Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rules of the Game

By definition, a midlife crisis is a middle ground, a turning point balanced with half your life behind and half before. In truth, there is nothing symmetrical about it. A crisis, also by definition, is lopsided, ugly, uncomfortable and disorienting, often painful to suffer as well as to witness.

A midlife crisis is difficult to identify and easy to ascribe to someone’s behavior we might consider to be out of character. Immersed in our own dramas so deeply, it happens to people we know slightly, but is just Life as we know it to those immediately around us. Though it might be ignited by one or a series of particular events, it creeps upon us as warmth under a blanket, surrounding our bodies seductively until the shock of cold feet on the floor.

Death—the cruel jester and constant companion on our shoulder—whispers louder in our ears.

Amidst the turmoil and discomfort in my own life that was so consistent it felt normal, moving my parents out of the home that had been ours forever was the catalyst to ponder my past and futures. As my mother’s clarity of mind dissipated, my conception of the shape of my own life began to weaken, then gave way in a torrent.

Typically, in crisis events unfold with a speed too fast to contemplate alternatives and forge a plan. Reactions without thought recover the stumble or swerve away from the on-coming crash.

But in this, the changes are much more subtle. There is time to review the places we have been compared to where we wanted to go. Evaluation of our circumstances, our relationships, and our priorities takes on a certain urgency as we are confronted by the reality that--sooner than the way-later it used to be--this will all end.

Questions abound, quality is examined, quantity is determined, calculated and judged. The realization of our limits places a value on each aspect and we begin to understand that some dreams will be abandoned while others must be pursued.

For many, this might require only slight adjustments of routine, or a recommitment to finally take that trip. A thoughtful person has hopefully been aware of their movements all along to be aligned with their heart and comfortable with their decisions.

Others, confronted by reality of death’s whisper, discover a great mismatch in how they are living and the value of their dreams. Sometimes the lessons we were taught by others have rooted so deeply in our psyches as to smother completely the joyful desires that had once been our own. Influenced by the love of our parents, our significant others, and even our children, both blatantly and subtly, we have made choices for what is "Right", over-shadowing what we might have really wanted.

The degree to which we have followed more than led ourselves dictates the severity of the crisis. The amount of passion suppressed needing to escape the container defines the quality of the sigh or the force of the explosion.

Our purpose, I believe, is to become the best that we can be. No rules of engagement or packet of instructions are included at birth. We must fend for ourselves and rely mostly at first on those who have brought us into the world, fed, clothed us, and taught us how to live.

Along the way, we shed skins and experiment with outfits. We forge alliances and discover solitude both bitter and sweet.

Ultimately we are living our own life and are responsible to ourselves. Accountability to others is important, but critical to the success of our own lives. If we are not honest with ourselves, our challenges multiply, our hurdles loom larger in number and size until the one fine day we trip, stumble or fall heavily enough to ask the questions that have been avoided.

Please share with your friends


Anonymous said...

I very profound post Kip. And so very true. We are not really living if we are not true to ourselves and our own dreams.

Laurie said...

You hit my target Kip. I remember when I was a teenager I had certain beliefs about my life and how it would unfurl. I didn't realize how much I would concede to "get along" in the world and with others until I was 40 something and "eeked!" at my life. How did it get so out of line with my vision of it long ago?

You are right about living in crisis. I did that too many years making quick, yet life altering decisions, to get me past the current land mine onto safer ground. Until I walked out of the minefield altogether I wasn't aware I was very lost even though I wasn't going to step on a mine any more. I have spent the last couple of years finding my way back to the map of my youth. While I am in a better place and more aligned with my teenage vision, I mourn over the time lost to the authentic life I dreamed of. My rear view mirror is way to big and attractive and I must peal my eyes from it. Looking back only continues to rob me of the present. It is all bittersweet. The bitterness of time and experiences I lost due to the turmoil of life, sweet that I have this time to correct my course.

Life continues to throw side punches that catch us off guard. Accidents, illnesses, job loss etc, continue to hunt us down as prey but now that we have a better appreciation of where we want to go on this journey of life, maybe we won't let it derail us too much. Maybe we can maneuver the current crises and stay on course. Kip, you speak to my heart so well.