I had one of those enlightening moments a few weeks ago after searching the web late at night for answers to unanswerable questions.
I was in the second week of our family’s cruise through a terrible virus that went through all four of us one by one, giving us high fevers, turning us into immobile congested blobs on the floor, causing me to lose my voice for two days, and eventually giving me and my son extremely painful ear infections near the end of its devastating life cycle. I still can’t hear well two weeks later and have tinnitus in both ears. Stupid virus.
As a side note, have you ever done that – used Google as a Magic-8 Ball? I am a pray-er and I usually find the answer I am looking for to existential questions through deep meditation, relaxed thought or quiet listening over a few days. However, sleep deprivation, frustration and lack of patience sometimes gets the better of me and I look anywhere for some sort of answer.
If you ask Google questions like, “Why are the viruses out to get my family?” or “Where is my mind?” or, “What is the meaning of life, anyway?”, sometimes there are interesting search results. Sometimes an article will give me that bit of distraction that help me get to sleep finally, or, sometimes even a hint at an answer.
Anyway, it was during one of these searches that an article or two on Midlife Crisis came up. I realized, I am almost 40 and it looks like I am right on schedule for that. In my past posts you might have seen me struggle with motherhood verses starting a company, my trial over being authentic with my music, and a quest for peace of mind with gardening and fitness. So I think I’ve been going through it for a few years now.
I have heard it said that in your 40s, you become who you are meant to be. People often say the 40s are great, the pinnacle of your life, the best part of your career. They are a time you can enjoy your wealth as you are healthy, confident and vibrant.
But, for a woman, I think the 40s are a bit terrifying as they mark the end of our youth. We lose our fertility during these years and we see ourselves age in a way that can no longer be hidden. Our cultural beauty stock is starting to go little by little. The change of life is now something on our radar.
In short, we face our mortality at 40. Perhaps that is why we become who we need to be in this decade because many of us realize that our time on earth does have its limits. Make hay while the sun still shines. Quit putzing around and find our fate.
I am sure this realization of mortality happens for men too (at 40? at 50?) though I can only truly speak from my own feminine experience.
I think that though we human beings are amazing creatures with our immense brains, long history, and complex cultures, we have many limitations. The biggest I believe is memory.
We go about our days thinking through our many lists and responsibilities that we easily lose sight of the important things we have learned over the years. It is helpful to have a list to refer to when one is banging one’s head against the wall over a problem that seems all too familiar.
So, in the spirit of managing my midlife crises to become a stage of learning, rather than a tumultuous existence of questioning and complaining, here is a list of my personal rules for living, gathered by many, many, many embarrassing mistakes and blunders throughout the years. They are not universal, but I bet you will find some gems in here even if you don’t agree with all of them.
Lorna’s 10 Rules for Living, 2014
1. Stand up for your needs. People will complain when this inconveniences them. But through many hard lessons learned, I no longer care. Sucks to be them. If you don’t stand up for your needs, it will suck to be you but those same people really won’t care.
2. When trusting someone with something important, consider their track record. Even if this person is older than you or more charming than you are, if they have never done what you need them for, it is a bad call to put a lot of trust in them. I’m all for giving people chances, but there is a difference between giving someone a chance and trusting them to do something important. I’ve fallen into a bad habit all too often of acting like a daughter with my older friends only to find myself in a bad situation over and over. I know my older friends aren’t out to get me; but part of my responsibility is realizing that sometimes I actually know or have experienced more than my older friends in certain situations.
3. I am a very professional person when it comes to work. It is part of who I am and I cannot work any other way. I prefer contracts in writing over verbal agreements. I need due dates and schedules. Though this may seem obvious to my white collar friends, my friends in the arts are divided over how they work on their endeavors. After several music project disasters of trying to go with the flow and being laid back and being driven absolutely batty with my laid back counterparts, I realize I am from the straight arrow camp.
4. Get a good 8 hours of sleep. A 20 minute nap in the afternoon also does wonders. Stop staying up so late. Another reason why my posts take several days to complete.
5. Only work on one, maybe two big projects at a time. Those of you who know me well know that this is a huge pitfall of mine. I should probably review Rule #5 on a weekly basis.
6. Prioritize your energy and guard it like a pit bull. 1. Your sanity, 2. your family’s needs, 3. your friend’s needs, 4. be kind to everyone else. Say no to lots of new requests and projects. Only say yes to something that is new if you know you are ending or ready to end something else. A schedule gets just as cluttered as your house. Also, review #5 again.
7. Also similar to Rule #5, I am a scheduler by identity. I am very busy. It’s not that I think I am too important for you, but me and my family have a lot going on. The kids have extracurricular classes, we have family events, my husband does a lot of traveling and I am serious about my music projects. So if you constantly ask me to do stuff that is less than a week out, I won’t be able to do it. I still like you but just bring a calendar next time. If you don’t have a calendar, you should get one. You need a schedule, don’t you?
8. Never give up. Tomorrow is a fresh new day. I get knocked down, but I get up again…Simple, overdone rule. But vital to survival.
9. Don’t be greedy. You can take too much of anything, even good stuff (someone else’s time and patience for example). Be mindful and only take what you need.
10. Never ask anyone else if something (art, music, writing, your butt in those jeans, your latest and greatest idea for changing the world), is good enough. You already know. Of course your butt looks great.