Anne Palumbo: A plucky cure for the midlife blahs

Anne Palumbo

Grit. It’s what we middle-aged men and women need if we’re to make it through the slump that occurs for each of us in midlife: at 40 if you’re a woman; 50 if you’re a man.

At least that’s what the folks in the mental-health field are saying.

I feel so relieved.

I don’t know which group conducted this multi-million dollar study – or on which sparkling Caribbean Island they shared their results with other Spandex-clad health-care professionals – but I’m very thankful for their dedicated efforts.

You see, now I have something to hold onto as I work through my inevitable slump. 

I have my grit.

Grit, as you may know, means “indomitable spirit; pluck; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” Moreover, it is always accompanied by clenched teeth and some sort of grisly strain, whether it be burst eye vessels, throbbing neck veins or bulging abdominal hernias.

While, oddly, the health-care professionals never came out and said what grit was (I guess one can stretch research dollars only so far), I know exactly what they’re talking about.

And, in case you were wondering, it’s not the same for men and women. That’s correct. In the same way that we do not look alike or think alike or even smell alike, we also do not share the same kind of grit.

I witnessed a true case of male grit the other day when my husband was up on the roof, blowing leaves out of the gutter. From all outward appearances – the sweat, the feral look in his eyes, the angry bull steam roaring out of his nostrils – I could tell he did not want to be up there in the worst way. But he hung in there because he had grit.

At first, I admired him. What a gritty guy! But after several hours of this display of pugnacious pluck, I thought: Man, what kind of slump is this dude in? Should I be worried? Is a red Corvette on the horizon? Are leisure suits and white shoes just around the corner? I mean there’s grit – and then there’s grit.   When he finally came down from the roof, he seemed so energized by the whole experience that I dismissed my concerns and focused on the positive: his huge reservoir of grit and how I might exploit it for future home projects.

My grit, like so many women’s, is more internal, less ostentatious. In fact, were it not for the dental clenching that occurs whenever I tap into my grit, you would never know I was harnessing this indomitable force of nature.

Just the other day, in fact, I relied on my grit to get me through a slump. I don’t know about other people who make dinner six out of seven nights a week, but there are times when the task seems akin to scaling Kilimanjaro with a dead Sherpa on my back.

Anyway, this very feeling overwhelmed me the other night when I opened the fridge, stared at its dull contents and thought: Ugh, I don’t want to cook. But then I remembered that people were counting on me for food, so I gritted my teeth, called upon the tigress within, and resourcefully did some amazing things with wieners and pancake mix.

So, what does all this mean? It fortunately means that we middle-aged folks don’t need to resort to drastic measures – like cars or bling or Botox – to get us through our midlife slump. All we need is pluck, perseverance, and some industrial-strength choppers that can withstand being ground to a pulp.

Anne Palumbo writes this weekly column for Messenger Post Newspaper. E-mail: