Years ago, a friend of mine once succinctly told me, “You’d like to be Marcia Brady but you’re really a Jan.” He was right. The bastard. Like the tortured Jan Brady, I am a quintessential middle child with the baggage to prove it.
Jan and I suffer from serious conditions like “Where’s Mine”-itis, “I’ll never be as good as her”-phobia” and general feelings of suckiness. I spent a lot of time trying to be different from my siblings and to stand out. Unlike Jan, however, my methods weren’t as harmless as making up a fake boyfriend or wearing an afro wig. I was more of the dropping acid on the mall and shaving stripes into my head type. Potayto, Potahto. I’d hardly be a fabulous alcoholic if I didn’t blame my lot in life on my birth placement so you best believe I milked being a middle child for all it was worth. Us middle children have an uncanny ability of making folks believe that we were rarely fed, chained to a radiator and ignored all because we have more glamorous older and younger siblings. Of course, all of it is a lie. Maybe not a lie in the early years but more of a childhood perception. It becomes a lie though the more we tell it to ourselves. I told myself and others that I drank over the hand I was dealt. But that was bullshit too. I drank and did drugs because I didn’t want to cope with life and wasn’t terribly interested in living the truth. Period. I think I would have drunk the same regardless of wherever I wound up perched on my family tree.
I rarely feel those childish moments of middle insecurity anymore. But I have been experiencing another kind of “middle” lately. My play has opened and closed to much success. My whirlwind romance is nearly two years old. Other extreme highs have just simmered into a great daily life. And I feel like I’m not at the climax or at the foot of the mountain. Just in the middle. As an addicted person, this ‘maintaining’ irks me. It needs to be either high highs or high drama and nothing in between. Like my other middle problems, this one stems from feeling “less than” and is also bullshit. When I’m sullen and self-absorbed and dissatisfied with everything, it completely craps on the amazingness that truly exists in my life today. Today, I woke up early, made muffins, hung out and got inspired with my writing group and then went to the theater with my husband. I even got new shoes and a coffee maker. My life is great! So what if it is the middle? Oreos, most of my favorite books,Tootsie Roll pops, Gone with the Wind– all have fantastic middles. Yet what if the middle is tough or crappy or unenjoyable? Doesn’t matter. I’m still lucky.
Last week I heard a friend of mine’s mother had killed herself. I don’t know why and the only thing I really know about suicide is that nobody ever truly knows why. What I can guess happened is that this sweet woman who had helped tons of people and changed her life suddenly couldn’t see past whatever stormy middle she was in. To honor her, I can be thankful for the big dramatic highs, the life-changing lows and especially the everyday middles.