While suffering through my third midlife crisis in as many years, I sought out the guidance of an old friend, who also happens to be a psychologist specializing in dance therapy. This man (not his real gender) told me of a theory currently popular within his circles, that midlife crises are disorders of origin. In other words, I no longer knew who I was because I didn’t know where I came from. His recommendation? “You should dance the history of your life,” which is to say that I needed to literally pull back the coffee table, draw the shades, close my eyes, and pantomime my life story from the moment of my birth to the present.
Following our discussion, I spent several weeks interviewing family members, in part so that they might jog my memory of details and incidents long forgotten, in part to put off dancing the history of my life. Along the way, I made an interesting discovery. Many of the watershed moments during my time on this earth have occurred at restaurants. There was the day I decided to be a journalist, for instance, an epiphany occasioned by, of all things, a dinner of fist-sized fried shrimp at the old Kaphan’s on South Main. There was that long-ago perfect romantic evening at the old Annabelle’s in the Galleria, the one that—for reasons still unclear—somehow devolved into a drunken and very public break-up scene. The milestone birthdays, graduations, promotions, marriages, divorces, flirtations that gave way to rebound sex and its consequences—just about every moment of personal significance to me had been either celebrated, argued, mourned, or stumbled into at an establishment where I’d been served food by strangers.
From this odd confluence of nourishment and narrative, menu and memoir, not even the moment of my birth had been immune, I discovered. Counseled by my friend to “reclaim the place of your origin,” a request that I chose to take quite literally, I decided to pay a visit to Memorial Baptist Hospital downtown and reclaim my due. It was then that I learned that Memorial Baptist, formerly at Louisiana and Lamar streets, had been torn down decades ago, later giving way to the gleaming 55-story Enterprise Plaza building that stands there presently. For a moment, I had the mordant thought that my life, not to mention Memorial Baptist, had been the victim of a wrecking ball.
Of course, there would always be a spot in Enterprise Plaza where I’d actually come into this world, regardless of how much it had departed from its original mission. That spot—which I determined with the help of archival photos, Wikipedia entries, and surviving family members—is now occupied by a Fuddrucker’s in the tunnel underneath the building. Some will laugh, perhaps. Others will imagine it depressing to discover that one’s life is owed to a patch of earth now devoted to a hamburger joint with an overachieving fixin’s bar. But midlife is about making progress through acceptance, about knowing where you’ve been so you know where you’re going.
And yes, before you ask, it’s about dancing a smokehouse bacon cheeseburger with seasoned fries in your living room.