September 19, 2011

Reflections on a Mid-life Crisis

“Mid-life crisis”…….I’ve heard this phrase thrown my way more than a few times these past few months.  I have tried not to take offense.  Rather I have taken the high road and tried to ignore the comments and jokes about my somewhat sudden change of lifestyle….“Let’s not turn a positive into a negative”, I’d say.  Well, here is my true confession…..I WAS in the midst of a mid-life crisis – LAST year.  I’m not sure anyone but me knew it at the time.  Thankfully, the Crisis of 2010 has passed.
What did my crisis look and feel like?  I turned 40.  My kids (thank God) became much more self-sufficient and less needy.   I had a body that did not feel or look like my own – a body that had spent the better part of 7 years serving as a vessel for new life, a food source for said new life, and eventually a jungle gym for two fabulous growing children.  A body whose owner stopped taking care of it properly and, in retaliation, began sending nasty warning signals like elevated blood sugars, pain, and uncomfortable heart arrhythmias.   I was experiencing activity limiting bouts of incontinence – an unfortunate consequence of birthing the two aforementioned babes.  My crisis involved feeling resentful that I had become a person unlike the one I had envisioned in my earlier years.  Resentment that all of my waking hours felt like they were dedicated to taking care of other people with no time to care for myself.  It involved disappointment that I had become soft, weak, and unable to move my body in space the way that I needed.  Then there was the greater disappointment that I was not modeling a healthy and active lifestyle for my kids.
So, in the midst of this crisis last year, what did I do?  First, I organized a birthday party with my closest peeps which was really fun, but didn’t really make me feel any better about myself once the party was over.  I then chose to remain in crisis for months as I felt I was “too busy” and didn’t have enough energy to do anything else.  Finally, I decided to heed the two pieces of advice that I have given others over the past few years….1) Do something, ANYTHING and 2) Do it thoughtfully in small, incremental, sustainable steps.
I don’t want to list too many boring details, but it’s important to gain perspective on how I was able to get OUT of crisis over the past year.  Yes, it took me almost an entire year.  I started eating better food, in better sized portions, at better times of the day.  I stopped eating so many white carbs….bread, rice, pasta; and drastically increased fruits, vegetables, and proteins.  I resumed exercising with purpose and with definitive goals - to become more fit, lose weight, and to eventually become an athlete again.  Through some medical testing, I was reassured that although my multiple repetitive heart flutterings were, in fact, real - they were benign.  After several years of vacillation and procrastination, I bit the bullet and underwent a procedure to resolve the incontinence – success!  In short, over the course of the past year I got my house in order and crisis mitigation eventually led to crisis resolution.
How do I know I am no longer in crisis?  First, there are the objective signs….25# lost, 6 inches missing from my waist, cholesterol/triglycerides/blood sugar/resting heart rate all reduced to fabulous levels, my BMI has dropped over 4 points to 20.0 (proof, Dad, that I’m not emaciated….just more healthy).  As for the second set of signs…..with my family’s support, I now make time for myself to be active at least 5 days a week.  I successfully completed my first sprint triathlon in August and was able to complete two legs of a ½ Ironman in September (swim/run).  I no longer feel resentful and angry.  I feel joy and more at peace (well, as much as a time-crunched control-freak like myself can  J).  I am an athlete once again.  Lastly, though I cannot be the judge of these particular post-crisis signs, I hope that I am now a better mother, a better wife, and a role model for my family and friends.
As for the biggest sign of all?  Now, when I hear someone make comments about mid-life crises, people’s perceptions that I’ve lost too much weight, or jokes about my desire to swim in the lake, run in the woods, or ride on the hills…..I smile and invite them to join me.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (Important persons aka – the Crisis Intervention Team)
Kelly (coach) – for guiding me through my first tri-training, inspiring me to do my very best, and giving me permission to just be me once in awhile
Bob (running buddy) – for getting up at 5:00 am (even though he doesn’t have to) to meet for many runs before work and early mornings on weekends; and for putting up with my tempo runs (even though he doesn’t have to)
Tom and La – for cheering me on long distance and never once saying I was having a mid-life crisis (I’d also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my brother even joining me for training rides which resulted in a post-ride ice pack to his man-parts….back in the saddle again!)
Mom and Dad – for giving me the life skills to handle life’s ups and downs; for supporting so many of my sporting adventures over the past 25 years; and for taking on child care and taxi service this past summer so that I could train
Elaine and Tony, and all other relatives – for “gearing me up” – bike computer, helmet, etc. – and for cheering me on
Lady Gaga – for providing my theme song (Edge of Glory) over and over and over again on the radio during crisis mitigation…..I am no longer on the edge….
Dr. H….for convincing me that I could “exercise with impunity” (his words, not mine)
Dr. K….plumbing repairs…enough said, right?
Tim – for love and support always; for being my best friend whether I’m in crisis or not
Andi and Aaron – my biggest fans, my motivators, and the best reasons in the world to be a better person


  1. You're an inspiration, B. And I'm looking forward to keeping up with your new adventures on this blog!

  2. You have no bigger fan than your awestruck brother! You inspire me and make me want to breeze past forty myself, all the while holding up my big sister as my role model. Run with the wind at your back and the sun on your shoulders and ride like it's downhill both ways.

  3. This was such a great post Brenda. It was said with such honesty and grace. Your journey is very inspiring and I'm eager to hear more. Keep writing Brenda!

  4. Well said girlfriend! I hope to keep up with you on your quest for good health! I love working out with you! :)

  5. KUDOS to you! I was already in awe of you and didn't know any of this. Who decides to run a half marathon a few days before a race (when she is already doing a 1.2 mile swim earlier in the race)? Especially when this distance isn't one she has done before! And then she kicks butt doing it! Good for you Brenda - I have no doubt that you can accomplish anything you set your mind too. I mentioned to Dave that he couldn't have found a nicer person to do a tri relay with. Being healthy both mentally and physically is so important. What a great role model you are for your children as well as others! I am so glad we met.

  6. Wow! I certainly will take no credit for all of the hard work you put into yourself!! Bravo! I'm so proud!!


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