Shark Girl is officially one year older. One year further into the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages are what drove me to jiu jitsu.
I’m in the stage of life Erik Erikson called Number 7. My time is spent caring for others. During the day I teach the young people. I come home and wipe noses and bottoms, feed and care for my two precious children. (Until recently, 21-Year-Old Cat was among the cared-for in my home. We had to let her go last weekend. RIP.) I spend most of my time worrying about the generation(s) that come after me—being generative. Erikson says that if we are not generative enough, we stagnate and feel no sense of purpose in life. However, if we are too generative, we overextend and lose our sense of self. This is the stage where we can experience the dreaded mid-life crisis.
This is why I started jiu jitsu. I was way too generative. I felt a personal stagnation. Living in suburbia, I feel tremendous pressure to live life through my kids. To sign them up for activities and cart them to classes. To attend school functions and communicate with teachers. To arrange play dates and relay anecdotes that show how charming/smart/perceptive my children are. To sock away money in a 529, to measure my worth in the achievements of my kids. This is a mid-life crisis: to realize that life is half gone and we can either embrace it or let it pass us by as we ride in the slow lane behind a minivan headed for soccer practice.
I love my kids. I am proud of their achievements. However, I am not setting a good example for my kids if I show them that my adult life is meaningless. How can I instill a love of learning in them if I do not continue to stretch my own boundaries?
I was afraid to start BJJ. Twenty years ago, that fear would have kept me from it. As a 41-year old I recognize that this is the fear we experience when we are about to encounter something so foreign, so new to us, that it could challenge and change the way we look at the world. Albert Camus would say this fear makes us “porous,” or completely open to learning.
I read over my Suburban Mom Handbook. There’s plenty in there on packing lunches and picking pre-schools. There’s nothing in there about kicking ass. Jiu jitsu has both challenged and changed me in the short few months that I have practiced it. If this is what the Middle Ages is going to be like, then I say, “Bring it on!” Just hold the chastity belt.