My First Meltdown


It is official.  After just a few months on the road, I had my first moments of second-guessing.

No.  Let’s be honest:  What I experienced was sheer, unadulterated terror and choking panic.


These are my top-earning years, I should be out there working for chissake, before I get to the point where I have to nap after lunch every day (wait, I already want to nap after lunch — OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!!).  What kind of person does this sort of rash, irresponsible thing at the very moment when the maturity and probity of adulthood should be kicking in at full-throttle?

I don’t know what triggered it.  Nominally, it was the dirty floor in the hotel we checked into when we arrived in Spain (my poor husband; I will never forget the look on his face as I blubbered over the dirt on the bottom of my bare feet).  Maybe I was upset about leaving my daughter behind in Australia (we were having such a good time; I wasn’t really ready to go).  Maybe it was that I turned 52 the day after we arrived (52?????  Where did that come from?).  Or maybe it was the hole I discovered in my favorite Athleta yoga pants (which haven’t been used much for yoga lately).

Whatever the trigger (logical or not) I suddenly found myself smack in the middle of thermo-nuclear meltdown, followed by despondency (Michael Buble singing “I wanna go home” in my head), followed by the well-rehearsed story lines that always seem to pop into my mind at moments of distress:  “I’ve made a mess of things AGAIN, I’m selfish, I’m a failure, I’m out of shape and getting fatter by the second…”  blah blah blah.  I bore myself with my predictability sometimes.

I’m working on self-reflection, so as soon as I could breathe again I started asking myself what I’m feeling exactly (I’m scared, dumb-ass; not much self-reflection needed to figure that out).   But more important than the feelings themselves, what is the story I’m telling myself about these feelings?  I’m not sure, but I think my story might be that I’m not capable — or maybe deserving? — of figuring out a new life/new kind of work for myself.  Perhaps the crushing rebukes that reverberate through my brain are simply a way of talking myself out of wanting/desiring something that might be hard to attain or that I might fail to achieve?

And yet….maybe the point of what I’m doing, and the purpose, has nothing to do with reaching some arbitrary finish line of “inventing a new life for myself”.  Maybe the very act of doing things differently each day is the only important thing here.  Maybe as long as I’m working on “finding my purpose, connecting with the world, asking the big questions”, etc. (all the things in the wonderful Second Lives Club Manifesto), I’ve already succeeded.

So, for now, I’m just going to breathe and keep going, and try to remember the lines of a wonderful quote I found today on my friend Susan’s Facebook page:

“Let what comes, come and let what goes, go. Find out what remains.” ~ Shri Ramana Maharaj.



  1. Deborah Wiltshire Whaley says

    These feelings are normal and at this point expected. Right? Any life change, even those that we choose, bring doubt and reflection and growth. Hang in there beautiful! Everything is wonderful. Even the dirty floor in Spain!
    Sending love and light~

    • Nan Dawkins says

      Thanks Deborah! I’m grateful to have this journey in my life — need to suck it up and get over the dirty floors. :)

  2. Leslie Offill says

    If it makes you feel any better, your Gypsy Rose is happy!! Try to enjoy the world!! You have worked very hard for many years. It is ok to experience the rewards of your hard work. You can work again in the future!! I will post moochie’s latest haircut pic on Facebook!! I love you…Leslie

    • Nan Dawkins says

      I couldn’t be happy for one minute if I didn’t know that she is with you. Love you too — come visit!

  3. Caroline says

    I ran away and lived in Italy. Rented apartments in Rome and then moved to the Amalfi Coast. Lived like a local and walked everywhere and saw everything from the eyes of a local. Same journey you are taking. Crystallized what was important to me and how to prioritize my time and effort. Enjoy. Be selfish. Much deserved. You will return with a new and refreshed outlook on EVERYTHING. Can’t wait for my next journey.

  4. Frankie says

    Years ago in a therapy group someone pointed out that it’s impossible to make a choice without a corresponding loss; everything we choose entails losing what we did not choose.

    • Nan Dawkins says

      I like that thought. We do seem to want our cake and eat it too. Time to put on my big girl panties…

  5. Susan Kilday says

    Nan, You KNOW I’m inspired by you. The gift is not in immediate answers that make us feel secure (unfortunately), rather the gift is the willingness to marinate in the NOW (all it’s glory and angst). We so often wish ourselves out of situations instead of living them; completely missing the lesson AND blessing. Guilty as charged. I am so inspired by your courage to do what you’re doing! Tomorrow will offer new questions. Remember: eat, sweat, SEEK. You got this! Now breathe. :) <3

    • Nan Dawkins says

      Thanks, Suze. That now thing is really, really tricky. Every time I think I’ve got it down, I realize that duh, I’m a long way from “getting it”. Looking forward to September!

    • Nan Dawkins says

      And by the way…we just had a long dinner conversation the other night about you and your journey over the past few years. Who knew that being turned inside out would enable these new aspects of yourself to emerge in such a beautiful way? Those yoga pics say it all. You look like a flower in full bloom.

  6. says

    I think this is perfectly normal, everyone has meltdown days no matter what their life situation. Give yourself a bit of time and you will look back on the meltdown and laugh. You are doing great, pull on those big girl pants (or in your case little (though torn) Athleta yoga pants!), and go get em!!! Love your final quote in the piece. I need to remember that one for when I have my meltdowns ;). Love to you both. xo

  7. Kathy Hale says

    Haaaapppy haaaapppy birrthday, baaby….(imagine music here..). I am celebrating that you are 52 and are sitting in sunny Spain with a glass of wine in your hand and a reserve bottle or two on the table. You’ve had a very demanding few months, so meltdown if you like. Then congratulate yourself for giving your body and spirit a chance to live in peace and joy and discovery. Then clean up that floor. Love,

  8. Pat says

    If it is any consolation I am doing exactly what you think you should be doing (maximizing the high earning years…) and I am fighting off meltdowns on almost a daily basis. The hell with maturity – it is overrated. You are probably “being” deeply for the first time in a while and it is scaring the internal control freak. It will get over it if you can ignore it. Vaya con dios!

  9. heather finneran vazquez says

    I am reading your blog thinking “damn I hope I am 1/2 as brave as she is someday”

    Rock out with your peacock out lady.

    • Nan Dawkins says

      I remember you as a very brave person Heather — I don’t think you will be waiting for that in your life. Thank you for reading my blog. :)

  10. says

    Nan… you ALWAYS inspire me! It makes me smile from ear to ear to see you out there enjoying life, scary or not, you’ll make it work! I know you will :)

    • Nan Dawkins says

      Thanks Li. I think I can safely say that I’m over the first meltdown. We are in Portugal now enjoying a lot of cycling, the ocean, and food. Lots and lots of food. My waistline is expanding. I need to work on making sure the “sweat” part happens in equal portions to the “eat” part. :) Hope you are well.

  11. Monica Matthews says

    Nan….as Julia Roberts says in EPL….”just buy bigger pants!”
    Your meltdown blog made me laugh. I can totally understand where you’re coming from but….Girl, enjoy this time and you most certainly deserve it!! You have worked hard so now its your time to sit back and reap the benefits of your labor. Actually I’m sooo jealous! I am going thru some tough times w/ my mom’s health after a recent life threatening car accident, so I sooooooooooooo wish I was there right now enjoying the fresh air and no real schedule or demands. Don’t hurry back. Enjoy this journey and the wonderful memories you are making with your best friend/hubby!

    • Nan Dawkins says

      Thank you Monica. Maybe that is what any quest does — forces you to get bigger. Hopefully I can get bigger without increasing my pant size though. :)

      I hope that you can find some time to breathe. Caring for an ill parent takes its toll. I think maybe the reason that I didn’t have a meltdown until several months in was because I was just so worn out (mentally and emotionally). I had to rest up enough to have the energy for a meltdown. In my case, what I should have STOPPED what I was doing long enough to get my life back in balance before I became so drained (what I was doing just wasn’t that important). In your case, what you are doing with your mom is critically important, so you can’t just stop. But hopefully you have found ways to give yourself the rest and recharge you need to keep going. I wish you and your mom the best.

      Thanks for your thoughts!


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