I'll be forty-five in a couple of months, and as the days and weeks inch closer to my birthday, I feel a deep, significant shift taking place. The undercurrents have been there for at least a year, but I feel it more strongly as the season's changed. Leah's moving out again, and Daniel is gearing up for graduation in less than a year and is moving towards his own independence.
Emotionally, I feel great—and how could I not with such a terrific partner? In love, I couldn't ask for more; in fact, I feel almost guilty for how fortunate I am. But even with my most fundamental needs met, I feel mentally and creatively restless.
I'm thinking about going back to school, but I'm not sure for what exactly. I know I need more education, though. I want to power up. I'm not sure what that means precisely. When I consider education, I want to stoke what lights a fire in my belly, soak up knowledge, expand my understanding, and then go out into the world and apply it. The best I can come up with, in terms of defining that direction, are the words community, social justice, and clear communication. Editing is a part of that, and so is having some expertise in self-publishing, but I want—need—more of a challenge, more diversity, more accomplishment.
I want to be excellent. I want to be a leader, an authority on the things I'm good at. I believe in the importance of beginner's mind, but vocationally, I don't want to be entry-level anything—unless I know that it's going to equip me quickly to be a leader.
I'm also thinking about the relationships I have with my husband, my children, my friends, and other people with whom I collaborate both professionally and creatively. I want to use Facebook less and see people in person more. I'm attracted to different kinds of people than I was ten, twenty, thirty years ago. Charisma, style, and flamboyance intrigues me far less than it used to; intelligence, compassion, and mindfulness draws me far more.
At the same time, I'm letting myself do things I've been afraid to do in the past—specifically, burlesque classes, which has turned out to be far more therapeutic than I expected. And I'm growing more comfortable with apparent contradictions: right before my burlesque class, I attend a Zen sit as part of my burgeoning meditation practice.
I want to dance more, move more, write more, read more, and be quiet more. I want to learn how to take good pictures with a good camera. I want to take all the experience I've had up until now and hone it into something excellent, something that makes a difference to others and will leave its mark after I'm gone.
I'm sorting and purging the things that I've lugged around for a long time. It's not easy, because I'm attached to those things and I tend to think of them as part of my identity. Lifelong habits are hard to break; old wounds get picked until nothing's left but scar tissue; weight clings to my body because I put food in my mouth instead of letting myself sit quietly with my free-floating anxiety and remnants of grief.
At almost forty-five, I'm teetering somewhere between stumbling and moving forward. Perhaps that arc of falling could be considered momentum, even if it's a bit clumsy. Mid-life: not a crisis, but definitely a milestone.