Last year, at the age of 44, I published my first book, To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife. I had been planning to write a book ever since I was 19 and blurted to a boy I knew that I was going to become a "published writer." He was impressed and I was surprised—I wasn't majoring in English or turning out short stories or doing any of the other things that the future writers were doing. But come to think of it, writing seemed like something I probably could do—it wasn't as though I had said I was planning to climb Mount McKinley or become a lingerie model. I liked to read; I had a lot to say. How hard could it be? So I mentally added "write a book" to the to-do list I was making for my life. That's how it was when I was young: Everything seemed more or less possible. There was world enough, and time.
I got older, and my horses started coming in—or not. I never did get to have a job like Carol Merrill's on Let's Make a Deal or Betty Furness's on the Today show. But many of the other things I wanted to do—work in a museum, teach school, get married, have children—I've done. And with the arrival, one sunny day last spring, of the first copies of my book, the last of what my father used to call my "hopes and dreams" panned out.
Did I feel exhilarated, joyful, tickled pink? I did not.
I set the book on the edge of my desk, and then I propped it up on the living room bookcase, and then for a few months I wandered around in a funk, until I realized what was the matter: I had run out of dream.
For the first time in my life, I didn't have the pounding, driving sense of ambition that had always propelled me forward, the feeling that way up ahead were some things I wanted and was going to spend a lot of time lunging toward. It was as though I'd been in a speeding car that had suddenly stopped short. Here it was: middle-age. I know there are exceptional people who don't even get started on the great work of their lives until they're past the midpoint. But that's what makes them the exception.
Being Irish, I know a thing or two about how to deal with an identity crisis, or indeed any kind of crisis: Throw a party. And so I did.
I issued invitations to a stay-at-home mom, a novelist, a performance artist, a television personality, a professional organizer, and a sidelined entrepreneur. Then I pushed my living room furniture around until it formed a big circle, and waited for my guests, who arrived promptly, grabbed glasses of wine, and started singing like canaries.
We Hear You!