Father Tony

How to snap out of it

Filed By Father Tony | November 12, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: middle age, snap out of it

Dear Father Tony,

I am tired of everything I have here. But everything is just fine. Home, guy, job, money. Car. I just think maybe this is all a mistake and I'm not happy and I could be if I slipped out the back door in the middle of the night.

"Feeling guilty for what I have not done."

Dear Feeling Guilty,

Sounds like you got it bad. Feeling a little Bridges of Madison County? Hitting middle age are you? Always been a good boy and never a bad boy, have you? Ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Eager to make a major blunder with lasting repercussions?

Look, there are plenty of moments in life when the call of the wild makes you restless and eager to leave the Shire for some grand adventure that you feel has been denied you, or for some passionate romance that you suspect has eluded you. When that feeling seizes you, everything around you seems drained of color and two-dimensional. Your drive to work is grim. Lunch is tasteless. The sound of your partner's voice is empty or annoying.

If that is how you feel, you are especially susceptible to temptations that you'd ordinarily laugh away. Don't even stop to pack because I hear they've discovered gold on Sutter's farm in California and if you hesitate you'll lose.

Luckily, most of us act out mildly rather than disastrously when this mood hits us. We pick a fight with a co-worker or boss, but we don't quit or jeopardize our jobs. We flirt, but we don't divorce. We buy a lottery ticket but we don't lose our savings at a casino. We take a trip to some tropical paradise, but we come home on time.

I guess the important thing when you wake up in the middle of the night and find your mind racing while wrestling with these thoughts is to wake up your partner and tell him/her what you are feeling. (This is ordinarily the very last thing we would think of doing because we don't want that partner to know how much we feel deserving of the superior embrace of some local version of Brad or Angelina.) At work, proclaim your feeling of discontent. Announce the fact that you are no longer having fun on the job and that you want that feeling to come back. Your co-workers will probably tell you that they have already sensed this. They may share their own similar feelings with you, as might your partner.

Obviously, there is very little your partner or co-workers can do to help you other than be patient and sensitive and more patient when you rebuff their sensitive outreach. Meanwhile, make a safe change or two. Paint something a different color. (I once got blue contact lenses for no sensible reason.) Buy a new gizmo whose features you won't be able to operate. Get a dog. (On second thought, don't get the dog.)

What you are going through is part of life. Earlier generations of the human race never lived long enough to go through these feelings. Everything was crammed into forty or so action-packed years of dodging hungry dinosaurs. Who had time for ennui? Just understand and appreciate the difference between your distress and the desperation of someone whose life is really bad and who must run away in order to find relief. And, yes, I know that these things are easy for me to say because I have been lucky in life, but there isn't a one of us who does not want to taste the greener grass of someone else's pasture. Grass is like velvet, the nape of which catches light from one angle making it look dark and from another angle making it look light. Shake the folds and suddenly that which was greener is now pale. Calm down. Stroke the velvet till it is smooth. Eat something.

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I don't know about you, but I still dodge hungry dinosaurs.

No mistakes with all that has been "gained," but these hold little true meaning for the unique human being. Are these not simply status objects? What's another lover or car or watch or spa weekend?

Welcome to midlife. Meaning comes from those places not listened to until now: guilt, tiredness, etc. Time to listen to them, which may mean leaving something/someone or a symbolic ending to an old way of being.

Check out the wilderness quests through Animas Valley Institute or some other *legitimate* outfit. That which comes in the darkest of hours portends the greatest adventure. Fierce journey! ;-)

I have to say, though, dismissing the dog so easily might be re-examined. Having someone who needs me, especially the dog, has made midlife so much less weird for me personally- I tend not to take things so damn seriously when Curly is just so damn happy to be with me....

mondschein.us | November 12, 2009 5:06 PM

It's a classic mid-life crisis. I should know - I've had several. During my last, I packed myself up and moved to NYC. It's the best thing I've ever done.

Keep in mind, my situation was different from FG's. I was single at the time.

Even so, isn't it possible his partner is feeling the same way? This supports your advice, Father T, to have that conversation sooner rather than later. Maybe both of them need a new challenge to face together.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | November 12, 2009 8:33 PM

Fr Tony, you make a wonderful point about the cave men who died in what we now think of as "midlife." In the inevitable slowdown of some of our hormones we can also have a feeling of listlessness. It is not something we just have to adjust to and talk out.

On October 4th Dr Gloria Brame posted on Bilerico "Acrux: Roll on a better Libido" Worth a read.

I would encourage "Feeling Guilty" to visit his doctor for a full medical checkup and particularly blood work including testosterone level. Some men, myself included, come from families that have a premature "falling off the charts" of testosterone in the 40's.

Testosterone is not just about libido.

In that, untreated, this can lead to feelings of depression (often severe), fatigue, loss of bone and muscle mass, and has been shown to have a link with Alzheimers it is too important a consideration to be overlooked.

I would suggest not throwing it all away, but not settling for the status quo. If the writer is 26 (we're not told), I think Father Tony has hit it on the head. But a 40 something middle-ager, well, time is short. His experience perhaps is not. Some change, well considered and planned, is in order. Lord knows, I would know! LOL

As a friend said on Twitter the other day, "Ennui is a bourgeois luxury. So is being able to use "ennui" and "bourgeois" in the same sentence."

I'm not sure of the questioners age and I'm not so sure that it matters. Regardless we all make choices and our lives are formed by those choices and one day many many days we are standing in the middle of it wondering how we got there.

In my late 20's, mid 30's and again now in my mid 40's I grappled with where I was and wasn't for that matter in many aspects of my life. Hell we change as life moves on and must step up to that challenge.

Feeling guilt for reviewing my commitment to really anything I committed to in the past for me was very real. Sometimes a change or a tweak is in order. Something that has helped me and still does is to graphically draw out my level of satisfaction on several key areas that are part of my life placing a 1-10 level of satisfaction in black and white for each. For me those areas of consideration have been:

My intimate relationship
My relationship with family
My relationship with friends
My spirituality
My living situation
Hobbies/personal interests
Educational enhancements
Leisure/personal time
Vacation time

Doing this has helped me to focus on real things I can improve while understanding what is really working for me. Ultimately if I did not take stock in areas of importance I would have duplicated the same circumstances and feelings all over again somewhere else all because I would have been seduced by the sexy allure of the unknown. I have made major positive changes in my life by taking this approach including coming out when I was 40.

So I suggest that you don't throw everything away instead honestly evaluate what's important to you so you can map out a path to happiness. I wish you much clarity.