Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Missives from my Mid-Life Crisis


In case I’ve not mentioned it before, I turn 40 at the end of this year. I think I’m suffering more angst about this than I let myself believe, because I talk about it to everyone. In the course of all this talking, I’ve heard a brilliant description of a mid-life crisis, which I’m going to share with you. My friend said, “It’s a period of mourning, in which you have to grieve the dreams you are never going to achieve, and set out to achieve the ones that are still possible.”

To me, that makes a spectacular amount of sense. And just in case you’re worried about me, let me assure you that these are some of things I’m not grieving:

1. My chance to be a supermodel

2. My Formula One career

3. My bestselling album

However, I am focusing intensely on the dreams that are still achievable:

1. Completing my novel and submitting it to a literary agent or two

2. Getting fit

I am writing industriously and have the strong bones of Chapter Three, which is now 5,000 words long. This week I plan to go back and add the meat.

I have also been a gym member for a month, and am going religiously in the mornings and sometimes at the weekend. I do the circuit and some cardio, or the circuit and a class. I’ve tried spinning, Pilates and a German speciality called Bauch, Beine, Po which targets tummy, legs and bum. It hurts. After the gym, I cross the road to a fabulous cafe, order myself a huge steaming Milchkaffee and write, write, write in my notebook.

Then there is a third, smaller, thing about which I feel just as intense: my hair. I have, ahem, natural highlights, folks. About a year ago, I wrote about my dilemma about whether to continue colouring my hair and since then I have not returned to the salon. Instead, I am in the middle of a real-life attempt to live with the grey. And the grey is winning.

By the end of this year, I hope to be a thin, grey novelist.

I’m workin’ that midlife crisis, baby!


(Does that sound a bit young?)

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

31 thoughts on “Missives from my Mid-Life Crisis

  1. I have the same two midlife dreams — except I still nurture an inner longing to become a rock star!

  2. This is probably going to sound a bit naff but I just want to tell you – you inspire me!

  3. I think gray hair is beautiful and want to let mine go gray when I get to that stage of life. Rock on for embracing your natural beauty!

  4. If you have been going religiously to the gym for a month now, you have a nice, strong will to succeed! And I love my gray hairs and am sad when they fall out : ) I experimented with a short hairstyle two years ago — my husband just today revealed to me that it took all his strength and love for me not to tell me how awful it looked! So I won’t be joining you in Judi Dench-land, I’ll be keeping the long tresses.

  5. I’m approaching 40 too- now I read your post I realise I have been going through a similar process- embracing the grey, working at getting more exercise and focusing on trying to get to the next level in my career- and accepting too the things that aren’t likely to happen. I won’t have a stellar career, I’m probably not having any more children and I’ll never be rich… but, you know, it ain’t over till it’s over!

  6. I’m going through the same thing with the grey hair. My hair stylist thinks I’m crazy. She’s warned me that it will take 15+ months to get rid of the dyed portion of my hair unless I did the Judi Dench style cut. That’s not going to happen. You inspire me with your gym routine — I started light exercise routine in January and it’s time to step it up to some more rigorous, which probably means joining a gym. Just have to get up the courage to walk through the door — grey hair & all! As for turning 40? I’ve said for a long time that my life didn’t get interesting until I turned 40. I think I will miss my 40’s, but I’m not quite ready to embrass the next decade so heartily.

  7. Exercising nearly every day. You go gal! I went through a similar process as you at 40, but none of it with 50. It is strange, 40 was, as your friend said, leaving behind certain aspirations. It all seemed rather a sad state of affairs. Fifty seems so much better. Can’t explain why. Keep you chin up and you upper lip (since you lived in England) and ears (since you are living in Germany) stiff.

  8. I’m not sure I’ll ever see the inside of another gym, but I too would like to write something different over the course of the next year (I’m almost 39). I think that is the real blessing of 40 – it focuses the mind to really push for a cherished goal, and you don’t have the same level of angst and lack of self-confidence that dogged the twenties. I mean there have to be some compensations, right?

  9. I just found my first grey hair a few weeks ago and now it has multiplied and brought all its friends to the party on my hairline. I wasn’t exactly ready for it but it’s not really a big deal either. I think all grey/white hair is very cool, and sexy!

    Kudos for the gym commitment. I only wish I could afford/have time to go to a gym. At the moment, my exercise consists of schlepping around the shops running errands and hopping around the living room with my daughter, pretending to be bunnies.

  10. A fit, grey novelist – I love it!

  11. whoot for hitting the forties thin and grey haired! i’ve allowed the grey to grow in five years ago and i love it! as for thin ,,, i’ll need some more time for that, but i’m working on it. gyms are not for me – can’t stand the atmospere. walking, biking and swimming will have to do for me. and i’ll tell you how forty feels in about three months!

  12. Argh, grieving the dreams you are never going to achieve and setting out to achieve the dreams that are still possible?

    That sounds way too realistic and adult and especially sad for me, and I am hitting 39 this year.

    Seems they will have to pry my lifeless 40ish fingers from my dreams before I will let go. Until then, I want to stay a kid who believes everything, even the unrealistic castles in the air!

    Cudos to you for writing and exercising, Charlotte! You go, girl!!

  13. Well, you know, I was going to post to you, about you, as this is your blog, but I just read all of these comments about how great gray is, and seeing as to how I found my first gray hair and made an appointment for t his saturday to rectify the situation, i am feeling very vain and unfeminist.
    that said, you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, and if anyone will make gray look classy, it will be you. Just don’t give up the cool shoes, okay?

  14. Charlotte, for 364 days I dreaded the arrival of my 40th. But when the day came, I looked in the mirror and realized I was just a fabulous as I was the day before. I’m not saying don’t work on that mid-life crisis, mind you. If done right, they can be a lot of fun!

  15. The Hildy has grey hair. I love it and not just because it makes me look younger when I’m next to her.

  16. Forty has passed for me. I’m either losing my memory or have stopped stressing to the point that I have to stop and think, “Am I going to turn 42 or 43 this year?” I too decided to let the gray go. I read an article about how sexy men think it is…my man agrees. I will however dye before going back to visit family this summer. How silly, I know. I just don’t want to hear it. “Oh you are sooo gray.” “Wow, you’ve let yourself go.” “See what moving to a tree-hugging state has done to you.” Yes, my family WOULD actually say these things. It just takes less energy to dye than to hear it.

    Maybe next year I’ll brave it, when I turn 44… or is it 45?

  17. That is such a BRILLIANT description of mid life crisis, I have copied and pasted it and emailed it to myself so that it will be around in my life to ease me through mid-life transitions. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    May your transition occur with great joyous outcomes.

  18. Pingback: I’m behind with reading your blogs « Relaxed Parents

  19. You are a rockin’ role model for all women!

  20. 40 is next year for me…I have a smart friend who said, “Stop saying you’re nearly 39. You’re 38.” So, Charlotte, you’re 39, and wonderfully gifted. 40 is still a way off yet, and when you get there you will be 40 and wonderfully gifted.

  21. You know, that bluing stuff that old ladies used to use may not be such a bad thing. I think it leaves a quite beautiful effect on gray hair.

    I’m 45… and the midlife crisis is just now seeping in. My crazy dreams are getting harder and harder to achieve, primarily because of the children. I still have one home all day. Even though I know this will end soon, it frustrates me not to be able to work on my dream — different from yours, but not too far.

    I just started Kundalini Yoga with Ravvi — goddess workout that’s pretty challenging…

    You are very aware, Charlotte, of your goals, which is a good thing to know. And you are working towards them, and I don’t see you stopping.
    That said, I can’t wait to sit in my bed, cozy, with your book in my lap, while I read. I will visualize this for you.

  22. Grey hair is fabulous – aren’t we lucky to have it so early? and it shows us to be bold and brave and self-assured women who don’t need outside approval and who won’t go down the toxic chemical road!

  23. I love each and every one of my grey hairs (and I secretly hope to find more every day).

    That description of mid-life crisis is perfect — it’s how I’ve been looking at my approaching 40th (okay, it’s a year off and creeping towards me slowly) without having the exact words to describe how I feel. For me it’s a time of possibilities and awakening. I still have the somewhat crazy dreams but at least I know they’re likely to remain dreams.

    Good on you for going for what you want! Keep workin’ it!

  24. When I was about 38 or so, a friend of mine who was turning 50 at the time told me she was so glad to be where she was in life, because she finally felt beautiful and comfortable with herself (I promise you, this is not a friend of mine who happens to look like Meryl Streep. She is an ordinary woman, which is just a beautiful thing to be. Period. No matter how old you are and no matter what Hollywood or advertisers tell us we how we should look or feel). At the time, I thought, “Is she kidding? I’ll NEVER feel beautiful.” However, the closer I get to fifty (just celebrated 44 last week), the closer I get to understanding what she meant. Forty is nothing. You know how great your thirties have been? Multiply that by 10. There’s a certain sort of relaxation and acceptance that sets in, which is why I’m sure fifty won’t be bad, either (and I’m looking forward to feeling beautiful after all these years).

  25. I’m with you, baby! Novel/writing, health, relationships. This is where I will focus my resources and energy.

    Happy mid-life to you!

  26. Hi, just thought I’d let you know that my husband calls his grey hairs, his “ultra-blondes”.

    Today I was berated (I think) by an “ultra-blonde” lady in the supermarket because I was looking at my written grocery list (due partly to the number of things I needed to buy, and partly to my current goldfish-like memory). She told me that the only way to stay young and keep ones mind ‘in ordnung’ was to actively use it. She then informed me that she was 85 and didn’t need to have a list.

    After being somewhat taken aback by this onslaught of German, I told her in my best broken German that she was beautiful, and obviously had a keen mind. Her petite body then gave me one of the fiercest hugs I’ve ever received from a complete stranger.

    Is it a sad reflection on me that this kind of made my day?

    So, I say what is 40? Bring on 85!

  27. Grey hair and wrinkles are the outward manifestation of a life of lived experiences! Give me that anyday to the ‘erased’ look of the surgically modified.

  28. I’m not exactly sure how I stumbled across your blog. But am glad I did. 🙂 I think it was something to with An Uncomplicated Kindness.

    I see we have a few things in common: writing, gym membership, children (I have 4), expat (I’m Canadian living in the US–so much smaller differences than what you’re noticing).

  29. I’m still finding it hard to believe that I’ll be forty-eight in a few days, but that’s because I never expected, when I began this decade, that it would be quite so wonderful to grow older. Something settles over you, gradually, some understanding of who you are and some acceptance of your limits that allows you to be more truly the person you were meant to be. As for hair, well, honestly? It’s a whatever makes you happy kind of thing. I’m more interested in what’s inside the head — and what’s on the feet, being a shoe person, myself.

  30. I let my gray grow out a few years ago, as I had very long hair. Two years ago I couldn’t stand my long hair (it was a very hot summer) nor the gray… I cut it very short, and I dyed it! I was 43 then. Now I’m going to be 45 in May, and i’m growing my hair long, and still covering the gray. I have too much for me! while I search for my ‘look’ to suit me in my 40’s, I want to confess that I have never felt freer before, to be myself, to dress the way I want to, to buy what I want, to just stop worrying what other people think of me. Like you, I’m a writer, struggling with my first novel – one I’ve been writing for a long time, but I am having problems finding the real story – its’ slow but coming along, as I have started a new family and bought my first house as well, as I entered my 40s! I think, looking back on these almost-five years, that the 40’s are the best time to be a woman, if we are willing to look at our goals and achievements, and see what we still want to do. So I look forward to seeing you progress in your writing as I do, and see what you do with you hair over the years, and delight in your wonderful stories of your children (the birthday party blog was hilarious!!!) – my kids are 19, 5 and 3, and some days there is no pleasing anyone!! (the menu blog is also good……the tasty menu refried with soya sauce!!!) and in between all that, we read! 40s are really good. but there a point of letting go of youth, too – I don’t feel old at all, but I also know I’m not 20, either. And that’s okay.

  31. Didn’t realise how close we are in age – I just got to 39 over Easter. It’s a bit of a blah age – not a milestone and not cool or sexy in any way – kind of makes me look forward to 40! I am deeply impressed with your gym habits. My body seems every 5 years to decide I need a little extra and i put on 3-5kg in a short space of time for no apparnet reason ( no change in habits, eating etc). So I need to get me to a gym this year and try and get a little head start on the inevitable increase in my erm, physical presence next year!! And as for the grey issue, I have like a dozen grey hairs that all seem to congregate in one place on my skull and I can’t say I’m particularly fond of them. Call me vain, call me shallow, call me in denial but I don’t particularly want to be grey, now or ever. That said, I have been playing around with hair colours since I was 19, so I can’t exactly be accused of dyeing my hair to escape the grey – I just like dying my hair & I dont’ plan to stop any time soon 🙂

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