| Musings |

Midlife Non-Crises      

  I smile, trying to stay polite, despite my frustration at answering this question for the 30th time

I'Mtrying to be a new me, and honestly, it’s hard. The person I was accomplished loads of things each day. She was busy and overwhelmed and complained about it, but deep down, she felt good. Because being busy and overwhelmed meant she was accomplishing, achieving, doing big things.

But the new me does less and is trying to be more. Trying to make lists shorter and prayers longer. Trying to do less paid work and more housework. Trying to be less busy with the computer and more busy with little computing minds around me. Trying to be relaxed, calm, and laid back.

I was jealous when I saw those qualities in others, but chalked it up to their personalities. Now I’ve learned that personality can change; all we have to do is choose to change it.

Now I’m choosing to simply be. Relaxing my need for doing, organizing, and controlling, and trying to let go enough to allow trust and space for the One who really does it all.

It’s funny to hear people’s reactions. “Really? You stopped working? So what are you doing now?”

I smile, trying to stay polite, despite my frustration at answering this question for the 30th time. “Nothing, really. Staying at home. Busy with the kids and the house.”

“You’re not looking for another job?”

Again, I stage a smile and grunt some negative response. I’ve had this conversation tens of times, but I still resent it.

“Oh, come on. I’m sure you have a new project up your sleeve. You don’t just sit at home. You’re just not telling me.”

Or alternatively, “Nah, you’ll get bored of that very quickly and then you’ll start some major business. I know you — you don’t just sit and do nothing.”

Well, guess what? I didn’t, but now I’m trying to. I’m trying very hard to do nothing (though not quite!). I’m trying to learn how to sit and be truly present when my children tell me stories about their teachers and friends. I’m trying to read books to the younger ones and curb my urge to check my emails. I’m trying to make healthy muffins for my kids.

I’m trying to limit my physical exertion, so I have the necessary emotional energy to deal properly with my toddler and teen’s temper tantrums. I’m trying to incorporate all the chinuch tools I’ve learned, but never had the patience to carry through.

My well-meaning friends all wonder how I’ll manage financially. And believe me, I also wonder. But I’ve made a firm decision that this is what’s right for me now, and I trust Hashem that He will fill the bank account another way.

But for all my confidence in my new path, I don’t admit to others that, honestly, there are times I’m finding it quite hard. There’s a large void in me that was once so full, leaving me unsure what to fill it with. Being busy made me feel powerful and useful. Working at an important job gave me identity and purpose.

For the first few weeks I was on a high, doing all the things I dreamed of doing. I did puzzles with my family and there was nothing like it in the world. I baked loads and let my delighted toddler put each ingredient in the mixer.

I watched my teenage daughter’s dance enough times that I could’ve gone on stage myself. I found the energy to smile to my other daughter when she asked me the same question five times. I spent time with my sons that I could have never given them before, and my husband came home each night to a clean home.

And then the euphoria dissipated, and I was hit with an unexpected wave of sadness. I didn’t know what to make of it at first, but then I realized it was loneliness. And boredom. And I knew I had to find a way to give myself a social life outside of my home.

I’m on the way up. Figuring things out and finding my new self. I’m the mother who isn’t embarrassed to say she isn’t falling apart, although many people wear that tag with pride. I’m managing my home and my kids, and I have space in my life for chesed and tefillah. But I don’t have any friends who understand me, because no one is in the same place as me.

So, I’m sharing my journey with you, to tell you about the new me. Just sharing the dissonance of change, the satisfactions and struggles, the delights and downs of Being.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 810)

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