An old boyfriend just blogged that his marriage may be breaking up. His wife then blogged her view of things. Both were pointed, poignant accounts of what happens to a lot of marriages in midlife that reach the point of asking what is the point. In her account, I played a very minor role. During the time he and she first fell in love, it seems, he was "attached to another." That's me: another.
The word brings up an ancient hurt. I was born to parents who gave birth to a girl. Then another, then another, then another: me. Being the other other other another has been a lifelong rut, and at midlife I still find myself negotiating my way out of it, only to slide down the wall into a puddle at the bottom now and then. Do all of us with a lot of siblings feel this way? If so, some of us lie about how it makes me feel.
I'm in rehearsal for a play right now in which I play the older of two sisters. Despite getting to be the bossy firstborn—great fun, I've done it before—I have to deal with the fact that my character is not Daddy's favorite. At one point, he tells his younger daughter that he is satisfied with his older daughter, but "I'm proud of you."
It's cathartic and instructive, of course, to mine, examine, and release what that provokes. At the same time, it's enlightening to gain access to territory more familiar to my older sisters than to me—it's sort of like being advanced to the head of the class and wearing the dunce cap at the same time. But playing variations on the theme is what invites new themes in.
Midlife is a weird, cliché place. You wonder if you made the best decisions, how things would have gone if you'd made different choices, what you should do about your keener appreciation of the shortness of life. Gangs of others' ideas about success invade when your guard is down, making off with what they can of your archived satisfactions with who you are and what you've built. The best panoply during such a break-in is to have shared some of your life with one for whom you are also the one, not another. The second best is your creativity, which may not protect you from despair, but if it won't, nothing will.
I blogged so much about that house, that house we have now left, that house that has simply fallen from my consciousness, that I should offer an update. After scouring the falling market and seeing that it would be folly to buy again—a speculation that has turned out to be right, as values continue to dive—we found a peaceful cottage at the edge of a village. We are two blocks from bustle but look out on trees and see the stars at night. And there is no mortgage. Things feel freer, more edgy, but not in a way that wakes me at 3 a.m., thinking of foreclosure. Maybe all the shifting ground under my feet will get them moving in new, productive directions. I've tried a bunch already in my life, but I intend to walk another, and another, and another.