From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Take a Midlife Chance

One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

My husband, Scott, dreamed of owning a motorcycle again, like the one he owned as a teenager back in 1974— those weekends when he tore up neighbors’ yards, using his parents’ lawnmower gas to fuel his bike. I rolled my eyes and said, “Yeah, like that will ever happen.” I caught a slight look of hurt shoot across his face and felt a slight twinge of guilt, because I usually got what I wanted, including his undying support for my ideas and many career changes over our twenty years together. He must be going through his midlife crisis, I reasoned to myself. Of course, I wasn’t; at age forty-something, I knew who I was, and I didn’t need some dangerous toy to make me feel young again.

My national tea flavoring company had really been flourishing, due in part to his creative mind and support. Scott had listened to my endless chatter on ideas for tea blends, logo designs, and distributor issues. He sacrificed many hours helping my company grow, along with his regular full-time job as a custom home builder. Finally, out of sheer guilt, I relented, and the happy man got his wish.

After balancing the books and doing a bit of juggling, I called him at work and found myself uttering those dreaded words: “Maybe you should pick out a motorcycle. I think we can swing it.” I immediately heard the phone drop and the wild scampering of feet off to the dealership.

Soon there was a shiny new black Honda VTX 1300 in our driveway and a very happy man grinning from ear to ear standing alongside it. The men in the neighborhood gathered around, as if gazing at a scantily clad supermodel washing a car. The testosterone was so thick I almost grew chest hair myself. My happy man was the envy of the cul-de-sac.

Then I began to hear a question I had never contemplated having to answer. “Honey, please go for a ride with me? Just try it once,” he begged.

“Not a chance, never!” I repeated each time. I justified this by reminding myself that I would be his first passenger in three decades. I imagined myself lying on the road, bugs plastered on my teeth, helmet hair, and a whole slew of related horrors flashing in my mind’s eye.

Days went by and I noticed such a change in Scott’s demeanor. He was not just a happy little camper, he was full of joy. He smiled a Cheshire cat grin when wearing his helmet, sometimes even wearing it around the kitchen. He reminded me of my son with his first Big Wheel. Scott was gone for hours, alone, riding until dusk. He came home after his rides, relaxed and peaceful.

Secretly, I wanted to see what this was all about, without giving him the satisfaction of my curiosity. After years of scolding him for wanting a dangerous frivolous toy, how could I? I begged the question inside, Why did this dangerous fancy bicycle on steroids make him so relaxed? Is a whole generation of women wrong to pay someone to rub our backs, paint our toenails, and bend us into impossible positions in yoga classes all in the name of stress reduction? Have our male counterparts held the secret all along? Eat pork rinds over the sink, watch television, drink out of the milk carton, hop on a bike, and be fulfilled? Most women I knew were popping Prozac from a Pez dispenser, running from class to class in search of the answer.

Don’t ask me how, but weeks later I found myself allowing Scott to tuck my hair into a helmet as I got ready to ride. Yes, you heard me, ride. With an excited grin on his face, he went over the “rules,” a crash course on how to sit and how to lean into each turn. “Like a dance,” he said, “let me lead, honey.” The word shot through me. Let him lead? I began to panic . . . I never let anyone lead! I groaned inside as I climbed aboard, hoping the neighbors weren’t looking, since I had publicly announced several times, “I will never get on that thing.”

I felt my heart race as the ground sped by at what seemed like 100 miles an hour. I yelled over the roar of the wind, rather angrily in fact, for him to “slow it down already.” Feeling silly as he pointed to the speedometer, whose tiny needle was hardly at 10 mph, I slumped back. I had to trust him. After all, only God knew when my number was up; I really couldn’t control that, right? Plus, I was wearing clean underwear, and my hair was recently highlighted and cut, so if I was going to go, now would be as good a time as any. I might as well enjoy it, I reasoned. Snuggling into his warm leather jacket, I looked ahead over his shoulder like a child on a carnival ride.

It’s funny what you experience when you let someone else take you away to their private joy, to their own slice of heaven, and not insist on always being in control of your own pastimes, your own comfort zones, your own daily grind. Shamefully, I soon realized how selfish I had become. This was his dream, and he wanted to share it with me. Not his friends—those envious driveway buddies— but me. I felt the guilt consume me, and the shame of finding out what I had been missing all along. All the passed up opportunities in my life flashed back to me, all the resounding “Not this time, thanks.” The memories I stole from myself out of selfishness and stubborn unwillingness to bend, evolve, and share with someone else. I realized that I was the one in the midlife crisis, a crisis of being stuck somewhere between older and dead.

Now I know that joy can be found in many things, including other people’s things, even in my man’s world of little boy stuff. From now on I will take chances; I don’t ever want to be in a midlife crisis again. I want to grow as I grow old.

Lisa Wynn

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