Much Ado About Midlife
- Wednesday, October 31, 2001
I guess it was obvious that something was wrong. The books stacked high on the shelf above my bed hinted at the struggle: Questions Women Ask in Private; What Every Mom Needs; Pillow Talk: The Intimate Marriage From A to Z; The Guilt-Free Book for Pastors Wives; Working Women, Workable Lives. I may be crazy, I thought to myself, but at least Im resourceful. Unfortunately, the booksthough excellent in their own rightsdid nothing to quell the confusion that was ruining my life.
It started on my 35th birthday. I woke up and confronted myself in the mirror. Im 35 years old, I announced, squaring my shoulders. I have a husband, 2.3 children (okay, only two), I drive a station wagon, and I have a bob haircut. A moments pause and then: How in the world did I get here?! The face in the mirror shot back: Good question. How did a 21-year-old college graduate, ready to change the world, end up with a Kool-Aid mom hairdo? Its not that I really minded doing or being any of these things. I loved my husband. I adored my children. I even liked the station wagon. But something was wrong. Ever been there?
Im just having a bad day, I consoled myself. Thirty-five is, after all, a milestone. Plus, my husband had recently taken a new pastorate. Leaving our old church was traumatic. Once I had time to grieve, Id be okay. Id done it before. I could surely tap-dance my way through another transition.
This time, though, my tap shoes wouldnt budge. I was growing increasingly introspective, and the questions gnawed a little deeper. Who was I, really? It seemed almost selfish to ask. In any case, the question was easily answered: I was Jeffs wife; I was Jonathan and Emilys mother. But those things have more to do with roles and less with identity. Who was I? Then it hit me: Somewhere between here and theresomewhere between the enthusiastic college student and the sleep-derived housewifeI had lost myself.
My husband took me out to eat one night in the hopes of jarring me out of my midlife stupor. After dinner, I browsed through a Christian bookstore. I knew exactly what I was looking for. I knew it had to be there somewhere. Hidden behind the current best seller had to be a book entitled Youre 35, and Everyone Feels the Way You Do. Thats what I was hoping, at least. But no such book existed. My worst fear confirmed: Im 35, and NO ONE feels the way I do.
It was hard to explain to anyone what I was going through. Is it possible to get to a certain point in your life and feel the intense need to re-evaluate everything? How can you tell anyoneafter all, youre the pastors wifethat you are questioning your faith, the foundation of your spiritual life, or your marriage, the foundation of your ministry?
And what unfeeling ogre would ever question the blessing of motherhood? Is it possible to confess to someone that you feel unfulfilled because watching Barney doesnt fill the void that reading Shakespeare once did? Or how it makes you feel when the checkout boy calls you maam, and you know hes not just trying to be polite? Or what about the temptations to escape? Whom do you tell that your fantasy is to throw open the church doors and run screaming? Sure, I had gone through some changes. My children were getting older, less needy. My husband was now firmly established in ministry. But those were good things. I was supposed to be happy. Happy, happy, happy. Why then was I so miserable?
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