‘To learn who we are’

Halfway Home: Thoughts from Midlife
by Christina Myers

Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2024
$23.99  /  9781487012441

Reviewed by Natalie Virginia Lang

*

Imagine offering a cup of tea to your biggest insecurities. You’ve known these insecurities your entire life. They impact your choices, behaviours, actions, and reactions. Some of them dim slightly with age and experience. Others, though, are ignited sometime in our youth and follow us into adulthood. What if there was a way to talk to these insecurities? What if you could learn why they are there and how to send them along their way, simply by inviting them in for a chat and a cup of tea?

Christina Myers’ new memoir Halfway Home is a raw and riotous account of what it can be like for a woman to move through her life. In a world where beauty is top priority, especially for those who came of age during the inception of America’s Next Top Model, or took beauty tips from Cosmopolitan Magazine, Myers acknowledges with brutal vulnerability, the many challenges women face at various stages in life. She does this throughout her book by shedding light on a few major truths: nothing stays the same, we will get to where we are going one step at a time, much of the path ahead of us is a mystery, and if we look hard enough, we will see that we need not weather the storms alone.

Separated into three parts, Myers describes her experience of the world through a collection of essays.  Ranging from the woes of puberty, the fast and slow arcs of change, and reaching the pinnacle of self-reflection when one realizes they can wear electric blue leggings and have rainbow hair at any age, these essays are heartbreaking, heartwarming, and sprinkled with humour.

Part 1: The Start of the Journey illuminates the various insecurities of teenagers, the confusion of menstruation and the uncomfortable reality of sexualization. A major focus though is centred around wisdom that rises from a world which celebrates, rather than condemns, the curious weirdness of women and girls. This section begins by recounting the intensity of friendships as they come and go from our lives. Questions about the nature of friendships emerge through the delight of tight bonds that sometimes lead to a “vague guilt” when we ultimately lose touch. At one time in our lives, “Friends were survival and joy, an antidote to loneliness, the cure-all for life,” until we grow up, move away, and find those cures in other forms, if we find them at all. Here, Myers acknowledges something in society that appears to be widely felt and rarely talked about. There is power in close friendships, in passing knowledge from one generation to another, and in cultivating inner lives that allow us to get “a bit louder, a bit bolder.” While the world would have women busy working and raising a family where there is little time to keep up with our own needs, let alone nourish old friendships, cultivate new ones, and listen to the wisdom of those who come before us, Myers’ brilliantly makes the case for time spent with other women. She calls them “our personal armies” where we can “talk, gossip, hug, laugh, cry… to see ourselves in each other and to know, somehow it’s all going to be okay.”

Christina Myers is based in Surrey. Photo Wendy Lees

As midlife approaches, for many women, there are several arts that must be learned. The art of detaching slightly from those we love, so they can find their own way; the art of feeling the little hurts and moving on; the art of remembering and forgetting; and the art of getting to know ourselves again. In Part 2: The Middle of the Forest, Myers describes the challenges of having teenage children who are young enough to still be her babies, but old enough to want to be independent and as distant from an embarrassing parent as possible. She also shares the vulnerable reality of how one’s body and identity shifts through the years and stages of life. With comical anecdotes, lighthearted confessions, and tell-all tales about heart attacks, hair loss, and pedalling smut, Myers is honest and forthcoming about her midlife experience. She acknowledges that we are all “a work in progress.” Being ashamed of our so-called faults amidst an endless search for femininity, youth, beauty, and worth, is helping no one. Instead, Myers argues, we must do the work and relearn how to express and love ourselves in our own way. Perhaps, as Myers suggests, one way to start is by being brave enough to wear the electric blue leggings and paint on your favourite red lipstick, then walk boldly out into the world and show everyone exactly who you are.

In Part 3: The Uncertain Path Ahead, Myers begins to question where the road will take her from here. She discusses topics like “death cleaning” and “death buying,” menopause and the social stigma of “a woman past her prime.” In the deeply personal account outlined in this section of her memoir, Christina Myers acknowledges a long-time search for belonging and explains how she has come to understand her disconnect with the Indigenous part of her family tree. There is still work to be done to reconcile with the complexity of her complete identity, but Myers looks for strength in the lives of women surrounding her. She is learning to say, “goodbye to other versions of [herself] that might have existed” and little bits at a time is getting to know “the kind of peace that comes with not being afraid.” With transparent gems from the stories of her life experience, Myers helps us to remember that “whatever the passage of time brings you… there’s no solution but to accept it.” In the end, embracing all the part of your identity, is one step forward to experiencing the full and dynamic life we all deserve.

As one reaches the end of Myers’ memoir, they may come to understand that a life is more than a random collection of stories detailing the ups and downs of the human experience. Our lives are a map chronicling where we are, where we’ve been and where we are going. In “Halfway Home” Myers has unlocked the whispers of the universe. She listens closely, and inspires us to do the same, as it murmurs “It’s time to figure out how we became the people we are, what we learned along the way… and who we might be in the future.” This, for Christina Myers one of the most important things we can do for one another— especially women— is to learn who we are and how we move through the world, and then to talk about it. Sharing our experiences relieves our isolation and the belief that we are on our own. For Myers, whether we use comedy to make difficult moments more palatable or are more upfront and brazen about what we have experienced, we must each do our part in dispensing whatever wisdom we have accrued over the years. In doing this, the road ahead may be brighter for we have the stories of others to light the way.

*

Natalie Virginia Lang

Natalie Virginia Lang is a teacher and writer. She is an alumnus of the Graduate Liberal Studies (GLS) program at SFU and has contributed essays to The B.C. Review including Remnants of Sumas Mountain and Letters from the Pandemic: Dear Will.  Lang is the author of Remnants: Reveries of a Mountain Dweller (Caitlin Press, 2023), a memoir inviting readers to re-examine our relationships with the natural world. Editor’s note: Natalie Virginia Lang has reviewed books by Catherine McGregor and Shailoo Bedi (eds.), Rick AntonsonDave DoroghySheena KamalJae Waller, and carla bergman for The British Columbia Review.

*

The British Columbia Review


Interim Editors, 2023-24: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie


Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board now consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. The British Columbia Review was founded in 2016 by Richard Mackie and Alan Twigg.

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This