The question came to me tonight as I was curling my hair an hour before my belly dancing debut. "Am I in a mid-life crisis?" Here I am, forty-five years old, once again as of late, stepping way out of the box.
Five years ago I had my second child, who I knew would also be my last child, and hit the magical forty year mark in the same month. A unescapable sense of mortality struck me in the gut then, not just in the head. There’s a real end to all this dithering around, I thought to myself. And not just in general – that’s MY dithering!
But only in the last few months have I started taking some leaps of faith into unknown territory. Me, doing figure eights with my hips in front of a crowd at CJ Arthur's, Wilmette's nowhere-near-new bar and grill. Me, in yoga class, executing the first back-bend and headstand I've done since I was a pre-teen. Me at Karaoke night, sober as a judge, getting up to warble Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." And getting up again for a Patsy Cline song. And again for a "Pressure" duet. And again. And again.
Not that I am doing any of these things beautifully or even well. But I did them. I'm doing them. Swallowing my pride and my fear and nervousness and jumping into the great beyond. Applying thick wobbly lines of eyeliner. Making loaves of brick-heavy bread. Trying.
Yet not taking time to reflect whether I'm crossing things off my bucket list or whether I'm acting like a teenager. Not reflecting much at all, in fact. Whether I'm writing less because I'm too busy or I'm finding the time to be busy because I'm writing less, I don't know. Lacking a bit of the introspection and analysis that writing provides may be the very thing I need right now.
What's out of my comfort zone was downright comfy for some of the women at CJ Arthur's Hafla (the Arabic word for "party") tonight. There were plenty of smiling, dancing women of all shapes, comfortable in their skin, happy to bear their bellies for the love of the dance and the appreciative applause from a supportive audience. (You should come join us! Everyone's friendly and there's open dancing at the end. Every third Wednesday of the month and some Saturdays, 1168 Wilmette Ave in Wilmette.)
The cliche of men at midlife is that they start engaging in risky behaviors to beat back the spectre of death. My little adventures may very well be my version of danger - not to life and limb, but to that measly voice inside that says, "Not a good idea..." "Wait, you're not ready." "I wish I could, but I can't."
The "crisis" part of the term "mid-life crisis" is where I have a problem. With all its connotations of panic and emergency, "crisis" is not the right word for this period of my life. If anything, I'm experiencing a mid-life confidence, not the golden glowing kind of confidence born out of experience and wisdom, but a shabby-but-still-works one born out of ceasing to give a rat's you-know-what about stuff that doesn't matter.
So what if I make an ass of myself in front of the CJ Arthur crowd? So what if I'm a huge hit? I'm still going to be Mommy when I go home, Mommy who is desperately needed at dawn, run from without a glance when the school bus comes, snarled at when snacks are denied and tenderly clung to during bedtime stories. It's a role I love. One I'm in no hurry to leave, although I know its end, or at least change, comes eventually.
It's like that pretty song about growing old says, "As time goes by/Suddenly "oh why?"/Another blink of the eye/Sixty-seven is gone/The sun is getting high/We're moving on."
Now, what adventure is next?