I’m having a bit of a crisis lately. A mid-life crisis. How did I just suddenly wake up one day and I’m almost 40. I turned 38 in January (more about that birthday in a second). According to the World Health Organization, the life expectancy for women worldwide is 78.2 years. If my math is correct, that means next year would technically be “mid-life” for me.
[insert groan here]
This June is also my 20th high school reunion. How is that even possible? It seems just like yesterday I was roaming the halls of Wauwatosa West High School, back in Wisconsin. The band geek. The school newspaper editor. The swimmer. The National Honor Society member. The friend. The girl who had the hugest crush on the football player/mall piano player.
I was looking back at my senior picture, all leggy as it was. The tomboy with studious glasses, puffy hair, dressed in a polo shirt, sneakers and khaki shorts, and a huge cross dangling around her neck. On the surface and in the eyes of that girl, I see someone completely different.
Visibly I wear more make-up now, color-treat my hair and dress more feminine. (Don’t get me wrong, I still live in sneakers on weekends but I do love pink way more…) I’ve become more concerned with my outward appearance, watching videos of how to contour my face, and having a closet with way more dresses and frills. I’ve lost touch with the Catholic upbringing that was so important to me and can say that I haven’t stepped foot in a Catholic church for Mass in more than 15 years. On the inside, I was someone that truly believed that she could be anything, go anywhere, do whatever she wanted.
Then, adulthood and real-life hit.
I’ve lost touch with myself in adulthood. I realize that now. I think it’s inevitable that you slowly lose bits of you as you grow and evolve. But, there are pieces of me that I didn’t truly know that I missed so much until very recently.
I’ve been stuck in a haze for over a year now. Muddling through daily life as best I can to stay afloat. Some days are certainly better than others. But, then there are the days where I can easily fall prey to my emotions and be overcome by sadness, fear, regret and the unknown. (I have been seeing my therapist and we continue with couple’s counseling, more on that in a minute, too.)
The playlist on my phone has been helping and hindering me in this process. So, I wanted to share some of the big events and themes that have been a result and cause of this mid-life crisis recently, or whatever we want to call it. (I realize I could break this up into multiple posts but feel it stands alone better as one, I apologize to the blogging gods that I’m breaking the rules for search engine optimization.)
Below you’ll see a video. I recommend listening to the song and then reading the section.
Anxiety by Julia Michaels feat. Selena Gomez
You probably already know my ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression. Something I’ve had my entire life that has been a result of many different factors.
That girl in that senior photo? She had her first anxiety attack senior year. I remember driving to school one morning in the 1987 maroon Nissan Maxima sometime in the spring of 1999. We had just a few weeks left of school. I had already been accepted into UW-Milwaukee and Marquette on music performance and journalism scholarships. I had taken all the entrance exams and tested out of English and Spanish requirements thanks to a lot of hard work and AP classes.
I should’ve been entirely happy and optimistic to look forward to this next milestone in my life.
Instead, inside my chest, I felt this never-ending pain and anguish. A tightening sensation that wouldn’t let go of its grip on my thoughts and feelings.
That one spring morning it all came to the surface.
I was driving (as I tend to do most often when I have an attack) and suddenly couldn’t breathe or see. Somehow, I managed to pull into a park. I sat there. Sobbing hysterically for what seemed like hours. I never made it to school that day.
I drove back home, snuck into my room and fell asleep. Sometime a few hours later, my Mom got up and checked on me. I didn’t tell her what happened. Just that I “got sick.”
I finished exams successfully. I think I ranked like 40th out of a class of 180-some kids. Not the smartest, as I never really applied myself much, but just enough to get by, I guess. I managed to land a job (thanks to our newspaper adviser) at the city’s daily newspaper. It was a job I kept for the entirety of college.
Yet, I still felt like a failure.
The morning of graduation I was volunteering at a charity bike ride. I didn’t want to go to the graduation ceremony at school that afternoon despite family and friends coming to watch and a party later that night at Buca’s (god, how I miss Buca’s!)
I had another attack on my drive home, this time on the freeway. When I got home, my parents had to coax me into going to graduation. I was just so paralyzed by the fear of the future.
I don’t talk much about my anxiety and how it paralyzes me sometimes. It ebbs and flows. I didn’t even know it was anxiety until well into my late 20s and discussed with my doctor that these feelings aren’t normal. I had made myself believe for all those years that I had to suffer like that, fighting in my own head to take control.
Recently, I’ve been fighting again in my head. Trying to figure out what’s next for me. I’m suffering from a lot of imposter syndrome.
I wish it were as simple as just thinking about all the great things that I have and be grateful for them. I truly wish it was. But the despising thing about anxiety is how it makes you feel like two different people at times. There are some days where I am entirely grateful for everything but there are the other days where I wake up and I can’t fight the feeling that I’m a complete and utter failure in all aspects of my life, personally and professionally.
I’m working with my therapist on overcoming a lot of things in my past so that I can learn to better live with my anxiety. I’m also seeing an endocrinologist soon to see if a lot of this is hormone related, perhaps still from the loss.
I recognize that there’s a lot more work that needs to be done and I’m committed to doing the work it takes so that I can take more control of my mental well-being, just like I do with my physical health.
Unforgettable by Nat King Cole
I was back in Wisconsin in January. One of my besties was getting hitched and was having her bachelorette weekend in Madison. It was awesome. However, the weather wasn’t. I got stuck in Milwaukee for three days because of bad weather in WI and back home in Mass. It was a nightmare.
I ended up having some family time during the time that I couldn’t get home. I saw and talked to my dad for the first time in over six months. He had a little cold but was doing well. We sat together and talked a bit. It was good. Much less heart-wrenching than the visit the previous May.
I finally was able to get home the night before my birthday. Brett and I were going to go on a date night to a new restaurant to celebrate after we were done with work.
That never happened.
Shortly after I reached work that next morning, my Dad’s nurse called. He had taken a bad turn. Her voice was ominous. I knew it wasn’t good. I called my brother to let him know I’d be on the next flight back home. I was back on the ground in Milwaukee and driving to the nursing home by 6 p.m.
I was lucky. I was able to see him when his eyes were still open and he knew I was there. I sat on his bed, holding his hand. I would occasionally rub his feet or his legs that were anxious from some of the medication. I would nod off when I could in the early hours of the morning. My dad was gone within 24 hours of me landing back in Wisconsin. He was finally at peace.
The next week was an emotional blur that I still haven’t come to process it all. My birthday was on indefinite hold. During the time back in Wisconsin, there were truths that have been uncovered about my Dad that I’m not sure what to do with. Still, I have a sense of relief that he’s no longer in pain and suffering.
I didn’t make it back for his memorial service in May. It was the day before what would have been his 89th birthday. I managed to get some photos framed and help with some background for one of his friends who did a eulogy. I just couldn’t bring myself to make the journey.
I have come to realize that I said my goodbye a long time ago.
When I was a kid, my Dad and Mom would take me along to “karaoke nights” at one of their Filipino friends’ houses. I loved those nights. All the guys would pretend they were Sinatra or Martin or Darin. The faintest Filipino accents marring the lyrics. The women would be gabbing over coffee and lumpia while playing mahjongg or knitting. All the kids would be running around the house or watching movies and playing video games.
My Dad would always sing Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable.” And that’s how I will always remember him.
Two of Us by Louis Tomlinson
Emmett would have turned 3 at the end of April. This is the first year that we didn’t do anything special to mark the day. I didn’t even take the day off. I felt pressured to work because it was our CEO’s last day before retiring.
We had a date night at the movies since “Avengers: Endgame” came out earlier in the day. It was kinda fitting My first and only maternity shirt was a Captain America shield on a pregnant belly. I never got to wear it.
I know this song by Louis Tomlinson of 1D isn’t about loss as a parent. He wrote it to memorialize his mum who lost a battle with leukemia in 2016. Still, I was sobbing in my car (like I still regularly do) when it popped up in my Spotify playlist recently.
The days are certainly getting easier with the loss. My heart doesn’t sting as much as it used to. The painful memories don’t flood my soul as often. But, there are the moments where I’m still haunted with guilt and agony.
Deep down I don’t want to disappoint Emmett. After everything we have been through in the last three years, I want us to succeed at being parents that he can look down upon and say he’s proud of us.
He’s with us everywhere we go. We still see him in the butterflies that flutter past our windows or when we look up at the stars at night. He’s shining bright somewhere beyond all of this.
Emmett is always going to be my little Avenger.
Dancing with Our Hands Tied by Taylor Swift
This is the hard one. The one that has taken me more than a year to come to terms with. But I had to admit it to myself out loud. Otherwise, it just didn’t exist and I could continue to think that it was something much more benign.
I had an emotional affair. That’s the big part. The “who” is inconsequential for the purpose here (although, he knows who he is and we’ve talked about it). What’s important is that I broke a fundamental trust of marriage.
For the last year, I have felt that I’m a horrible, guilty person. For having thoughts and feelings about another person. For wanting to put the trust of my heart in the hands of someone else who wasn’t my husband.
I already feel like an awful person. So, please don’t chastise or judge me. Brett knows about it and we have discussed at length. All that matters is that he forgives me.
Still, I can’t forgive myself. What is done, is done. I did things I’m not proud of, however trivial they seem. Yet, I still did them.
They made me feel a high, a euphoria, a feeling of being young again. And I love(d) that feeling. The rush of having someone text you and the feeling they care for you, and that there’s more behind the flagrant words on a phone screen. The longing and waiting for when the next message will appear.
At the moment, this is the one I’m struggling with the most. A lot of this is anxiety. A lot of this is boredom in routine. I have been nearly out the door several times thinking that I need more space to “find me”. And, yes, while that is true — I do need to find me in all this. I don’t need to do it alone or with someone else.
I had somehow fooled myself into believing that decisions years and years ago could be undone or unwritten. But, they can’t. You can only go forward from what you have learned in other relationships and take those with you into new ones.
The hard part is the line of where to end a relationship, whether it’s a friendship or romantic relationship. No one ever really wants to do that. It’s messy. However, I know that deep-down I need this. For my mental health as much as the well-being of my marriage.
I want to believe that friendship really can survive other messy feelings but there’s just too much history and I can’t decipher the truth anymore. My heart does have certain feelings but if they are infatuation and fantasy or immersed in reality is still being considered. I’ve committed to giving our marriage my all for the next year. I know it’s a long time especially if I end up back where I’ve been for the last year.
There’s a lot of reflection that must happen. Finding what I believe is missing. I’ve realized my wrong-doing and I’m working to fix it. I just don’t have all the answers yet and I’m not sure when and how to find them…
Top of the World by Mandy Moore
In all of this, I want to thank those people who have been by my side to help me through this difficult time. You know who you are. You are the ones that lift me up when I’m falling. You have been there any time I’ve called.
I love you. I cherish you. I just hope I’m as good a friend to you as you are to me. There’s a part of me that feels that I don’t deserve you and your goodness.
I’m Not Running by Vertical Horizon
I’m not running. That’s what I’ve done every time before. I’ve run away from problems and changes. I had a troubled relationship, I moved to Boston. I didn’t want to finish grad school, I moved back to Wisconsin. I lost my job, I moved back to Boston.
I run from things. It’s what I’ve come to do.
But I’m done running. If I’m running anywhere, I want to be running toward the problem or whatever is causing me anxiety. I’ve been working on having those harder conversations with people. The ones that I try to put off.
We’re so close to finishing our adoption home study and being licensed. If there is any truth in anything, with all of my being I can tell you, I want to be a mom again. I want to give my heart and my home to a child. I know we’d be awesome parents. I can truly see that.
Instead, I’ve been running away from the reality of making that happen by making up fears and issues. When Brett leans into the process, I lean away. He showed just the slightest doubt earlier this year, and I was ready to lace up the shoes and run again.
We’re working on being more in-sync with each other. Each Friday we sit down to chat. It’s our weekly “huddle” to get a pulse on what each one of us is thinking. It’s that dedicated time that we can talk about our worries, our fears, our successes and our dreams.
We’ve been together for 15 years. I can’t give up on that so easy. There were reasons we fell in love and so many more good reasons why we’re better together. There are the days where I feel it and I know it but I still need to work at it and truly believing that I deserve it.
I recently was watching 2012’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” starring Emma Watson, Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman. I love that movie.
In it, Charlie’s friend Sam asks, “Why do I and everyone I love pick people who treat us like we’re nothing?” Charlie responds, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
I’ve been hoping and dreaming for a love that is far less than what I deserve and what I have. I need to believe that I am worth so much more and Brett and I are going to work toward that together.
Homestretch to this marathon. If you’ve read this far, thank you.
I’m very goal-oriented at work. I’m notorious for my hand-written to-do list each week and reminder post-its tacked up across my desk to prioritize projects. I need to do this with my personal life.
I’ve been good with scheduling my barre class and gym time and keeping to it, much like how I treat a meeting with my colleagues. It’s just as important. That hour is just for me and my personal well-being.
I’m going through an online anxiety program by Recovery Formula and you have to sit down and write out your goals. They say it’s because we spend more time planning for a party than we do for our own personal growth. So, I sat down yesterday and wrote out my goals for where I want to be in one month, three months and 12 months from now. For the purposes of this blog, I’ve made these a little vaguer. But in reality, these are quite specific and written in the present tense on purpose for help with visualizing my future and understanding that I have control of it.
One Month from Now
I have ended the emotional affair. I no longer need this emotional validation to make me feel better as a person, friend or woman.
Three Months from Now
We finished our home study and are actively searching for a child with our social worker at DCF. I am regularly exercising by going to barre class and running several times each week. I have joined the Master’s swim team near me and training for triathlons again. We are more solid in our marriage and work to support each other’s goals, needs and desires. I am not consumed by fear of the unknown and future.
One Year from Now
I no longer panic when I have to make a decision, large or small. We are on the way to improving our financial health and finding a forever home. We are parents to a wonderful child and are a beautiful family that spends quality time together and focuses on the moment. I am working on writing my book.
I know I’m not perfect. These goals aren’t perfect. I also don’t know the future. I don’t know if I will attain these goals but I want to believe that I can.
I want to write more this year. I need to write more. I forget how it helps me. I have scores of journals in storage back in Wisconsin. I want to find those and reflect back on the girl I once was but how I’ve grown and changed, as well.
I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey of self-discovery and healing…
Love & hugs,