Embracing the (mid-life) Crisis
My wife is having a mid-life crisis. It’s not such a bad thing, actually. She’s training for her first half-marathon, dancing to the same pop songs our kids love (at their cranked-up volume!), doing hot yoga, hosting more parties, and loving her new job working as a case coordinator with families in crisis.
At first she wouldn’t admit it was a mid-life crisis but with her 40th birthday looming in May, there’s just no way around it. Okay, it’s not as if she was ever a stereotypical stick-in-the-mud church lady. Bryna has always had a zest for life but something is different and it’s a sight to behold.
I like to think I headed my own crisis off at the pass by running my first marathon when I was 38. Of course it also got kicked into the gutter by said wife when I announced a few years ago that I wanted a Vespa. How cool would it be for a priest to whip around town on a black scooter with a white stripe down the front, a Bible and communion kit in the saddle bags, while sipping an espresso? Bryna wasn’t convinced and told me I’d just get squashed like a bug by a mom on a cell phone driving a Cadillac Escalade. But I’m not bitter even though I went out and furtively aced the written test to get my motorcycle license which has long since expired. (Note to self: next time talk Harley and settle for a scooter).
Bryna tends to consider her “crisis” more of a new lease on life. You see last winter – on 1/11/11 – she broke both of her wrists while ice-skating with one of our boys. I’ve taken to referring to this as the Winter of our Discontent. For two months she literally couldn’t do anything by herself. I became single parent, home health aid, and groomer (I’m evidently horrible at styling women’s hair). Everything except the cook. People in the parish rallied in an amazing way and while I joked about “death by chicken casserole” no one went hungry.
After two months in casts and lots of ensuing physical therapy, Bryna’s wrists are basically back to normal. She doesn’t have and likely will never have complete range of motion in her right wrist (she broke that one in three places and, naturally, she’s right handed). But the rest of her seems to have embraced her inner bionic woman. She’s stronger physically and mentally. Really the only thing she still has trouble with is opening jars but, since, I’m not allowed to get a Vespa, at least I have this to show off my manliness around the kitchen.
While I’d never wish such an experience on anyone, Bryna’s approach is not a bad spiritual model. You’ve heard the expression “Dance as if no one is watching?” I’d say, “Live your life as if you’ve recovered from two broken wrists.” It is so easy to take life for granted and most of us are experts at this. I know I don’t give a fleeting thought to lifting a coffee mug to my lips (Bryna did not think it was romantic when I’d grab my own straw to share her morning coffee) or opening a door (she once locked herself in the bedroom after shutting the door with her foot then realized she couldn’t get it open again).
Everyone goes through various crises in life – whether at mid-life or otherwise. The trick is how we handle them both in the midst of the trauma and in its aftermath. If the life of faith teaches us anything it’s that God is in the middle of all our respective crises whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Even in life’s darkest moments, there are rays of hope and snippets of grace. For us these were manifested as small acts of kindness from friends and neighbors and finding humor in every situation. Sometimes these moments are most visible only in retrospect but the living God watches over us night and day, in crisis and calm. Sometimes it’s hard to notice but at others it’s as obvious and easy as the flick of the wrist.