Eight years ago, I had my first mid-life crisis. My life was careening out of control. I made those around me as miserable as I felt.
In the time since, a lot has happened. This blog shows some of that, but not all of it. Not very much, actually. It doesn’t address the revolution in my marriage, the professional changes, the evolution of my friendships. My first mid-life crisis led to a radical reinvention of my self.
Today, I find myself in my second mid-life crisis. The first demanded change in every sphere. Anyone who knew me could see plainly what was happening. And if they couldn’t see WHAT was happening, they certainly saw that SOMETHING dramatic was happening.
This time, friends and family see far less. Blog readers might sense it. I got a note the other day, which I reproduce – edited for clarity and grammar:
What has happened???? My lady and myself have been avid readers of your blogs for many years, being able to review the archives, including wicked wednesday, frisky friday, etc., musing and memory etc. This site was unsurpassed for us, and very well written – it had everything. Now it’s a mere shadow, the sparkle and the detail have gone. Why?
First, of course, I’m so flattered by the praise here, even if the author lodges it firmly in the past tense. Second, as with any interesting question in life, there isn’t one simple answer. I’ve been writing here for more than six years. The blog has one URL, but thousands of entries, maybe even millions of words. It’s changed. Many times.
From the start, it wasn’t just one blog. It was a sex blog and a meditation blog and a thinking blog and a confession blog and a proselytizing blog and and and….
At the start, I was driven, urgent, writing two or three entries a day. Readers could taste my excitement, my desire, my curiosity. I needed to tell you my story, both so you would know it, and so I could form an understanding of it.
My life facilitated this: at the time, professional and other demands on me left me lots of time to write.
Today, I have less time. I could go into why, but that’s not what this blog is about.
Other things have changed, too. When I started this blog, I had grandiose fantasies. It would change the world, become a phenomenon, lead to book deals. In the event, it did far better things for me. It helped me make sense of myself, of my journey, in a way that was gratifying, fulfilling, and healthy. It introduced me to people. It became a part of me.
For all these reasons, it’s changed over time. And I don’t doubt it’s become less compelling too many, or even most, readers.
That’s ok. I mean, I’m sorry if you’ve lost something, but I’m not apologizing: all along, what I’ve offered is a window into my psyche, not a product defined by your desires. As my psyche has evolved, so has the blog.
But back to my crisis….
In recent months, I’ve become painfully aware of a few realities, all overlapping:
1. I will die. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day. Eight years ago, I had that same revelation, and totally altered how I led my life in response. Today, the realization is different, deeper, more philosophical, less action-demanding. Today, I’m mourning my eventual death, whereas eight years ago, I was resisting, raging, and course-correcting.
No regrets here – I’m proud of and grateful for the changes I made. But turns out, life remains finite.
2. I might not die in a flash of light, a single moment of transition from being to not being. More likely, death won’t be so much an event as a process, a deterioration, diminution, transition.
3. Between here and there lies not just change, not just suffering, but insult. Life will get harder and harder, and my vanity will take hit after hit. I’m fortunate in that, notwithstanding some stuff, I’m healthy. Not just healthy, but deceptively fit looking. I’m often told I look five or ten years younger than I am. This confuses me, though: while I LOOK fit, I feel like shit. My body has been through some shit in the last two years, and even if you can’t see it to look at me, there’s no missing it if you ARE me. I don’t have pain-free moments. There’s no activity in which I engage in which I’m not aching. And I know that it’s just a matter of time before my outward appearance catches up to my inner state.
In this sense, I enjoy good fortune. My inner state, though pained, is, mostly, equanimous.
Except not lately. And hence, my crisis.
Yesterday, I understood my inevitable decline and death as theoretical certainties. Today, they’re not theoretical. They’re practical. They’re here. They’re now.
I suspect this informs some of my diminished intensity, both in living and in writing.
Please forgive me.
And here’s another thing: I’m filled with regrets. Or not really regrets. It’s not that I wish I’d done x, y, or z differently. I mean, I do, but that’s not the point. If I’d done those things differently, I would be different, and, truth be told, I like me pretty well the way I am. So even if the path that led me to where I am today featured some wrong turns, I’m pretty convinced they only look wrong in isolation; given the totality of everything, in retrospect, I made no mistakes.
And still… I find myself mourning, crying. Not for the wrong turns so much as for the pain and sadness. In the same way I look at my son and feel his pain in a deep, bodily way, when I look back at my own life thus far, I see my own pain, again, in a deep, bodily way, only this time, more intently.
This is a strange phenomenon: as a teenager, I suffered, like any teen. Today, though, when I look at the pain I felt then, it feels more acute, more painful, more sad than I remember. So too, the pain I felt as a toddler. And as a pre-teen. And an adolescent. And a young adult. And an adult. And so on…. Everywhere I look, I see greater sadness in retrospect than I recall feeling in the moment.
More will come on this subject, but I think what I’ve written begins to answer my reader’s question….