Picture courtesy of Google Images
BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL
Sports car, sir? Tattoo, ma’am?
These are typical signs – among other things — of what’s come to be known as the midlife crisis, a term first coined by psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques. He was referring to a critical phase in human development during one’s forties to early sixties, based on periods of transition like an empty nest, menopause, and boredom/dissatisfaction with a job one has been doing for decades. We’ve been told that other triggers are when parents or friends begin passing away, or we become grandparents. People start to feel their own mortality closing in and, well, vroom vroom – someone’s got a silver Porsche to match their silver hair.
Now it seems things like this are just acquisitions mature people want to cross off their bucket lists, not the products of a “crisis”, which according to a New York Post article, does not exist. In fact, the story cited that the “Up, Not Down” study by Canadian researchers found that middle agers are happier.
I am not only relieved, but am beginning to see how this would be the case.
Although I remember fondly the excitement of beginning my career, the “beat the system” feeling of going to Happy Hour for a glass of wine with all the free chicken wings I could eat (and calling it dinner), and the freedom of a first apartment, which although microscopic, was mine and mine alone; I also recall the downside.
There was the stress of being low woman on the totem pole, buying a new sweater, then having to account for the money by calling a Diet Pepsi my lunch for a week, and living with the day-to-day anxiety of not knowing whether the future would bring the big job, man, and children I was hoping for.
Even though half my life is behind me now, I still feel there is much to look forward to, like alone time with my husband Neil that lapsed for years thanks to weekends devoted to Little League-thru-travel team games for our son Luke, and lessons in ice skating, gymnastics, acting and a bout on a rowing team for our daughter Meg.
With Luke, 21, in college on his way to becoming an engineer, and Meg, 18, going into college, I also have more time to myself during the week, since I no longer have to volunteer at their schools, attend field trips, shuttle them to the aforementioned activities, and go to parent/teacher conferences. This gives me more opportunities to do freelance and make more money.
Speaking of which, we’re starting to see a little more dough in the checking account at the end of the month anyway. Luke’s summer and school year jobs have taken a load off the allowance gravy train. I anticipate the same with Meg.
Tensions with my own mother have subsided over the past five or so years as well. She and I have been battling since I was thirteen, when we lived in the Bronx. Pick a topic; we could and have argued over it. But my tough as nails Italian mother is now ninety-three, and no longer up for a fight. The calm, from no longer functioning as The Bickersons, has had a positive effect. I don’t find myself swigging Mylanta from the bottle.
I am old enough (and realistic enough) to know that none of this means the future will be lived on Easy Street at the intersection of No Prob Avenue. Some struggle will always be real.
I’m sure it will be hard to watch from the sidelines as Luke and Meg maneuver young adulthood with the Sex and the City trials of relationships as well as the aggravations that make any office seem like The Office.
And even though Neil and I have been married for twenty-seven of the thirty-four years we’ve known each other, on some level we’ll have to get to learn to exist again as just we two, who are the same, yet different, people we were when we were twenty-two.
But I think I can handle it, now that I know I won’t be operating in “crisis” mode.