Dancing through a Mid-Life Crisis, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milenr

Dancing Through a Mid-Life Crisis

No, I’m not taking a ballroom class. I plug my earphones into my IPhone and hit play. I hit play in the parking lot, before I even get to my car. All day long I help people solve plant problems. What to plant where, what plant best matches the porch cushions (really?), what works in shade, in sun, on an embankment, and so on. I answer questions politely and hopefully, informatively, but if you could read my thoughts, I’m looking forward to the music.

So why the music and the mid-life crisis?

Because life gets hard about this time in the journey. For some, it starts out pretty darn hard. For others, hard things happen along the way. But by mid-life, the ball really gets rolling. At least, that’s what I’m finding out. My mother died so unexpectedly and suddenly last July, that I am still reeling and forever picking up the phone to call her. She missed Jordy’s birth, my 3rd granddaughter. And now, my dearest and oldest friend is facing brain cancer. Weren’t we just decorating our college dorm room? It goes fast. There is no other way to say it. A blink and it’s gone.

Here’s the weird part. Once great, grand, and parents are dead, you’re up next to bat. Yes, if family history prevails, I have 20+ years still, but the generation before me is gone. They were my buffer. Now, I’m the buffer for kids and grandkids, and well, that my friends is a sobering thought.

Add empty-nest, jokes about how long we can live based on our IRAs, grandchildren we never see, working long hours in hopes of increasing that IRA a little and then the dang downsizing. I hate the downsizing.

When did life become about downsizing instead of building? When mid-life showed up, that’s when.

You see what I mean. Full on mid-life crisis. I read some articles about it. Not much there. Did glean one gem. That my brain can’t process everything happening at this stage of life. Agreed. So, I gave up reading the self-help stuff and hit Crazy on You, or Hooked on a Feeling, or Spirit in the Sky or I Want You Back (yes, the Jackson 5), and tuned it all out. When I open my front door, I dance. I dance while preheating the oven. I dance in the shower. I dance and vacuum. I dance around my house to everything from Queen, the Eagles and yes, even PitBull.

And I remember. I remember dancing with Donna in our college dorm room, dancing with my sisters in our childhood bedrooms, dancing with my toddlers and boys and even teenage sons in our family living room, dancing with my mom and dad in our family living room. I had forgotten that my family–that I–love to dance.

The kitchen is the best place for it. The floor is slick. After dinner, I crank it up and stand Aggie up on her hind legs and dance around with her. She doesn’t like it, but she tolerates it as one would expect a good dog too. I dance until way past bedtime, and for a few hours I’m not the grandmother with grandchildren way too far away, or the divorced wife living paycheck-to-paycheck, or the 56-year-old looking straight at the fact that mid-life is really just a term for what I’m experiencing.

Because I passed mid-life a decade ago.

My oldest son says our goal is not to be successful. Our goal is to come to terms with ourselves and the choices we make, or, I would add, perhaps the choices others–or life–make for us. Mid-life has definitely been a choice-evaluating-time for me. To consider where I stepped wrong or maybe right, but mostly, I’m just dancing.

P.S. This one is for Carol. 🙂


Things My Financial Planner Says

The first thing I said to my financial planner, in a somewhat desperate voice, was, “I am throwing money away on rent. Shouldn’t I buy a house?” (Where I planned on getting money to buy a house, I just do not know. I obviously had delusions of grandeur.)

He replied calmly, “Why is it throwing away money to put a roof over your head?”

Well, now, there’s a good point.

Then I confessed that I’d been supplementing my income with my savings, and braced myself for what was sure to be a lecture. He replied, again calmly (he’s got that I-walk-to-the-emergency-while-everyone-else-runs thing down), “You are a one-income household now, and your income is pretty low. I think that qualifies as a reason to use your savings.”

I briefly considered bringing up the college kid’s inability to see any grade above a “C” as all that important. (“Cs” get the degrees!) The guy was on a roll, and I have chewed the fingernail polish off my nails over that one.

He was doing for me what I do for my garden clients. I talk calmly, try to ask the important questions, while assuring them that the universe will not stop if they don’t get the beds weeded. Admittedly, not as important as cash flow, but when I’m helping clients that are downsizing and worried about curb appeal (their cash flow), well, life starts to happen in those conversations.

I try to get the lay of the land (no pun intended) because this is their home, the place they raised their family–be it children or dogs–and they’ve invested themselves in it. It is no small matter to them or to me. But sometimes, perspective is in the eye of the coach.

My financial planner tells me to do three things:

  • Earn all you can.
  • Save all you can.
  • Give all you can.

I tell my clients to do three things:

  • Always improve the soil.
  • Don’t prune it if you don’t want too.
  • Plant enough for the neighbors, maybe they’ll help weed.

When I ponder his three instructions, I feel better. I’m not told to do more than I can, but what I can. It takes some of the pressure that I put on myself off, and helps put life in perspective, again.

One recent night I walked through a couple’s yard, listening to them as they stressed over whether or not they should do this or that, in case the future homeowners would prefer it. I finally said, “Time out. You’re worrying about potential buyers, and your house isn’t even on the market yet. Let’s talk about what we can do right now, not what we think we should do for folks we haven’t met.”

The husband said, “That was worth 85 dollars.” (My fee.)

What I’m saying is this (and I think my financial planner would agree), we think we’re talking money or plants, but we’re really talking life.