1.a situation or period in which things are very uncertain, difficult, or painful, especially a time when action
must be taken to avoid complete disaster or breakdown
2. a time when something very important for the future happens or is decided
3. a point in the course of a disease when the patient suddenly begins to get worse or better
When Bob first realized that what he was feeling was, in fact, a midlife crisis, he was annoyed and embarrassed. He was pissed off! "It's such a cliche!" he said. That's when I looked up the word "crisis." (We're both in our early 40's, so the "midlife" part was obvious.)
I especially like the first definition. Bob and I really do feel that we are in an uncertain and difficult, if not quite painful place. And I suppose that even if we aren't in "a time when action must be taken to avoid complete disaster or breakdown", for whatever reason, we're willing to risk quite a lot, and give up quite a lot, for a life that is, well... more life-affirming.
We laugh about how it would be better if Bob just got fired. It might be easier for people to relate. We could garner some sympathy even. There are so many questions that we just can't answer yet, like, "How will you make a living?" and "Where are you going?" or even, "Are you out of your minds?" Basic, reasonable questions like that. I've realized that people's reactions, both positive and negative, don't have anything to do with my family's journey, and everything to do with the life being led by the person standing in front of me. I've watched everything from complete dismay to excited envy to simple puzzlement pass across people's faces. Puzzlement gets me every time. My hairdresser is puzzled. She can't imagine chucking it all and traipsing off on a whim. She loves her life. She works from home, she's adored by her clientelle, she has her scrap booking club on Friday nights, and her son's hockey games on Sunday. She and her husband have a life they love living.
My personal favorite reaction so far is my dear friend Jeanie. Jeanie is an artist, and one of the few people I know who spends a great deal of time doing exactly what she wants to do. Jeanie, upon hearing that I am leaving for a year, put her fingers in her ears and started singing to drown out my words.
The truth is that my family is very fortunate, and strong, and we have a terrific life. We are very lucky people, and any complaining we do is selfish and self-centered. It is also true that, for the most part, one can choose to be happy and content exactly where and how they are. You don't need to chuck it all and head out for great adventure to be happy. Even as I write this, it seems simply ludicrous to do what we're doing. So why are we doing it?
My best stab at putting it into words is this: Bob and I have spent our adult lives living in the minutia, as most people do. I especially, as the home schooling mom of two small children, dwell in the daily details. The creative endeavors of my former life (musician and writer) regularly get lost in the shuffle of loads of laundry, grilled cheese sandwiches, and science class. Bob's work load leaves almost no time for his amazing ebb and flow of creativity, and, more importantly, leaves him emotionally and creatively bankrupt. We'd like to try for a more balanced life. We'd like to know what else might be possible. The kids need a dad 12 months a year, and I really like my husband! I miss him!
I know there will be laundry to do and lunch to be made anywhere we'll go, and I don't mind that at all. We're not trying to escape the minutia. Still, I think Bob and I feel the need to expand our vision of what is possible for ourselves and our children. We want a big change and a big challenge. Voluntarily becoming unemployed, homeless, and living off our life savings seems big enough.
The decision to leave in the next year has already made a difference in the decisions we make now, in ways I didn't see coming. I don't buy anything (except the crazy-good vintage coat on Ebay last Wednesday). My 10 year old breaks the cake plate, and that's one less thing to liquidate in 8 months. I cleaned out the summer clothes, and except for my beloved vintage finds, everything went straight to the closet for the church yard sale. Bob and I have started taking a writing class together. The kids and I are starting foreign language classes. We've got busineses with tiny wings barely flapping, that we're trying to help take flight.
It feels good. That's good, right?