April 6, 2022

I’m a 53-year-old Woman with a Menagerie of Squeezable Stuffed Animals.

I’m going through a midlife transitional period.

The flux and stretching are happening just below the surface, and I feel slightly off balance and just a little more anxious than usual.

I’m restless, fidgety, and constantly fussing with my fingers, and I catch myself picking at any little piece of dry cuticle no matter how painful. Wanting to stop that, I bought some squeezy stress balls in the shape of unicorns, and although they are fun to squeeze, I don’t find them soothing, so the fidgeting continued.

What’s causing this period of acute unease?

Like so many of us in midlife, I’m being pulled in lots of directions. My children are nearly grown but still need guidance as I help them navigate the post-college adult world, and settle into their jobs and new lives. I’m celebrating their wins and the fulfillment of their goals with them but mourning the end of their childhoods. I miss their freshly bathed, pajamaed bodies climbing into bed with me for cuddles and pillow secrets. I miss sharing daily meals with them as they tell me all about their days. I’d love to have one more summer day with them small, ages three and six, having a picnic and playing at the park.

This nostalgia compelled me to snuggle with a couple of teddy bears I’ve kept from their childhoods in a basket. Not only did I find comfort in remembering their connections with these bears, but I was physically and emotionally comforted by their softness and squeezability of them and began to sleep with them. Seeing how this was comforting me, I began sleeping with a stuffed giraffe with a bean bag tush that my husband bought me a while ago because I collect giraffes. This weighted giraffe provides the same comfort that a weighted blanket would and helps me feel calm and balanced, which is something I need—it’s something we all need.

My parents are aging and in need of more help, guidance, and medical care than ever before, and my sisters and I are grappling with the emotional minefield of all that, trying to prepare them and ourselves for some major changes that are coming around the corner a little faster than we are comfortable with.

The world is slowly coming out of a global pandemic while watching in horror as Ukraine defends itself against the Russian invasion and the human community does what it can to help amid rising prices, rampant inflation, polarizing politics, and divided communities struggling to come together and reverse climate change.

There is a tremendous amount going on in the world, and each evening I settle into my bed next to my husband, surrounded by a growing number of stuffed animal friends. The latest additions to our anthropomorphized community of loveys are a trio of SquishMallows that are delightfully soft and squishy and bring me such comfort and coziness and help me relax and drift off to sleep.

I have Owen, a rainbow owlet I received at my niece’s Harry Potter birthday party, and a soft and cozy pink and purple octopus named Olivia, hitchhiking in my purse each day and giving me comfort when I squeeze them. They are just darn cute. Just seeing their smiling faces looking up at me from inside my bag helps me feel better throughout my day.

My childhood was quite emotionally turbulent with my mom’s mental illnesses and addiction that led to psychological trauma that continued to manifest in my adulthood. As a little girl, my large collection of stuffed animals with individual names and voices helped me survive my mother’s scary manic and depressive episodes and my parents’ fighting. As an only child, my stuffed friends always made me feel less alone and frightened, and so it makes sense that years later, my collection of lovies doubles as a coping mechanism for anxiety and all the emotional angst of being a caretaker for my young adult kids and aging parents.

I am a firm believer that other people’s opinions of me don’t matter, and I go about my life making choices that align with my own personal journey and desires. What people think of me or what I am doing with my life is mostly none of my business and doesn’t factor into my decision-making. But with the introduction of my stuffed animal friends, I began to question if this is “normal” for a mid-life adult.

I’ll be 54 in less than two months, and I have a small comforting menagerie of fuzzy friends in my life. Am I an anomaly?

“A 2018 study conducted by OnePoll and Life Storage reportedly found that four in 10 adults, or 43 percent, still engage with a stuffed animal. And surprisingly, 84 percent of men own at least one, compared to the 77 percent of women who do” (Jonathan Borge for OprahDaily). Despite this statistical data, and whatever “normalization” comfort it can provide, we don’t need a reason to want to snuggle with stuffed animals at any age. When I cuddle with Posey, Owen, Olivia, Marshmallow, Ella, and Cally, it’s simply because I’m looking to enjoy a bit of comfort and cuteness. And maybe for a moment, I want to forget about the stress of real-life responsibilities.

No matter how hard the going gets, my cozy menagerie is always there to bring me comfort and a bit of whimsy. They also serve as soft, squishable friends I can—literally—cry on.

These adorable and comforting cuties make me feel better—and bring me peace and calm and help me give myself permission to land and heal.

 

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