Friday, August 28, 2009

So this is a midlife crisis?

In mid June I decided to stop lying to myself. I was getting nothing done and pretending that I was. Rather than continue this fiasco, I simply stopped doing anything but blogging and even that was spotty. I wanted to play outside, work in the garden, read, and contemplate my next move. So I did. I had a good garden and feel physically better than I've felt in some time.

In truth, as I faced turning forty-four, I found myself quite suddenly standing beside the mile marker of middle age and not liking the view at all. I suppose for the first time it occurred to me that getting older was not an option, that I could not turn the car around and go back the way I'd come, that there would be no redos. A vague, nagging sort of grief followed closely behind this realization.

I know I'm not supposed to feel this way. I know this because people who are older than I am have rolled their eyes and assured me that I don't know how lucky I am (Oh yes I do) and if I was busier I wouldn't have time to feel this way. That if I was living the kind of life I should, I'd be feeling fulfilled and satisfied right now. Shame on me, I guess.

I kept the sad secret to myself until Gary and I went camping and, after a second glass of wine one night, confessed my discovery. Gary can be trusted with deep secrets and fears, no matter how minor, or how disturbing. This is one of the many reasons I love him. He is four years older than I am and knows the terrain. It felt good to have another time traveler say, "How you're feeling is normal. No it is not easy. Yes, it does pass." We talked until the early morning hours and I felt better at the end of it. No real answers, exactly. I just found a certain degree of peace.

I am anything but unhappy with my life. I'm very much where I want to be, doing what I want to be doing and I'm aware that this is a rare admission. The only ongoing dissatisfactions I have are things I must change within myself and the so far unmet hope that some day some agent will think something I've written has value. With those being my only complaints, I suppose I have no real problems. However acknowledging this does not change how I feel (believe me, I've applied "counting your blessings" as a treatment for this and the good feelings only last until the next time it occurs to me that I'm forty-four). This is a powerful awareness of the passage of time, of getting older, of the relative brevity of all of this, my own mortality, and trying to figure out how to get comfortable with what has been a very fluid, abstract fact that only happens to other people. Until it happened to me.

Like many creative sorts I am at my best when I'm suffering from some kind of angst. I came home from our camping trip with a story idea, the first of its kind in better than six months. It was inspired by a combination of experiences--a coincidence, a note from a friend, observations of a strange man camping alone at a nearby site, and my own serious preoccupation with mortality. It is a sci-fi/thriller, far darker than I've tackled up until now, and far more serious. No title yet. Like Troubled_Waters and its sequel, the story was born complete, with a beginning, middle, and an end. I've typed out a rough outline and will probably start it in November.

Meanwhile I suppose, for lack of a better idea, the kids aren't the only ones who are hitting the books this month. I've committed to sending out another round of letters to whoever I haven't queried at this point (I'm pretty sure there are one or two left). This is largely an exercise of principle at this point, an unwillingness to "not try", on my part. TW is an entertaining series with the sequel stronger than the original, but maybe not as strong as the next story will be. I don't feel like I can just abandon the project after the amount of work I've put into it.


Scotty said...

A sci-fi thriller? Count me in if you want a proof reader...


Debby said...

Oh, Mary, I think that Gary is right, I think that you're perfectly normal. Everybody hits those road bumps that sort of cause you to sit down and re-evaluate. I actually think that every life needs those moments. And no. It's not easy.

Best wishes.

Mary O. Paddock said...

You're at the top of the list Scotty!

Debby--Thank you. You are in my prayers.