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Turning Around an Existential Crisis


A few weekends ago Payam and I headed out to Las Vegas (our 2nd trip in November) for our friend Dave’s 50th birthday party. There are going to be a lot of 50th birthday parties in our friend group this year since both Payam and I are turning fifty. It’s our year, 1972 people.

I’ve always been optimistic about turning fifty. I figured I’d rock it like I’ve rocked all the other years but lately, I’ve been starting to doubt myself. I hate it.

While we did have a great time celebrating I felt sort of out of sorts the whole trip. It’s weird when you are having a good time externally but inside your head, you are listening to a running commentary of negativity. This is nothing unusual for me I just feel like documenting it because I’ve been feeling a little freer on this blog lately. (One of the perks of falling off the mainstream radar.)

I want to say it started at the ax-throwing place we went to (Ax-throwing!) but really it was already brewing before we even got there.


Ax-throwing was a riot. Drunk people throwing axes. That seems like a disaster waiting to happen but it turned out to be really fun and mostly safe if you follow all of the safety precautions, which I did of course. My anxiety loves to follow rules. I was terrible at ax-throwing like I am at every sport. Dave, Erika, and Payam racked up fifty or more hits each and several bullseyes while I managed to make the ax to the target a big whopping three times. I was pathetic. Everyone made fun of me and said I threw an ax like I was giving it to the target. If a herd of zombies was chasing me it was like I was saying, “Here Zombies, have an ax from your good buddy!” But it was all in good fun and when I did actually make contact with the wooden target my friends cheered me on like nobody’s business. We can’t all be athletes. At least some of us can draw. Heh.

Of course, the entire time I was berating myself internally with a barrage of insults about my weight and old-lady skin and how hard it was to bend down every time to pick up the ax I’d thrown. It’s pretty amazing that I could keep a smile on my face and fake it while a full-on war was being fought inside me. We took photos which I hated of course because I could not see past the width of my shoulders and the stockiness of my legs but I smiled and pretended everything was fine.

Please know that this is not me fishing for compliments. I’m just being pathetic. I know better than most how to fix this sort of thing.  Pain is a signal that things are not right. It’s time to fix some things.


But back to our Vegas story: We stayed in a nice (and super clean) timeshare that belonged to my friend, Erika’s parents that just happened to be right next to, get this: A rodeo!  Of course, Payam and I went exploring. How could we not?  We watched some bulls bucking around and being lassoed by real cowboys and we found a western wear gift expo going on in a large ballroom. We are not country-western-wear types but we got a real kick out of walking around the booths looking at all the crazy things. Belt buckles the size of your head, bedazzled camouflaged dresses, stiff wrangler jeans, hats of all shapes and sizes. It was a hoot but we stood out like liberals at Trump pep rally.

Payam put on a cowboy hat as a joke but it suited him so well I made him buy it. Then I found this sort of edgy, rock and roll black suede fringe jacket and before we knew it we were a hundred dollars lighter. When in Rome, right? When else am I going to come across a suede black fringe rock and roll jacket?! No pictures yet, it got so smokey from the casino I immediately put it in the dry-cleaning bag and haven’t touched it since. But soon I’ll break it out. It’s going to be one of those fun crazy fashion moments I can just tell.


Meanwhile back at the ranch, I mean timeshare, my existential crisis hung on. I tried taking photos of myself to see if I really looked as bad as I thought I did. This is a fun game I play with myself all the time. I call it: Narcism.  Except instead of thinking I’m so great and I don’t care what everyone else thinks of me, I think I’m not great at all and I care about EVERYTHING anyone thinks about me. It’s a vicious circle of doom and gloom.

I should have been basking in the dry sunshine of Vegas and loving my little mini-vacation from kids and life but no, I was wallowing in self-pity. Hard eye roll.


Even when we got back from Vegas I was still walking around in a cloud of negativity. Everything is ugly and I hate everything! But you know what happens when I get like this? I realize I need to make some changes.


When we got back home I decided to stop drinking for the 47th time and cut my calories by a third. I hate to share this because every time I start on a path like this, I always fall back to my old ways and eat my words. But it’s still good to try, right? Is it good to share? I don’t know. Let’s just hope not that many people read this post.  I’m just going to say: No promises. No lofty goals. Just day by day.

On day two of my new regimen, Bug and I had pizza and I bought a cheesecake bun from this new little cafe I found. I love a new mom-and-pop cafe. I wanted Bug to try it for me and I thought I’d live through her vicariously but then I had a bite. Half the cheesecake later…I was still “trying it” you know, just to make sure.


I’m going to slide another story in here before I finish up my existential crisis thread. Cody still stinks from the skunk. It’s terrible. There’s an odor that wafts up from him when he stands next to you and it breaks my heart because he is so cute and loveable but it’s impossible to pet him with this wretched smell that lingers and lingers and lingers! You have to wash your hands constantly.

I researched local dog baths and found one that lets you bathe your dog for fourteen bucks! What a deal! Paying a groomer to de-skunk your dog costs $200. So off to the bark bath we went.


I brought tomato soup in hopes that I could wash him there without him shaking tomato soup all over my bathtub but they wouldn’t let me. So I washed him in de-skunk shampoo, regular dog shampoo, conditioner, and water about a thousand times. He was such a good dog, being so patient. Sadly, when we got home I think he seemed even worse. It’s almost like I washed off the deodorizing shampoo the original groomer had put on him to mask the smell and now the skunk smell was even stronger. The really nice guy at the dog bath place told me there’s really not much you can do, it just takes time. Probably about a month.   Tomato soup is starting to look better and better.  rasta-taco-for-lunch

After I took Cody home I took Bug and her boyfriend out to lunch at Rasta Taco (my new favorite client) which is in Laguna Beach right next to the beach.


I let the kids hit the beach while I journaled. I’ve been journaling obsessively lately and it’s helping with my mid-life crisis. I’ve not mentioned it here but I am working out regularly with a personal trainer two times a week now. It’s a huge luxury and my budget is barely fitting it but I’m starting to think it’s worth it for my mental health alone. Between that, not drinking, and trying to keep a caloric deficit going, I have hope that I will rock fifty by the time it gets here. I will. No matter what I look like I’m going to get the inside of my brain right because that is the best first step.

I know I’ll get there eventually. Thanks for having patience with me while I work this out.


  • Debra

    Turning 50 is rough. During a pandemic and tumultuous events, even harder. Your artistry is amazing and you will have that your whole life. Oh and you look fabulous too, no matter that inner voice is telling you! Hang in there, things will seem better.

    • Prathibha

      You are amazing. Love the way you write and illustrate as well as your honesty and authenticity! Have been reading you since Bug was a baby. I struggle with self loathing too sometimes but, seriously, I don’t think you have anything to dislike about yourself. Hope you feel happier soon.

    • SAJ

      Thanks you guys. I really didn’t mean to be fishing for compliments but of course I love them. I just didn’t realize people would find this post. xo

  • Susan( from NorCal )

    Must I remind you of the pins I bought from you? Sisterhood of Perpetual Commiseration? I’ll wear it for you tomorrow
    Yes the “AP “as my great aunts called it instead of the aging process, sucks. There’s no way about it.
    You are still one of my faves! And so so clever. I wish I had one tenth of your talent. You will get through this and it will be ok

    • SAJ

      Yaaaassss! Aging sucks. I do need to work on the Sisters of Perpetual Commiseration more. I still want to illustrate that menopaus island cartoon I sketched. One of these days!

  • Susie

    I almost never comment, but I am a loooooongtime lurker. I have been around since before bug was a twinkle in your eye. (There’s a very very very slight possibility you will remember me, as I used to own a craft store/studio outside NYC and we chatted about it back in the day.) Anyway… I have always admired you and wished I had half your brilliance and was half as adorable. Watching you create this beautiful life for yourself has been so moving to me, and seeing you come into middle age gracefully, yet continuing to be playful and fun SAJ, gets me together. I think the person who doesn’t have these existential moments is rare. The fact that you experience them thoroughly and use them to evolve is one of your greatest strengths, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I hope this one passes quickly, and you are able to enjoy turning 50. Finally, I fully believe you were not fishing for compliments, but but please hear this: I think you are even prettier and more interesting now than you were when we were younger. It’s easy to be cute at 30, but being vivacious and stylish at 49 is way more noticeable. ?

    • SAJ

      I LOVE lurkers! I am one myself. I always figure what’s the point in commenting on a popular blog when everything has already been said. But I don’t know. I still read every comment no matter how many there are and these days I’m lucky if I get two! But it’s not about commenting or popularity, right. It’s just writing because we like to write and connecting because we like to realize that we aren’t so alone in the world. And for that I thank you. Thank you for the freedom to write whatever I need to and knowing it’s not just an echo chamber.

  • Carlie

    I am experiencing something similar at 35.

    Not sure if you watched Parks & Recreation but I feel like the entertainment 720 pitch… where am I? where am i gooooing?

  • Lauren

    I think it’s important to do things that make you feel good, like go on a walk or eat the cheesecake! You are such a lovely and vibrant and beautiful person. I know how you feel about the voice in your head, mine is very loud and mean. I havent bought new clothes for myself in a long time (minus random tshirts of nerd things I like) because I hate putting clothes on my body and looking at myself. I don’t have any advice but I keep trying to love myself and respect my body at it’s current shape!

  • Cathy

    Chin up, Buttercup! You are amazingly talented in all facets and beautiful inside and out. You are winning at life. I think, when I hit my 50’s, it was just a tiny bit easier to not care as much what others thought – I think my motto was fake it til you make it and while I haven’t ‘made it’ yet, it isn’t as hard. Glad you are venting to your Sisters of Perpetual Commiseration because we are here (hot flashing) and listening! And remember, 50 is the new 40, especially in So Cal where you can call a doctor and stitch your way to 40 for life ;) Also it’s normal to feel down sometimes -it’s not easy to eat less, drink less, work out more, and deal with skunky dogs all in one go. Hang in there and big hugs.

  • Katie

    I’m a few years behind you but not much. I really like what you said about getting your brain in order vs what you look like. (Which is amazing by the way – I was with a friend many years ago shopping and she reminded me that how others see us and what we see in the mirror are Very Different. It’s a human thing)

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