I guess I've always believed our culture's story about The Mid-Life Crisis.
It mostly happens to men in their forties and fifties, and one day, he takes a look at his suburban home and milquetoast wife and utterly predictable children, and he just snaps. He trades in his numbingly practical sedan for a lipstick red sports car, dumps his wife and kids, and leaves them in a cloud of dust, requisite hot blonde buckled in the passenger seat next to him.
Driving off to what?
A fresh start?
A chance to relive his youth?
A life that matters?
A life that matters.
All summer long, I've been strumming that phrase over and over in my mind, a song I can't shake, an earworm of the soul.
Probably it's because I turned thirty-seven in June, and being middle aged has never felt so heavy a label to bear.
Probably it's because it's not longer just the parents of my friends who are receiving the scary diagnoses like heart disease or cancer, it's the siblings of my friends, and my friends themselves.
Probably it's because when Kyle's nearing-one-hundred-year-old grandmother comes to visit, I can't stop thinking about her life and all the things she's done and made for people in her life. I think about the tangible work of her hands. I snuggle my children under one of her quilts and think about what it means to have a legacy that can be touched and held onto and treasured.
I wonder about spending eight years of my life doing work online, and I feel hopeless as I consider how temporary this realm surely is. Is this it? Is this a life that matters?
And yes, there it is. That's the thread of the sweater that invites me to unravel. A not-really crisis that feels like a slow untangling. That's been the story of this summer. I've been thisclose to pulling one or both of the girls out of school to educate them at home, convinced that at least I would have something to show for my days. I've been thisclose to quietly closing it all down - the blog, the social media, all of it - to indulge in a life with no Publish button and no deadlines.
* * * * *
On Sunday afternoon, I told Kyle that I think this must be what a midlife crisis feels like. No, I don't want to ditch my minivan for a Corvette (no really, I don't! I love my minivan!), but I can't figure out if I am living a life that matters.
Having I been living life wrong all along? And is that question where the Midlife Crisis Trope was born? Is that why the middle aged man gets in his sports car and speeds away, to chase down the right way to live a life that matters? Is that the only way to get there, by abandoning all you've already done?
* * * * *
I keep thinking about the talk from Easter Morning at our church. That was months ago, but I get out my notes and re-read them, and every time, it thrills my soul. "A Culture of Resurrection." Our pastor sent us into Eastertide with that charge, creating a culture of resurrection, "a colony of heaven in a country of death," as Eugene Peterson wrote.
And I want that, you know? I WANT THAT. Ever slowly but with insistence, the drumbeat of the Lord's Prayer has been filling my ears, drowning out my questions about my own life and legacy and turning the volume up on Christ's invitation for Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. But what does that even look like for a middle aged woman at home in the city with her family?
I go back to my notes and look at what our pastor said marks a life of resurrection living:
I read through that list and I just want to laugh-cry. Every single thing I want my life to be about is right there. I didn't even have to track down a sports car or a busty blonde to find it. And the best part is, it's an answer that's bigger than whether or not what I'm doing with my life matters. I mean, it does. It totally does. But only as much as I am surrendering to the community of Kingdom living.
* * * * *
It's been quiet here this summer, not only because I've been enjoying the time with my family, but also because when I get too much in my head, I tend to go under. I've been trying to think of a cool way to say all of this, but as it turns out, I'm never gonna be the person who can craft these thoughts into slick personal essays that publishers want to scoop up and publish. As it turns out, I'm still just the barefooted hick that only knows how to word-vomit her ramblings. So here we are.
This summer has been slow and gentle, the perfect conditions for ruminating. On this end of my not-really crisis, I can see with clarity that the time for thinking is over. The time is here to, as Rainer Maria Rilke so famously wrote, "live the questions." Thanks for keeping me company while I do that very thing.
* * * * *
(If this all sounds painfully familiar, it's because I've been wrestling down these questions for, oh, about four years now. Learning. I'm doing it wrong.)