Yesterday nyc/caribbean ragazza wrote an excellent post on the fact that Jezebel had done an article about increased suicide rates for women in their mid forties. It hit a nerve with alot of people, including me. Mid life is the summing up of one's experiences -- and with luck, we move forward in a way which suits us more than it suits anyone else.
The statistics don't surprise me. In fact, just getting to our forties was an accomplishment considering how hard so many of us have been working for so long, and how many difficult obstacles continue to be thrown before us, day after day. The whole thing makes me think of my sister and I, two decidedly different people who have lived decidedly different lives but have come to such similar places after so long.
Back when we were in our 20's and 30's my sister had a seriously demanding job, raised children, cleaned her own house, and passed out exhausted in front of The Cosby Show at 8.30. She made sure that the grocery shopping got done, that a detailed calendar with every single soccer practice and ballet lesson and PTA meeting hung, continuously updated, on the inside of the pantry. Husbands of this day were active as well, but there is no making up for a woman who sees the crumbs accumulating in the corner before they have actually accumulated. Better to stay on top of things. That is how my sister lived her life during those years.
I was not on this track. I didn't have kids, but spent indescribable energy trying to climb professionally, on one coast or the other, reinventing myself for every job interview with every two-bit personnel manager I found sitting across the conference table from me. I always took the interview process and the resulting job as a challenge to do more, earn more, get more. Be more. I was never content with what I had, or with what I had done. I was always looking for the next step in the Darwinian business cycle. I see pictures of myself in my 30's and I look beyond tired and a little detached. No wonder.
I look at my sister now, and all she has done and gone through, and she amazes me. Not just for the person she is -- a woman taking care of her husband, mother, and dog who have all had cancer in 2008, a woman who teaches pharmacy at University level but is also getting her yoga instructor qualifications -- but for all she has done for so many for so many years.What I wish for her now, at this important time in her life, is less work and more joy.
I look at myself now and realized it took all of that to become the kind of person who can be content sitting on a hill and creating. I am content with the person I am today. I also wish for myself less work and more joy.
Over the years, she and I both have started untying the knots of our complicated selves. We both do truly see that getting the most out of these days we have now is of utmost importance. This knowledge forges us together in the strongest of ways.
Staying healthy and happy in mid life is easier with a sister to lean on. And for that, I am eternally grateful.