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I'm a writer living in St. Petersburg, Florida. I was raised in rural Maryland, just north of Baltimore City.

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Sunday, March 17, 2024

What Does Your Midlife Crisis Look Like? (Medium)


What Does Your Midlife Crisis Look Like?

Photo by Julz on Pexels

If you grew up during the 80’s and 90’s, your idea of a midlife crisis might be going out and buying a fancy, fast sports car. It might look like a man marrying a younger woman, dressing in garish, silk shirts, and going out clubbing until 3AM with a bunch of 20-somethings. It might consist of a long string of poorly thought-out financial decisions all in the hopes of reinventing the self into a younger, cooler version.

I guess I’m around the age of midlife crisis. I’m not quite 40, but I’m close, way closer than I ever thought I’d be.

However, I’m not sure if the term midlife crisis could adequately describe what I’m up to, even though it is tied to a feeling of reinvention. My entire upbringing was like a crisis on steroids. I grew up and faced tidal waves of abuse, so much so that I had gray hair growing from my scalp at age 12. I had poor emotional regulation, never felt safe, and was never given emotional support.

Also, shadows and echoes from my past still linger. I never had good hand-eye coordination or balance. I was forbidden from playing sports as a child, despite repeated begging. My parents were cool with buying me a new toy or leaving me to my own devices for days on end, but they weren’t down with letting me participate in the physical or social activities I was drawn to. I was that kid in gym class who was always last in races, couldn’t do a cartwheel, and couldn’t even bounce a ball against a wall correctly. I was afraid of getting hurt. When I was injured at home, I was punished or simply ignored.

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Pexels

Don’t know what I mean? Here’s a story from my youth that perfectly sums up the approach my family took to my injuries.

I badly twisted my ankle when I was 12 (back when I was growing those gray hairs!) and it was either sprained or broken. It hurt so badly, I hobbled. Of course, my father said I was faking it.

Now, I know most 12 year olds can’t walk on a broken ankle, but I wasn’t most 12 year olds. I had really bad depression from the abuse and emotional neglect at the time. I was in constant emotional pain, which led to a higher physical pain tolerance. Another example of this was my ability to burn myself with cigarettes at age 19 and barely feel it. For anyone wondering, I’m much better now.

On the first day of that vacation, I had severely messed up my ankle and neither my father nor stepmother gave a care in the world. When I got home from spending a week being bullied, harassed, and neglected by them, my ankle was twice the size it was normally and my skin had turned deep purple.

I tried to hide it from my mother, but she instantly snapped at me for limping. Then she ripped my shoe off and peeled off the socks. I was wearing multiple pairs on the one foot, trying to cushion the pain.

My mother thought I colored myself with permanent marker for attention and tried to rub it clean. I screamed and she realized I was seriously hurt.

No, she didn’t take me to the doctor or hospital either. No, she was just annoyed I was hurt, but at least she acknowledged it. Yes, it was normal that anytime I was injured around her, she took it as a personal offense.

Back to when I injured the ankle in the first place, I was on a vacation with my father and stepfamily. We were in the mountains of North Carolina at a dude ranch. It was awful.

No one told me the itinerary and they woke me up at 8AM the morning after it happened because we were going to hike a mountain that day. I remember sitting in the car, driving to the parking lot with this huge, sinking stone in my stomach. It hurt so bad, just sitting in the car.

But no, we started hiking. Again, much like gym class, I was last, very last. Keeping as much weight off my right ankle as possible, I walked my way up and down that trail, while my stepsister jogged the whole thing, with her brother trailing behind her, and whilst my father and his wife hiked together. I was late to the lunch spot and once I made it to the top, turned around, leaving my father and his wife up there to make out undisturbed.

At one point on the way down, I was in agony. Electric jolts of pain shot through my entire body. Silent tears streamed down my face. I began truly one-foot hopping my way down the trail and my water bottle shot out of my ugly overalls.

I was so upset. Wouldn’t anyone be upset? The entire time I was treated like a liar, I was left to walk on the trail entirely by myself, and the stepfamily was up to their usual meanness since the trip had begun. I didn’t pick up the water bottle. Any extra movement was too painful.

Of course, my father and his second wife were behind me on the trail, since I turned around basically the moment I made it to the lookout platform at the top. My father found the water bottle and when we were all back at the car, he yelled at me in front of the entire parking lot about my disrespect for the environment.

This is a man who threw garbage out his car window during my entire childhood, but okay.

Also on this trip, my stepbrother got angry with me and strangled me in front of a bunch of people and my father again yelled at me for starting the argument. I still remember the fire I felt with my throbbing ankle and his hands on my throat, as I picked his fingers off one by one and pulled his index finger backwards. I could have killed him in that moment and felt nothing. His and his family’s bullying and physical attacks had worn me down to nothingness.

My father was drinking Merlot with his wife on a picnic blanket nearby. Instead of saying anything to the physically abusive stepbrother, as I mentioned previously, I was loudly berated instead.

So, although those were two of the worst experiences I had with getting injured and then being punished for being injured, no wonder I was such a chicken in gym class. No wonder my midlife crisis or midlife crisis adjacent wouldn’t be a fancy new car, lip filler, or trying to date a 22 year old man-boy.

No, I’m trying to learn how to ride a unicycle. Why? We had bicycle and unicycle unit in my gym class. I was horrible, but I’m picking up where I left off. Also, there are times when my uncoordinated butt rides a skateboard through my kitchen to practice. One day, I’ll be brave enough to ride on the street. Maybe.

So, enjoy your midlife crises, whatever they may be. Know that you can’t change the painful experiences of your past, but know you can treat yourself better than other people treated you. If there’s unfinished business in your life, like a unicycle, you can finish it if it will give you happiness. You can also cut contact with anyone who abused you or treated you like garbage, in fact, it makes a great first step into freeing yourself.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels

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About Me

               My biggest inspiration for writing is David Sedaris. I listened to his 2004 essay collection: “Dress Your Family in Corduroy ...