Spa Ha Moment: In the Bleak Midlife Conjuncture
I am thirty-nine years old today.
I am having a genuine, certifiable, diagnosis-able, mid-life crisis. This feels about right as I've hit all of my life transitions unseasonably early. But anyway, in a sporadic way, I want to write about what this all feels like in the moment.
My thoughts are often consumed about the purpose of life. And most days I come to the conclusion that I get to choose the purpose of my life, which may seem obvious but it's complicated given my background.
I've taken to reading all I can about Native American practices. Currently we're reading a book (Steams to the River, River to the Sea) to the kids about Sacajawea and her trip with Lewis and Clark to the pacific ocean (or the Lake that Stinks). Along the way we're learning a lot about racism, sexism, human trafficking, and the practices of the First Nation people. These are subjects I want my kids to understand. I have this curiosity about the people who lived in Beringia about 20,000 years ago--the survivors of the ice age and ancestors of the Native American people. Why? Because I am interested in studying human survival. Not just physical, but spiritual survival.
And for that reason, I think about tardigrades with almost the same energy. And extremophiles. Is this getting weird? I know. My midlife crisis manifests itself in obsessions with microorganisms instead of sports cars and infidelity.
When Christopher and I pop in the hot tub at night I look up at the stars and often feel upset about how little I know about this experience I am having. I think about how I will likely die knowing so little about the earth and the stars and sand and the moon. I want to be aware of the physicality of this place I am living in but my mind grasps science slowly and I get sort of anal about information.
I have a real fear of death. I've always felt my comfort with passing was a spiritual gift. I've always been confident about it. But it's like I've come to an awakening and now I search for something in death that resonates. I remind myself all the time that no one knows with surety what happens when we die because we haven't died. Some have had near-death experiences, but the truth is: if you're walking around today it means you're not dead. See how that works?
This probably sounds like such a distant belief system from the one I have written about all these years on my blog. It is different. I didn't ask for a sweeping repeal of all I believed in, it just happened to me. It's like my projected life and my belief system had this coming all along. We unzipped like a coat jacket and now there's a gulf between us. I can see it on the other side, but it seems like a dream I had once, which I have fond feelings for, but don't desire to go back.
Some call this a crisis. It feels like that. Some call it a transition. It feels like that too. Some call this an awakening. I think that's right.
Here's the hardest part for me, and something I have only understood since yesterday while meeting with my dietitian. This crisis has also been a discovery of how deeply flawed I am. I used to walk around with a sense of self-importance--like I was a gift to humanity. And you know, we're all gifts to humanity, but I've lost the idea that I was the most important gift, or one of the most important. Life was a lot easier when I felt that way, to be honest. It hurts to see how much this belief buoyed me up and losing it has lead to great body hatred. Like, if I were to change my body I could get back to being an important person.
I get that this is not my fault. And it's quite common. We shed layers of consciousness all the time--if we're doing human right. But when you are raised by a society that constantly teaches you that all of your problems stem from your imperfect body and that by fixing your body you fix your problems you become a thirty-nine year-old who experiences some serious disconnect upon discovering how untrue that whole idea is. And even though my reaction to stress, discomfort and pain is to stop eating all together (I am an emotional under-eater, not an over-eater) nothing changes regardless of food intake. And dieting only makes us heavier--emotionally and physically.
So I am shedding the pounds of patriarchy instead of pounds of fat. And it's hard. But it's good.
Last of all: the joy of my life still remains discovery. It's afternoons in the desert or mountains with my children and my good husband. It's getting lost in museums or thoughts, highways, historical markers, geography, maps, conversations, and in the stars at night in the hot tub. It's discovering new ways to love. New ways to be loved. It's the discovery of art and friends. The exploration of relationships and families. It's discovering boundaries (BOUNDARIES I LOVE YOU SO MUCH).
And when I do remember to choose it, the purpose of life is discovery.
Regardless how wide the chasm of my belief, it's always been about that.
*Photo cred: Justin Hackworth