DEAR AMY: I am a 42-year-old wife and mother who is incredibly grateful for wonderful and healthy children, an incredible husband, good girlfriends and a solid career. My parents are still healthy enough to travel and enjoy life. My problems are restlessness and boredom. I have tried to ramp up other activities in my life -- joining a dance class and a writers' circle -- but the kids' activities, my husband's job and mine have interfered and made continuing impossible. I have been in the same career for 17 years, and it is fine, but it has run its course. I have sought to change it without extra schooling but have had no luck. I hate to embark on a higher-level degree when I couldn't even make it to dance class. (My children are 8 and 10 and not too busy, but my husband and I have careers that involve nighttime commitments on occasion.) Besides, my job is solid and my co-workers are lovely. Am I just experiencing midlife issues? Am I just whining for nothing? I feel so stalled and stuck. I don't think it's affecting my family right now, but work and my health seem to be suffering (I am feeling some burnout and have been sick all winter).
DEAR WONDERING: You are definitely experiencing midlife issues, but you are not whining for nothing. This feeling of midlife ennui is why some people at your stage in life buy sports cars and/or have affairs. I'm assuming that your wonderful husband would be happiest if you were at your happiest.
The most obvious answer would be to make time to pick up the slack of the rest of your life. Some generous companies make adjustments or grant a leave of absence so employees can pursue higher education or rewarding volunteer work.
Start your search by reading Po Bronson's valuable book, "What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question" (2005, Ballantine Books).
DEAR AMY: I value your opinion about my behavior. I'm a 42-year-old heterosexual man who wears women's underwear. I wear it daily and nobody but my fiancee and I are aware of this. I believe my two sisters might know, although they have never said anything to me. This started when I was 9 or 10 years old. Having two older sisters, I found myself trying on their underwear. This kept up through my teenage years until I was confident enough to purchase my own. I had a great family life, with two parents and no abuse. Is this behavior wrong? It's not the norm, but is it so bad for a man to wear women's underwear? I've been in a relationship with the same woman for the last 14 years. We have two sons and have been engaged for the last few years. She is well aware of the situation. Although she does not encourage it, she still loves me. I agree she has some legitimate concerns about family or friends finding out, but I am very discreet and have no intentions of telling anyone.
Panties in California
DEAR PANTIES: This is only "wrong" if you are obsessing about this behavior and it is interfering with your relationship with your partner. She has chosen to have two children with you. She loves you and tolerates your choice, but it might be good if you asked her to describe how she feels about it, and if you answered any questions she might have about your habit.
What you are doing might not be the "norm," but it is probably much more common than you realize.
DEAR AMY: I loved the way you answered "Wondering," about the random collections of items Wondering and siblings discovered in their mother's home after her death. They wondered if she was a hoarder. You said the most important question to answer is, "Was she loved?" Exactly.
DEAR ADMIRER: Thank you.