Saturday, April 14, 2007

Crisis Management

I had a sort of epiphany today. Let me give you some background. I'm having a sort of midlife crisis. I know it's cliche, but there you are. One of the symptoms of this midlife crisis is that I am a bit panicked about what to do with the rest of my life. I have this overwhelming desire to "make it mean something." Or maybe it's just that I feel like there is so much to do and so little time. Whatever the reasons, I have more budding interests than I have time or energy to pursue. (I finally figured out how to spell that word, btw. You should congratulate me. It's one I've regularly misspelled over the years. But my lack of a spelling gene is another post.)

The fact is I still have fairly young children for my age (youngest is 10) and I am definitely attempting to stretch myself too thin. I was wondering today if I'd even be thinking about all these new things if I was 10 years younger with children the same age. I came to the conclusion that I am having a midlife crisis about 10 year too early as far as my kids are concerned! ;-) Although, in 10 years it would be a senior moment instead of a midlife crisis. The point I'm making is that I am still in the big middle of educating and raising children and my time to devote to my "search for self" is a bit limited. Since I don't want to wait another ten years to find myself, I need to adapt to my reality.

When I look at my stack of books I see way too many topics covered:

1. math and physics
2. theology- Catholic
3. theology- other :-)
4. early Christian writing
5. books dealing with life, change, philosophy
6. books about modern culture
7. history- non-fiction and historical fiction
8. books about drawing
9. science (biology texts)

This list doesn't include my usual stack of mystery books. What I realized today is I can't do it all. While reading Sue Monk Kidd's When the Heart Waits, I realized I'd gotten sucked into the idea that I have to make life happen instead of letting life happen. I had this ah-ha moment while brushing my teeth. I need to quit stressing and narrow my focus right now. I can't worry that time will run out. Worrying is addictive and unproductive. I'm not running a race. I'm not proving anything to anyone. I want to enjoy living and learning, have time to reflect and study, as well as time to watch movies with my children, take walks with friends, or veg out with the latest mystery book while sipping a glass of wine.

Most of all, though, I want to learn to be still. Not to fill every moment with "happenings." I want to learn to enjoy silence and to enjoy my own, solitary company. To allow God to speak, or not speak. To stop trying to escape my life but to embrace it, messiness and all. To seek strength to endure when needed, and a grateful heart to enjoy my many blessings. I want to stop comparing myself to others, too. I want to stop being fearful of the future.

This all might mean a little narrowing of focus right now. I'm not prepared to change my family to organic and whole foods right now, so scratch that off my list of things to read about. I'll make the best food choices I can within my sphere and leave it at that. I can't take math, science, Spanish, philosophy, and drawing classes next year, so I'll pick one thing. I'm enjoying my foray into contemporary culture, reading books like The Paradox of Choice, Blink, and Mediated, so I'll keep doing that. I'll plan to spend more time on my homeschooling with the youngest two while I send the next oldest to high school and the other two to college. I'll either only teach one science class for homeschoolers, or perhaps none at all. I'll keep readying about theology, but I may narrow my focus there, too, sticking mainly with Catholic writings for now. I'm going to make time to serve others.

This might seems simple to most of you. I wouldn't be surprised if someone was thinking..Duh, Carrie! But for me it hasn't been clear. I thought I needed to do everything at once and instead ended up paralyzed and doing nothing; just watching TV and searching for things online to keep me busy. My life had started suffocating me, but it was my own immobility that was doing it. I was paralyzed with too much to do, so I did nothing, but I still believed I was doing too much. How weird is that? Even an extra trip to Target had started looking like an insurmountable project because I believed myself too busy to accomplish it. But the reality is I was doing very little.

But now I'm going to follow the advice in The Paradox of Choice and limit my choices. So let the midlife crisis come. I'm not going to let it scare me into the very thing I'm fearing...and that is to waste my life.


NoVA Dad said...

This is a great post, and I hardly think that it is strictly a mid-life crisis. I feel like you more often than I even admit to myself -- and, like you, I can use my stack of books next to the bed and scattered in various places around the house as a perfect example of how easily my interests are swayed (right now, for instance, I'm reading a biography of Churchill, a book by John Shelby Spong on Easter, and some fiction by Vonnegut that I picked up following his death).

I recognize that I won't have enough time to do everything, either, but I approach things as if I will. If I find myself losing interest part-way through something, I just set it aside and plan on coming back to it later. For me, it's not so much spreading myself thin and trying to learn/do too much at once -- I'm just a very Type A, multi-track sort of person and love the challenge of doing a gazillion things at once.

But unfortunately, also like you, I don't allow myself enough time to open myself to God's voice and hear what He has to say. In the rush of what I'm trying to do, though, I think that God is speaking to me through whatever may have captured my attention at any given moment.

Thanks for sharing these great thoughts:-)

Susanne B. said...

Very insightful post, Carrie. I'm kinda struggling with the same thing. Now that I have a bit of stength returning, I want to do EVERYTHING I've missed out on over the past five years. Write a book? Sure! Teach high school writing at Class Day? Why not! Take time for silence and meditation? I read about it more than I actually do it. Study Latin? No problem!

I'm trying to narrow, too. And what do I do? I've been so paralyzed by too much to do that I've been doing nothing: rereading Harry Potter and watching House reruns at midnight. So I relate to all that you're saying.

Sentient Marrow said...

Maybe it's midlife crisis, maybe not... either way, my dh and I are going through it, too, and we're ten years younger than you. But, I think it could be because we had our kids when we were really young and although our five are about five years behind yours we are still reaching a point where we are reevaluating how we've spent our lives and are trying to figure out what we want to focus on in the upcoming years. Yet, here today I've spent all my time online and not a single moment pursuing real life.

Ampersand said...

I really appreciate this post! And I am glad that you are finding some answers for yourself. I, too, am trying to figure out how to fit what I want to do and learn with my roles in life.

carrie said...

NoVa Dad- I definitely don't like doing a "gazillion things at once." LOL! I guess I'm not type A. I want to do lots of things, but I get paralyzed instead of actually doing anything. I often can't seem to get started. But I do also start things with enthusiasm at times only to set them aside. I may mean to come back to them, but I don't always do that.

Susanne- Reading about prayer and meditation more than actually doing them...I relate to this!

Sentient- maybe it isn't mid-life. Maybe it's when things come together in our lives in such a way that it forces us to either reevaluate, or fill our lives with more "stuff" in an attempt to not think about it. Reevaluation is a healthy choice.

Online time is okay, too. Down time is needed. The change for me isn't to give up computer time, but to do it as a conscious choice instead of simply using it as a way to avoid life. A day spent on the comuputer can be a great thing!

carrie said...

Ampersand- Trying to figure out where things fit is the challenge, isn't it? I think through the years of raising young children I didn't stop much to think about it. I was rushing around looking toward the "next" thing. Now I am not wanting to rush through it. I want to see how tings unfold and how the pieces fit.

Sentient Marrow said...

NOt rushing through... that's exactly how i am feeling, too, Carrie. I feel like i've missed part of my life by rushing through it to whatever I had hoped was around the corner.