I haven’t put out anything in a while but not because I haven’t been writing. I spent many hours on several different pieces detailing the worst events of my life and how I had decided I wasn’t going to let them define me. In a couple of the drafts, I explained how I had worked to redeem the events or how what may have seemed like bad decisions led to a life I will never regret. Going forward, I plan to bring this kind of encouraging language to most of what I write because I believe it.
I wrote other drafts about my writing classes where I decided I would be more intentional about my role as the author of my life. Not only could I choose where the lead character in my life will go, but I could also decide what kind of character I will be. But none of the versions rang true to what I was feeling right now.
What I want most from my character is to be honest. I don’t just want to be honest to those around me or for any potential readers; I want to be honest with myself.
For those of you who don’t know my story, I moved to Austin about two years ago right after my wife died. A few months ago I created a website and named my blog, The Swarm (my last name) ~ A Serendipitous Journey Through a Midlife Crises. I wanted to document the journey I was on for others who have experienced any kind of loss or major life-change that has caused you to question who you are now and what you’re supposed to do next.
I found a definition of the stereotypical man’s midlife crisis in Wikipedia to include “the purchase of a luxury item such as an exotic car or seeking intimacy with a younger woman.” His midlife crisis of identity led to him choosing to make life changes. But what about the wife he left? How might life changes that she didn't make create a crisis of her identity?
Sometimes people have a midlife crisis, while others have one thrust upon them. Talking to people, I’ve learned you can’t rank which events may be harder to go through. You may have had an illness or injury. You may have lost a career or the ability to chase a dream or you may have lost someone you loved very much to divorce, death or them simply moving away. All of these things are very real to those experiencing them and they are all really hard. It’s hard because it hurts. But I think what's even harder is living each day having no idea what you’re supposed to do next.
I knew the logistical steps to build a new life in a new city. I drove the streets, tried the restaurants and shopped the grocery stores. I went to see live music, walked my dog around the lake and got a library card. I got involved in an amazing church, did things with people from work and went to the events at my apartments. During that process, I managed to make some of the closest friendships I’ve ever known.
In a way, it was easy for me because moving here because I didn’t have to think about it. I was just carrying out a plan that we had already formed together. We wanted to sell our house, move into a cool apartment so we would have less to take care of and travel the world. I have the cool apartment, a new group of friends and I visited four continents last year. I turned 50 a few months ago and I had completed what would hav been the next stage of our vision, but what comes next?
I want to keep going but without a vision to chase, I realize that I'm tired. I’m tired from all the time and energy I spent building these new friendships. I'm tired of being the sole visionary for my life, the supervisor who oversees the day-to-day operation and the worker who has to carry out all the tasks required. I’m tired of feeling like I’m failing at all of those jobs.
I’m tired of being alone. But I’m also tired of the work required to not be alone.
I’ve read the books. I’ve gone through counseling with people I love and respect. I’ve studied the blogs in preparation for writing mine… But all those facts and road maps and life hacks don’t change the way I feel when I finally turn off all the noise around me and get still, I feel like a little kid again. I’m lonely. I’m scared. And I sure don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do next.
I tried to write about how I wasn’t going to let my past define me. I tried to encourage with how I have used those things from my past as fuel for my future. Each of those things have been true during many periods of my life; they will be true again. But occasionally I need to fully acknowledge that the painful wounds from my past are still true also.
My friend, Allen, has talked a lot recently about how a suspension bridge gets its strength from the tension of two cables pulling against each other in the opposite direction. He talked about how we have to often live with to opposite truths about us existing at the same time. Therefore, to cross the gap towards where I want to go. I have to find the balance in knowing I both live with fear about my future and have the courage I need to walk towards it.
Many people have been quoted saying something to the effect that “Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s being afraid and doing it anyway.” While looking up the quote I also ran across this one from Thomas Fuller, “Some men have been thought brave because they were afraid to run away.” I think that one better defines me in this season because while I am afraid of loving someone and losing them again, I’m even more afraid of a future that doesn’t include me loving and living fully.
So, I get up every day and I go to work. I meet up with friends. I lead two groups through studies that I went through last year. I read. I write. I watch too many movies trying to glean hope and courage from other's stories. I sit around what feels like way too often doing nothing. And, I look into the eyes of women I walk by each day and wait for that moment when “she” will look back into mine and again, I’ll know…
I’m inviting you to come on a journey with me for a while – those of you who still have a glimmer of hope that new adventures are possible and that there remains hidden in you courage that you haven’t yet tapped into.
I’m going to start my journey by admitting that… Today I am tired. Today I am scared. Today I am lonely. Today, I still really miss her.
I have to stop pretending those things aren’t true and pray that my honesty about those things today can be my starting point towards a pretty amazing tomorrow.
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