I have never liked the term ‘midlife crisis.’ Blame it on sitcoms in the 80s and 90s, but whenever I hear the term I think of men having affairs with women half their age and women getting plastic surgery leaving them unrecognizable to family and friends. When in fact, it’s a rather common occurrence when one reaches middle age. I turned 40 in 2018 and in the months leading up to it, I waffled between sheer apathy and utter dread. On one hand, things were still swimming along and I was healthy and content with life but on the other hand, I feared being perceived as old and being less relevant and, well, cool. The fine lines around my eyes my forehead weren’t too encouraging either.
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age.” What the dictionary doesn’t define is whether it just spontaneously happens, or if it’s something that erupts inside of you. Like some time bomb that decides to detonate just as you cross the threshold of 40. How it played out for me, was that external circumstances made me question who I was and it just happened to occur as I entered ‘early middle age.’
The end of 2018 and the whole of 2019 will go down in my personal history as the most difficult season I’ve ever walked through in my life (and for those counting, I’m 41). My dear husband and I experienced a collapse of about six layers of our lives, one after another. Like tiers of scaffolding buckling one after another. It started with his career and sense of self-worth, then a personal-conflict-gone-awry resulting in loss of friendships and trust, which then led to our departure from a church community we had been so involved in, then a devastating diagnosis for my mother, the realization that my parents could no longer live alone and thus thrusting my sister and me into the position of making crucial decisions about where and how they would live and managing their property and assets, and my own personal health scare, that thankfully, turned out to be a false positive. But having to walk through the diagnostic tests to get to that conclusion, along with everything else that had fallen apart around us, was difficult and placed me in the most surrendered posture I had ever been in.
The dust finally settled in the last weeks of 2019. I could not wait for the new year. Our family entered into so many new things and 2020 was welcome because the dust hadn’t just settled, we’ve even been able to sweep much of it away. But of course, as you well know, 2020 turned out to be a series of events no one could have imagined. We now can add a global pandemic, sheltering in at home for months on end and transitions to distance learning and working-from-home, a boiling over point of race relations in the US, a tenuous upcoming election and most recently, a devastating explosion taking the lives of hundreds in Beirut, Lebanon. So much more to grieve and learn...
So I’m in Act II of the story of my life. The first act was great, I tell you. I grew up loved and pretty well cared for, I married my best friend, we cultivated two great careers and birthed two amazing little girls that we have the privilege of raising. We grew our faith and ventured and risked and celebrated our victories and comforted each other in our defeats. Act I ended much like a drama-thriller with suspense every few minutes and lots of tears, no doubt. But, there’s more. We’re not dead yet and so that means God isn’t done with us and we’re smiling again. Life is still hard—if you know me well, I am not one to sugarcoat. Change is hard and we are constantly moving into new and uncomfortable things. But if there’s anything that the end of Act I taught us, is that we can hold the hand of our Creator and keep moving forward.
Now, why am I sharing all of this with you? Because I think…no, I know these things happened for many reasons. Some I can see and recognize…others I may not know on this side of heaven. But I also know that I’m not meant to keep this to myself. You may be entering your second act, too. Or you will. I am all about sharing our stories. A sweet, wise friend of mine once told me that when you share your story with others with vulnerability, you open the door for someone else feel relief and say, you too? I thought I was the only one.
In the sharing of my stories, I hope you’ll find some comfort or relief, or that it’ll allow you to think about some things. Maybe grab a friend for coffee (even if it's over a video conference) to talk about stuff. Honestly, I don’t know how it’ll pan out. I’m just trying to act out in obedience and am trusting in the Lord to do the rest. So here’s the curtain call, let’s take our places. Intermission is over. House lights are dimmed. The second act begins.