I used to wake up with panic at 3 a.m. I still do. My reasons were different a couple of years ago. I had a job that was my dream job, except that I didn’t make enough to live on. I knew I had to move on from my apartment in the ghetto. I was struggling so hard to just survive with 3 kids that I didn’t have time to think about anything else.
And I’m not complaining now. I have everything I was working so hard to get, or waiting for since I was young. An awesome husband, a nice home, some extra spending cash, a good job, a good degree, feeling safe and secure. When you’re living just to survive and then you get everything you want, you SHOULD just be happy, right?
Well, yes and no. Happiness isn’t the end of the road. It isn’t ever after. And believing it should happen just means there’s more anxiety when it just isn’t that way. Sure, I’m happy. But now I have more time on my hands, less things to dream about, and happiness is . . . boring. Who would want to read a book where the main character is happy all the time?
It hit me two weeks after I turned 40, this existential crisis of mine. My time suddenly felt LIMITED. There is an end point to it all. I couldn’t see that before, back when I was just scraping by and waiting until something good would come along. Now I can picture myself growing older in this exact spot. My children are going to grow up and move out. It’s only a matter of time before they will box up my things and talk about my life.
Morbid? No. The beginning of life is all about adventure and creating a life. It’s full of big, usually vague, plans of DOING SOMETHING. Something important. Something to change things. But then things change to something to leave behind, a legacy, not being forgotten. The big existential questions wake me up at night. Why are we here? Is there any meaning in this? What is life anyway? And how do I fill in the rest of my life with worthwhile things instead of just passing the time, which is what the first third of my life feels like?
This is where my life does fit into Maslow’s pyramid.
I’ve been living on the bottom two steps for too long. And when you’re down there, you don’t have time to think about other things as much. Some, but not much. Now I’m working on the upper three. I have a great relationship, but not so many friends. All this moving around has been hard on friendships. I have some achievement, but am not licensed yet and am still insecure on my professional self-esteem and heading out on my own one day. I have some of the self-actualization, but lack spontaneity and creativity. It’s nice to be working my way up the ladder, but at the same time, things are difficult up here and working on some of these things is almost as scary as the bottom two.
Some of my morning anxiety is also over uprooting myself last June and starting all over again on many of these things. This move has been difficult for me. I’m not as adventurous as I used to be. Not as able to pick up and do it again. I don’t have young children to hide behind.
As I prepare myself for their exit from my home I have to find myself all over again. They have defined me for too long. What does one do when the job of mother, cook, cleaner, counselor, finder of lost things, and all that other stuff I spend almost all my time doing, goes away?