Category Archives: Midlife crisis

Cliché in the city


She is in the big city, alone. She finds a popular bar on 7th Ave, one with a crush of young people just off work and ordering Bud Light in bottles. She lays claim to one bar stool, because there is always one solitary bar stool available in a crowd, even in the busiest of bars. This is a universal truth. Some folks think the world shuts out single people, but she actually believes it reserves spaces for them, single spaces that groups are reluctant to fill. 

She orders a Stella and a burger. The Australian tourists next to her are watching the Billy Joel concert on the TV above them. John Mayer is playing guitar, his eyes closed. The bartender takes care of her, with a charming Irish accent and one eye constantly scanning the crowd, anticipating the next order, collecting payment, trying not to drip beer on her sleeve. Thanks, he says with a practiced grin, over and over again, money exchanging hands over her shoulder. Excuse me, his customers apologize to her, as if they are interrupting.

She’s here because she can’t be alone in her hotel room. It’s the silence and the spaces that unnerve her. It’s knowing that Drew is out there somewhere, between the posts, behind the friends they have in common, beyond her barricade, but not unreachable.

Maybe it’s knowing she’s getting too old to be this cliché. Maybe it’s that she’s reached the age at which she feels invisible to anyone who doesn’t know her, who didn’t once truly know her.

This must get easier at some point. 

She gets up quietly, smiles at the bartender, and heads back to the hotel.

photo credit: ek2014

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Teaching love


What is she teaching them? What will they grow up to believe about love and happiness?

On one hand, they never see her kissing their dad. They never see her touch him voluntarily, and sometimes they notice that she has a hard time maintaining eye contact with him. They see that she can be patient and kind. But they also see that she can be tense and distant. Selfish even. Lately, her oldest daughter pauses on pictures of them together, studying the photographs and wanting her to look at them too. The puzzle pieces don’t all fit together, but she does not say the words aloud.

On the other hand, both parents are there. The girls have a home they know and love, and they never fear that they will go without a meal, or a parent to tuck them in at night. Someone is always coming home. Everything looks the way it looks at other people’s houses. Their parents sleep in the same room, they share the money, and they both do the household chores. They are united, usually, in decisions that involve them and sometimes they do seem to like each other. They still take trips together, and they still go out with their friends. On the surface, it all looks normal. So maybe it is.

But the girls are smart. Maybe smarter than she is. Do they understand longing and regret? Do they know what it means to be restless? Does staying teach them resilience and commitment and partnership? How will they learn about passion?

More and more, she wonders what she is teaching herself about love.


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As reality began to take shape, guilt rising like a curtain, trying to close off the parts of her that were splintering, she began to notice something else. Relief. It was small at first, like a breeze coming through a cracked window.

There were little glimpses of what it might be like to be on her own. A quiet house. The kids absorbed in their activities, not keeping an active eye on her, worried about what she might say next. Less stuff around her. A blue/green candle the color of the ocean. A fireplace.

She had so many worries. She worried she might be depressed, that she might lose custody of the girls or that they might not feel safe going back and forth, that they might interpret her move as a punishment of some sort. She feared she might not eat another home-cooked meal for a long time, that she might not be able to take another vacation, that she might not be able to afford their life and hers. Mostly, she worried that Jake would hate her, that he would retaliate, that he might never be able to be her friend. She worried that his perception of the separation would overcome all its possibilities.

But it was also dawning on her that this thing she kept calling self destruction, this burning down the barn to see the moon, was also a realignment, a recognition of who she really was and what she’d done to herself, something so benign on the surface that it had taken this many years to recognize. She had always been afraid. Now she tried to see how this separation might actually be a positive thing for Jake and the girls, how this space she was growing into might give them all another chance to experience real joy, not the carefully cultivated happiness none of them really understood.

She was coming alive underneath, like a green layer beneath a scabbed over brown one, buried but wick.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.