She arrived late to the competition. It wasn’t intentional. Or perhaps on some level it was. The last battle was long and wearisome and had taken its toll. The scars she had were not by her hand, though she took them on without complaint. That was part of the rules, was it not? But after the 25-year battle, she hid, healing the wounds with salve given to her by the Earth, ensuring others wouldn’t be infected. But she was ready, knowing what she offered was valuable.
Her eyes, though battle worn, were intent and aware as she surveyed the gathering of competitors. She cringed at the sudden feeling of inadequacy. How could she possibly compete? She watched the leaders selectively sift through the crowd, letting strands of hair fall through their fingers, cupping faces more youthful than hers against their palms. The young ones were eager, wide-eyed, optimistic, less willing to cast doubt or question their leaders. They were desperate to blindly follow, compromise their values, and become something they were not, in order to serve them.
Oh, she had made that mistake so very long ago. Never again. Perhaps that was her downfall, her own boundaries getting in the way.
But she couldn’t deny the shift that was palpable in every fiber of her soul. The confidence she had in battle now whittled down to nothing as, one by one, the leaders passed her over. What could they possibly want with a veteran who saw life through narrowed eyes? They looked for trainability, not one so set in her ways. The sudden rejection left her vulnerable and weak, her ego judging her worthiness based on their approval.
It occurred to her that though her body was strong and her mind stronger yet, the young ones were skilled in ways she was not, for while she led her own battle, she’d neglected skills she rarely used, and those had eventually withered away. She argued that she had different skills, stronger skills, life skills, skills the newcomers had yet to discover. She held up the weapons that were well-honed, time-proven, and sharpened with age and wisdom. She insisted that her youth was a shadow behind her maturity and calm, and that she could fight alongside them.
But none of that mattered.
Was that punishment for the years that she refused to back down?
She stepped away from the crowd, her spine straight and jaw set. She fought against the tears that spilled from her heart as she saw her future denied by virtue of her past. It occurred to her that she had her place, but it was no longer on the front line. Times had changed, and she along with it. But she had no idea.
Until now…. until it was almost too late.
Perhaps that’s true, but the tears still flow – for joy, for fear, for sadness, for guilt – and it all stems from breaking out of my comfort zone, headed toward new paths, leaving behind that which I knew so well. The urge to go back is strong at times. Some days I feel like I’m in over my head, swimming in unfamiliar waters. It can be scary at times and exhilarating at others.
This journey that started a few months ago has been an odd mix of freedom and bondage. I’ve had the freedom to pursue goals in Los Angeles with the determination of a locomotive, yet a part of me is still tied to old habits and beliefs I embraced in Idaho. If you can imagine that one… yeah, I’m feeling like an emotional Gumby being pulled apart.
I ain’t gonna lie. It hurts terribly to be apart from my boys. This time away from them stretches my emotional boundaries farther than I ever thought possible. Those days when my boys text me “I miss you :(” are the hardest on my heart. I battle the “being there now” versus the “paving the road for a better parent, a better me, a better future for us all.” But the same guilt that causes me to pause and question my reasoning is the same guilt that motivates me to push forward. It’s a guilt that won’t let me stop until I fulfill the promises I’ve made. And quickly.
~“Strong is what happens when you run out of weak.” ~
I’m much stronger now, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The softer edges have once again sharpened, but in a different way. I’m decisive and quick to rid myself of that which doesn’t serve me anymore. Every moment is motion forward. And when the time is right for my boys, they’ll walk beside me, albeit on their path, and hopefully I’ll have done one or two things that they can learn from.
Besides… I can’t turn back, because I know too much. I know I have focus. I know I have perseverance. I know I won’t cave under pressure. I know that by stepping out of my comfort zone, I’m expanding the boundaries exponentially. I know “fear” is no longer a part of my vocabulary. I know I can step into the thick of things and figure it out. I know what I’m capable of by the progress I’ve made and the people I’ve met. I’ve seen the true me. It’s the me I want to show my boys. It’s the me I want to show the world.
Hang on, because the ride is far from over…
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I was explaining to my son exactly why I went on a vacation to California, leaving him and his older brother in the care of their father.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. You’re going through a mid-life crisis.”
I spun around so quickly, I think I scared him. The only reason why my youngest boy didn’t receive my full wrath after that remark was because I figured he had been parroting the words of my ex. He had to have been. Who else would be so closely affected by me wanting to escape from responsibility for a mere week (out of 1,144 weeks that we were together)? The one man on this planet to have tried – and succeeded – to have guilted me from doing those things and seeing those people who really fed my soul. (Okay, so I allowed it, but still…)
“Mid-life crisis” is usually said with a judgmental and condescending tone. To me, this phrase smacks of negativity. As if reaching this point is a bad thing, as if we’ve stepped over to the darker side of the tracks.
Anyway, whoever whispered that choice little phrase into my son’s ear needs to hear what I have to say.
Self Discovery is the new Mid-Life Crisis.
“Mid-life crisis,” I think, is being in a place of self discovery. It’s when we look around and reassess our life and say, “Hey! There I am! I had no idea I would enjoy something like that.” So we start playing and doing things we’d forgotten to have fun doing. Stuff we’d stupidly put on hold for… what? Whatever we were doing that we felt took precedence over our own needs, could have been tailored to work around or with us. If we hadn’t shelved the fun or passion for so long, we never would have gotten to this point in the first place. And while we’re in this state of “confusion,” our loved ones sit back and patiently wait for us to “come back” to our senses. Will we ever come back? I hope not.
I believe those with the tsk, tsk attitude might be a tad frightened when people like me wake up one day and say they’ve had enough. I’m a threat. I can single-handedly shake their tree and leave them scratching their heads, wondering what just blew through their forest. I’m a break from their safe routine.
The reality is that this state of mind should be encouraged, for it is through the process of finding out what makes us happy, that this happiness will undoubtedly spill over into the outside world, not fester and breakdown, such as what happened to me not too long ago.
So, today, on my 50th birthday, I find myself still making up for lost time, and with a little help from my friends, the road to discovery has been over-the-top amazing.
The joy I’ve found and the joy I have yet to find will be for my friends and family as well. So, here’s to 50 more years of self discovery…. Cheers!