Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Flying Untethered in Mid-Life Space: What Color Is My Landing Gear?

Remember that book that came out back in the the early 70's; What Color is Your Parachute? As a chubby 8-year old living on the east coast, the only color I really cared about at the time was the cream filling in a Twinkie or the fruit in a "snack" pie! (With 19 grams of fat per pie, no wonder I was chubby!) But today, living in the mostly organic Northwest and well-beyond my years of hydrogenated oil bliss, my struggle has gone from figuring out how many Hostess products I could sneak after school to figuring out who I am or want to be during the time that my kids are in school!

And as I thought about finding our old copy of the "Parachute" book for answers so I wouldn't start eating Twinkies again to fill the void, I realized that there really should be a wider selection of versions of self-help books that are a little more relevant to today's countless middle-aged men and women like me who have stepped off their major career ladders before reaching the top to focus on their once younger and needier children and are now possibly struggling to redefine themselves during that seemingly vacant mid-life space between the hours of nine and three.

So I've come up with my own list of self-help books that I think should be written for this phase in our lives when the stroller rides to the park during the day have given way to carpools to Little League practice at night. These books would be dedicated to the many important middle-aged roles we play each day as stay-at-home or working parent, son or daughter, friend, spouse, aging athlete, and wannabe entrepreneur just trying to find some joy in our lives and make it all work.

"How to Win Friends and Influence People You Didn't Grow Up or Go to College With": This book would be for those of us that are living in an urban neighborhood in which we were not raised or college-educated and would teach us how to be interesting in social gatherings without having gone to the UW (or any other predominant alma mater), when it is appropriate to wear either Lululemon, Under Armour or college colors, depending on the social event you would like to be invited to and most importantly, explain the subtle differences between driving a Prius, minivan, Saab, Volvo, BMW, Sequoia, Lexus, Subaru or Suburban, again, depending on the social event you would like to be invited to...

"In My Forties and Lovin' It": This book would help us embrace the idea of wearing reading glasses to play "Words with Friends" on your Iphone, provide local lists of the best over-50 select soccer and basketball leagues in your area in case you want to "play up" and would include an index in the back for the best places to find knee wraps, painkillers, medical marijuana and the top local surgeons when all else fails...

"How to be a Good Parent Without Acting Like a Child or Going Into Therapy": This book would teach you how to remain patient and not throw an inner child tantrum when your son or daughter loses the $100 dollar pair of shoes you thought would last them through the school year and then acts like it's no big deal, tracks cleat mud all over the floor you just swept or yells at you because you forgot to buy the kind of conditioner that they like for their hair. The index, however, would include the names and numbers of local therapists as well as a space to write in your parents' phone number so you can call to either complain, say you're sorry, or ask them if they can pay for your therapy now since college didn't really work out as planned...

"Finding Joy in the Mundane": This book would teach us how to celebrate the daily sense of satisfaction we should get from filling and emptying the dishwasher, doing the laundry, shopping for dinner items, racking your brain for dinner ideas, and picking up 20 pairs of shoes and socks each day by cranking up Bob Marley on your Ipod and it would remind us to NEVER play Coldplay or Pink Floyd on a rainy day while doing these tasks. This index also includes the numbers for local therapists, just in case you do...

"Today's Marriage and Social Media" This would remind us that all the pictures posted on your old high school or college flame's Facebook page are really just a mirage and that their life is not really more exciting than yours. In fact, he or she is most likely dealing with just as many issues in their mid-life as you are, so do not, I repeat, do not "poke" them because you are bored! The index would also include names of local therapists...

"Dating for Families: Writing the Perfect Craig's List Personal Ad: This book would teach us that dating isn't just for singles anymore. There are plenty of lonely families out there looking for the perfect match and would give us examples of personal ads you can post like: FSF/Wanted, well-behaved parents and children to spend occasional weekends together for a barbecue or camping trip. Must have exactly three children matching the gender and ages of the following: boy-12, boy-10 and girl-8. Must not swear or use the phrase "that sucks" repeatedly in conversations. Must have knowledge and/or interest of subjects outside of their college, smartphone or children's academic or athletic success, and most of their emotional baggage sorted out. Children must say please and thank you and should be well-adjusted and able to carry on a conversation with adults beyond grunts, vacant stares or one-word answers. Smoking or strong personal opinions on any given subject and/or excessive public displays of affection discouraged as they usually are a sign of dysfunction... Please forward your resume and references if interested....

And my all-time favorite, of course, "Flying Untethered in Mid-Life Space: What Color is My Landing Gear?: This book would provide a short questionnaire that upon answering would tell you exactly how to earn money and find intellectually stimulating meaning and purpose in your 40's within the school hours of 9am and 3pm with rewarding activities that do not include the words classroom volunteer, cleaning the bathroom, nap, doctor's appointment, boot camp, Oprah, Target, Starbucks, Facebook, tee time or "is it too early to have a beer or glass of wine?!" Now that would be a best-seller, don't you think?!

Please let me know how you fill your mid-life space when you get a chance; if I don't answer, I'm probably eating a Twinkie and watching Oprah! Until next time...