I’ve just read an article from the Telegraph, no less, about the classic signs of having a mid-life crisis, all forty of them (signs, not crises). I can relate to just two; worse hangovers that last longer and dreading calls at unexpected times from your parents (fearing the worst).
I’m not one for revealing intimate details of my life, but with a recent occurrence (and eye-opener) for me, I wanted to share my experience with MAE (MAE – Middle-Aged Existence is my term for a baby mid-life crisis) and hopefully this will help others.
I’ve been feeling a bit wobbly for some time and not because I’ve eaten too much chocolate recently (even though I have). I’m lost while knowing where I am. With exciting events occurring in my life, I should feel happier, more content, at ease. However, I’m trying to balance a million different emotions, I feel itchy, uncomfortable and some of the time, incredibly sad. The uncomfortable feelings are like having a really intense itch under your skin, so much so that it almost hurts and I can’t ease it in any way. The depth of sadness is an emotion I rarely encounter.
Controlling my emotions is like trying to control ripples. Life is like ripples, events in your life, one after another relentlessly running away; you can’t stop them, you can’t grip them. It’s also like time, there’s no way to slow it down.
I thought it all stemmed from leaving behind our five beautiful boys, our horses who we’ve bonded with fiercely on a recent adventure together. When we left Australia I felt like I was going through a bereavement. I still can’t think about them without becoming teary as I miss them so much. Visiting my family after six years was exciting, but I felt indifferent about going to England – just what was going on? None of it makes sense.
Noel has been fantastic through all this, especially during the last two weeks of living in a rather tiny campervan with an emotional wife. He has actually saved my life – again. He has already saved it once when I suffered a true bereavement and at a time when I didn’t much like this world any more.
The other night, we were sitting have a beer and talking about stuff. We like nattering, after 16 years of marriage; we still find plenty to talk about. The subject turned to my emotions, a friend’s dog had recently been put down and the subject of horses came up again, and there I was crying – again.
After saying (for the umpteenth time), ‘what’s wrong with me, I have to toughen up.’ Noel said, ‘Your 43, you are coming to terms with your mortality.’
‘Just brilliant! I’m having a mid-life crisis!’ I sobbed.
Noel laughs at this point. So do I. It’s not a sane laugh from me, rather a slightly-boarding mad guffaw. Noel laughs, not through spite but to help me, to ease the tension.
‘You have to be gentle with yourself; don’t make any big decisions at the moment.’
‘What, like buying land in Australia and buying a boat in Holland,’ says I, because that is exactly what we are right in the middle of!
We laugh again. I cry again, but this time with relief. I now know what is wrong with me. I am an emotional person and extremely sensitive. However, I am strong, tough and tenacious too. These intense emotions are way over the top and a little crippling.
Noel tells me he experienced something similar when he was in his forties. ‘Then you came along, you saved my life, I’m here to do the same for you.’ This all sounds a bit melodramatic, but it also rings true. It makes sense. And this was our exact conversation. He adds, ‘these emotions can be dangerous if handled wrongly.’ This was a sobering thought.
Now, my twisted gut feels slightly smoother, my fingers tingle as if something tense is flowing out, away from me. I feel lighter. I tell Noel this and he laughs, ‘whatever you’re drinking, I’ll have some.’
The following day I still feel better. My emotions are still shot, but I know WHY, I know it will end. I’ve read that a mid-life crisis can hang around for years(!), I am hoping my baby version, MAE, skips town a bit sooner than that. I am just lucky (and incredibly grateful) I have Noel to carry me through.
As a complete non-expert, here’s some tips that work for me:
• Find yourself a friend who becomes your light.
• Turn towards light, step away from the darkness in every aspect of your life.
• Remember it’s like being in a storm at sea, you can’t do anything about it, you just have to ride it out. But you know it will end and you will get through it.
• Remember to be kind to yourself.
• Help yourself. If there’s an emergency on a plane, you help yourself first by putting on the oxygen mask BEFORE you help others – that is what you have to do now.
• Be a little selfish, but not greedy.
• You have to love you.
. . . . oh, and there is a possible boat on the horizon . . . details to follow