I don’t know about you, but when someone says “mid-life crisis”, I think of an older, balding guy, with a bit of a paunch, who goes out and buys a hot new convertible and starts chasing after the cute secretary at work. Definitely a media-contrived image. I am none of those things.
I think all of us go through a lot of different crises in our lives, at various stages (I know there’s some psychological theory of this, I’m sure of it. Piaget?? No, Erikson, right?), but since I’m pretty much in “mid-life” and definitely having a “crisis”, this is where my head is at right now.
I’m thinking that perhaps the reason many of us struggle when we hit 40 is that we’re not where we thought we’d be, for one thing. When you’re 20 and getting ready to get out of college and start some career, 40 seems so far away. It seems so old and established. It feels like surely you’ll have it all together by that ripe old age.
And then the years fly by and you get to that ripe old age and you’re more confused than ever. I think as we grow, as we age, we realize that life isn’t the black and white picture we think it is when we’re younger and less experienced. Our experiences in the workplace, as parents, spouses, humans show us–or should, anyway–that there are so many shades of grey in that picture, and that the picture of life and the world is far more complex and varied than we had realized. It’s like we are seeing better and more clearly on the one hand, and yet in seeing that we realize that we really can’t see clearly at all. It’s like we get the vision to recognize that our vision sucks.
There’s a line in a Ben Fold’s song that I love…”You get smaller while the world gets big. The more you know, you know you don’t know sh–.” It’s like the more we see, experience and learn the less we actually know. And that’s a pretty disconcerting thing. It shakes your confidence in yourself and your abilities, in the people and the world around you, and, if you believe in God, I daresay it will shake your faith and belief in God too.
Those years between college and 40 fly by faster than you ever imagined. You change in ways you couldn’t have foreseen. All the judgement and criticism you had for other people suddenly reflects back at you, and it’s not always a pretty picture. People around you have started to get sick, maybe cancer or MS or something. People you know actually start dying (if you were lucky enough to have avoided that up to this point). You start to get cracks. Cracks in the foundation of everything you think your life stands on.
Anyone knows that if your home’s foundation has cracks, you’re in trouble. Something needs to be fixed and pronto, or else its all going to come crashing down on you. Some of us are good at fixing those cracks. Some of us just shove some caulk or something in there in hopes that they will just go away. (Did you ever do that at college? Use toothpaste to fill in the holes you’d made in the walls? Cosmetically it worked but…)
I feel like I’ve gone from cracks in the foundation to a major home renovation. Like with the cracks the walls came down all around me and I now have to start over from scratch. With a whole new foundation even.
I’m hoping that the end result will be better than the one before. One of the blogs I follow is titled “Unfinished 1”, and the most recent post there was about how the author is still unfinished, still a work in progress. And will always be a work in progress. Maybe the different crises in our lives are chances for rebuilding, for reframing things and making them stronger and better. So that perhaps the next “earthquake” that comes along won’t shake the walls down entirely.
I’m trusting that the contractor hasn’t taken off mid-renovation. I feel like the foundation is being re-poured, and while it’s certainly not set yet, I’m seeing progress. Small, microscopic progress. This is a project that is going to take a while. And it’ll definitely need repairs and additions along the way. But hopefully it’ll end up being more functional than the original.
That was a really drawn out analogy. It’s probably trite and sucky, but it’s working for me right now and making me feel less crazy. Less crisis-y. More hopeful.