Carolyn Hax: Figuring out what matters in a midlife ‘Is this all there is?’ crisis


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)
Carolyn Hax
Columnist July 27

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m in my mid-40s and I guess finally having my midlife crisis. After watching my friend’s husband die of brain cancer at 52, and a co-worker drop dead of a heart attack at 53, I’m acutely aware that life can change in an instant. I am happily married and have a young daughter, but seem to be wondering, “Is this all there is?”

I really want a change, to make the most of the time I have left with my family. How do I get rid of this feeling that my time is running out?

45

Interesting timing. I received this question the day after a friend’s funeral — 47, brain cancer, awful — and one of the most powerful observations at the service was that she responded to her diagnosis by not making dramatic changes to her life. She surveyed “all there is,” felt fortunate to have it, and just wanted to live it.

Imagine this bucket list: family, friends, career, hobbies.

It’s possible her “I have it all” and your “is this all there is?” are essentially the same. Since perspective is so powerful, maybe merely appreciating the mundane is “mak[ing] the most of it.”

Tweak as you need to, of course: Travelers should travel and givers should give and artists should art (that’s a verb, right?). If mere tweaks don’t produce meaning, then, yes, take these recent deaths as your hint to reevaluate who you are and what path you want to take. I’m merely suggesting you start by considering that your life is right where you want it — right where your choices took you — and that better lighting is all you need to see its beauty.

Hi, Carolyn:

When my boyfriend and I got together, it was a breath of fresh air. I’ve never been one to hang out with groups of girls because they don’t understand my sense of humor. I like to tease people and mess around with them, and get teased back. My boyfriend’s entire family has this kind of relationship with each other, just like mine.

But now I’m finding myself tired of it. Even during our one-year-anniversary dinner, almost nothing he said was sweet or romantic, just playful jabs. Nothing about his behavior has changed, but I want to hear nicer things. Have I changed? Or is this the result of falling deeper in love? I don’t want to lose him, but this is wearing me down to the point of questioning a relationship that is exactly what I asked for.

Too Much

Maybe you’ve just grown up a bit.

Please re-cast what you said here into a warm truth you tell your boyfriend. Either he’ll grow with you and toggle comfortably between playful jabs and sincere affection, or he won’t, and you can decide your future based on that — including your own allegiance to snark.

Re: Teasing:

Can I just say how annoying I find it when I hear a woman say they don’t like other women? There are billions of women out there. And if you really can’t find a girlfriend who is hilarious, ironic, a tomboy, flip or just flat-out cool, then that’s on you. Not the rest of humanity.

Anonymous

Sing it.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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