As I face 40 I am very aware of how ‘crisis’ could happen. I see the slippery mental and emotional slope that could lead to so much heartache.
After years of raising kids, work, taking care of a house and yard, solving problems, stress and worry, you realize the work of life has suffocated living life. All the dreams, all the ideas, and all the desires you put off until a better time have fallen prey to the bandits of urgent and necessary. You wake up to realize life has become at best…routine…and at worst…survival. You find yourself half-way through your life vacillating between panic and depression as to what it all means. The questions, the confusion, the restlessness, the frantic feelings of having failed at something even if you’re not sure what, are all enough to push you down the slope of this mid-life moment.
In my 39th year I’ve wrestled with all the triggers that could have sent me over the edge. The first half of 2016 would see me pushing hard to prove I contributed–I could make Unfinished Ministries valuable and justify the time I’ve spent investing in it. This frantic push to prove myself before turning 40 would smolder and burn out into depression. For the first time ever I found myself completely giving up the idea that I had any concept as to what I was supposed to be doing with my life. My Wrestling with Life series talks about this in more detail. Ultimately, ‘giving up’ was a good thing because it made me settle into the moment for a while.
Instead of letting the panic send me down the slope—grasping for a hand or foothold as I slid—I simply sat down. I pouted for a while, kicked at the dirt, pulled up the grass, and sighed the sighs of a hormonal teenage girl! Then I looked up and decided to slowly walk around the structure of my life.
As a real estate agent, I often walk through old houses seeing the work needed to make them livable again. A forty-year-old structure could need some serious work, like tearing down walls, treating for mold, and repairing foundations. Or it may only need remodeling—new paint, reorganization, a good cleaning and the clutter removed. The trick comes in knowing which category the house falls into. Some people start gutting houses that only need a good cleaning and an updated look, while others try using paint to shore up a crumbling foundation.
Looking at my 40-year-old structure I realized I needed a remodel. I didn’t need to move walls and the foundation was solid, but I could do with reorganizing my priorities, updating my perspectives, cleaning up my habits and removing the baggage. If I didn’t I would either sit in boredom and stagnate, like houses still decorated in ‘70s orange, or slide down the crisis slope crashing at the bottom.
As I’ve mentioned before I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, I choose a word and see where God takes it in my life. This year the word is ‘Re’ which basically means “again.” I chose it thinking re-define, re-create, re-discover, re-invent, re-affirm, and even rest. I hadn’t thought of re-model…but I think perhaps it is the best one of all.
How do I re-model my life and myself?
My marriage—after 19 years of being together we update how we interact with each other so we don’t grow bored. We take up a new shared hobby. We encourage each other to explore new dreams. We realize it’s about sharing life not just sharing the work. We remember to flirt with each other regardless of how much our children might cringe.
My parenting—as my children reach the last half, or less, of their growing up life, I update how I parent to accommodate a different set of needs. I try to ask more questions making them think instead of simply telling them what to do. I release control in small increments, and I let them make mistakes now so they learn before making much bigger ones later. I love that they need me…but now the task is for them to grow not to need me except as a safe place to occasionally rest from the storms of life.
Myself—I plan for life when mothering isn’t at the top of my task list and I take courageous steps to push myself out of my comfort zone so I remember there is still a lot of life left to be lived. “Faith adventures” is what my pastor calls them. The times when you’re waiting in life so you step out to try something new to see what happens. My theatre professor recently told me he’d like to see actor, director and playwright in my bio line someday…I don’t know if it will happen but I’m at least going to jump off the edge of my comfort zone and experience the adventure of trying.
I’m sure the remodeling will involve other elements but these are the color palettes I’m working with so far. I’m taking the remodel one day at a time. I’m don’t have much of a picture as to how it’s all going to look or turn out, which is part of the fun.
Instead of seeing only flat land ahead of me, I realize there are mountains left to climb and a remodel is necessary for the terrain. Facing 40 doesn’t seem to involve boredom or routine anymore!
Where are you in danger of sliding into crisis mode? Could you simply sit for a while?
Does the structure of your life need serious work or a remodel? What are some steps to take towards either?