Things I Learned From the Woman Next Door

How many potatoes does a wife peel over the course of her wifetime?

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Last week while I was peeling potatoes in my kitchen I had a flashback. For a few moments, I was transported back in time to when I was 18 years old, a young wife and stay-at-home mom, sitting in the kitchen of the middle-aged woman who lived next door.

I loved this woman. She was a boisterous, thrice-married, functioning alcoholic with a wealth of experience, none of which she seemed to learn from, all of which she loved to share after a few glasses of wine.

Evenings spent with her were an adventure as she told tales of ex-husbands and lovers, of friends’ sorrows, and of being adopted. She would gossip about the doctors at the OB/GYN office where she worked, unconcerned that I was a patient there, knowing I had a mad crush on the youngest of them.

My cue to leave some nights were hints of what would later become knock-down, drag-out fights between her and the guitar-playing, passive-aggressive, alcoholic third husband. To say she led a dramatic life is an understatement.

Despite her crazy life, as a young woman, I learned from her. A lot of what I learned was what not to do. But I also learned that a tough life didn’t have to dampen one’s spirit. She was a loving, if inconsistent, mother and a fantastic cook.

Many of our conversations took place in her kitchen, me sitting at the table while she prepared meals. This often involved peeling potatoes. It was during these moments that tidbits of wisdom emerged.

One of her statements in particular stood out. She told me that when she married her first husband, at the age of 18, she vowed to “count every potato I peeled as a wife.”

Her statement struck me because of how loaded it was with meaning. It implied that marriage was a monotonous state in which a woman must perform never-ending duties for her family, many of which went unappreciated. By counting the potatoes, she was in her small way rebelling against the institution, and placing a value on her worth as a woman and wife.

Even at that tender age she had an inkling of what she was getting in to. Of course she lost count.

As I stood in my kitchen, peeler in hand, her words came back to me. There can be a lot of monotony, drudgery, and duty in women’s work. What we do for our families often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Yet we keep on peeling the potatoes, because that’s what women do.

From this woman next door, I learned that every scrape of the potato skin is an act of love, each chop on the cutting board is an offering.

A Letter to My Readers

New year, new blog title and tagline, same content – it’s all about midlife.

First, I want to say thank you for reading my blog, especially the handful of you that do so faithfully. I deeply appreciate your time, comments, and likes. And I love checking out what you’re up to each week.

Those of you that have been with me from the beginning know that I started this blog in May 2015 with a frenzy of posts, essentially disappeared from the blogosphere for about four months over summer, and resumed posting again in earnest in December 2015.

When I resumed, I experimented with different themes, changed the title from Middle-Aged Madness to Midlife Madness (more on that later), and have been playing around with different taglines.

Honestly, I consider it a miracle that you have stuck around through this identity crisis.

The truth is, I knew less than zero about blogging when I started this site. I had just completed my master’s degree and for the first time in two years had some time on my hands in the evenings. I also had just turned 46 and I love to write, so thought, “Oh, I’ll start a blog about middle-age. That’ll be fun.”

The title Middle-Aged Madness popped into my head, primarily because I’d just finished binge-watching the entire series Mad Men on Netflix. I thought it was cute and catchy, so I went with it, not bothering to Google the name to see if it already existed.

Mad Men Image via http://consumerist.com

I had no idea that blogging could be so complicated, that people who follow you actually expect you to post meaningful content regularly, not occasional rants about how life can suck. There was this whole blogging world out there and I didn’t know where I belonged in it.

In November 2015, after writing my first post in months, I thought about deleting the blog. I wasn’t sure I had the time or wherewithal to do it properly. I also didn’t think my topic was popular enough to get the readership I hoped to have.

Then I had an epiphany: I’d only been blogging for six months, and for four of them I didn’t blog at all, and I was going to throw in the towel!

I was mad at myself. It’s so typical of me to start something in a flurry of creative energy and then not see it through to the end. Part of it is my personality type (ENFP), but part is a lack of what one of my students once called “stickwithitness” when it comes to my creative life.

I resolved right then that no matter what, even if my current readers dumped me and I had no new ones, I was sticking with this blog until at least December 2016. I would post once per week. I would educate myself on blogging, and learn as much as I could about the blogging community.

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This is exactly what I’ve been doing. As part of this process, I decided to change my title to Midlife Madness. After Googling Middle-Aged Madness and coming up with some weird video game, and also realizing that the term midlife resulted in more relevant Google links than middle-age, I decided to go with it.

The one drawback is that midlife seems narrower in age, about 45-55, whereas middle-age encompasses about 45-65. I’ll worry about that if I’m still blogging in 9 years.

Then there was the matter of the tagline.

Initially, I thought it was warm and inviting, but according to what I was learning about taglines, it probably wasn’t accurately describing what my blogging goals are, which is to inform, entertain, and inspire people to view midlife as an exciting time, filled with possibilities.  I also want to share the humor in and reflect on the everyday ups and downs of life. (It took me getting serious about blogging to even consider what my goals are.)

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But I couldn’t find a tagline that was working, despite writing an extensive list. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe the tagline isn’t working because the title is wrong.

A friend of mine, who lives in London so we only communicate via email, had told me it was all wrong, but he never told me why. I assumed it was because he associated the word madness with mental illness.

Yes, life can be crazy and middle-age can be riddled with mad moments, but was this the message I really wanted to impart? Now that I was no longer burned out from working on my master’s degree and was feeling better about life, did I want to perhaps send a more positive message about the midlife experience?

I decided the answer is yes. So Middle-Aged Madness turned Midlife Madness is now Midlife Awakenings, with a new tagline to go with it. I feel that the new title better reflects my goals for this blog and this stage of my life. Life is still a little mad, but it’s also exciting , filled with new possibilities and new beginnings.

Again, thank you for your readership and your “stickwithitness.” Enjoy the day!