was all part of the narrative. My midlife crisis was going to be full of wisdom and grace and beauty. I looked forward to it like the way I looked forward to waking up on my sixteenth birthday. I looked out the window thinking there might be a brand-new car on the driveway with a giant red bow on top — like in the movies. When I looked outside my window on the morning of my sixteenth birthday, all I saw was my mom’s gray Honda Accord. Alas, my midlife crisis didn’t turn out the way I hoped.
Instead of having anything to do with patience or exuberance, my midlife crisis was mourning my mom who died during Covid quarantine, sitting home all day with my two teenagers and young adult whose whole lives were turned upside down by a global pandemic, consulting with my husband who was busy devising protocols for his office so he could safely see patients, and taking care of my dog who had a large growth removed from his stomach. I was in public-health mode and mom mode and wife mode and nurse mode and grieving daughter mode.
I did not get to exuberantly and patiently have the midlife breakdown I was looking forward to. But I have a feeling it’s not too late.