I decided this morning (or was it last night?) that I was going to write about the prospects of entering that phase of life typically known as “midlife.” I guess I’ve actually got a few years, but, for some reason, it seemed like a worthwhile topic to explore. So, I sat down at the computer and, just for poops and giggles, typed “midlife crisis” into Google and perused the top few results.
What jumped out first was the video for Faith No More’s “Midlife Crisis” from their 1992 album ANGEL DUST. The result was an hour-plus spent waxing nostalgic watching old Faith No More videos. Now that I’ve torn myself away from the net long enough to reflect and record a few thoughts, I can see that, while I may not quite be at the typical age for the onset of a midlife crisis, I do possess at least one characteristic, at the age of thirty-two, that confirm me as a possible candidate: the tendency to get lost in celebrating past illusions and futile interests.
I do believe that the inability to let the past go can be a significant hinderance to embracing what the future has to offer which, irrefutably, has more potential for present and future peace of mind than does the past. What follows is an excerpt, from MERE CHRISTIANITY, by C.S. Lewis, that illustrates my point, but, within the context of relationships:
People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on ‘being in love’ for ever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change – not realising that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last. The sort of thrill a boy has at the first idea of flying will not go on when he has joined the R.A.F. and is really learning to fly. The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does this mean it would be better not to learn to fly and not to live in the beautiful place? By no means. In both cases, if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly and become a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening.
This is, I think, on little part of what Christ meant by saying that a think will not really livequiterartifically, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillustioned unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go – let it die away – go on through that period of death into the interest and happiness that follow – and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them old man for the rest of your life. It is because so few people understand this that you find many middle-aged men and women maundering about their lost youth, at the very age when new horizons out to be appearing and new doors opening all around them. It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy.
Temporary fascination reminiscing about the music and mindset of my youth this evening pales in comparison to the authentic and priceless joy that I experienced earlier this evening watching an old Disney moving while seated on the living room floor with my wife, five-year-old daughter and eight-month-old son (who spent much of the time exploring his newfound ability to move himself around on the floor by pushing and pulling with his arms).
As time passes I’m learning that the only things that offer any real, long-lasting satisfaction are those times, activities, and efforts that are focused in celebration of others and my connection and fellowship with them.
Hopefully this realisation will reside prominently in my mind as the next few years of my life unfold. The truth is that a life lived being focused on personal interests at the cost of others is really not a life lived at all. This is consistent with a lesson that keeps getting reinforced more and more in my mind due to various circumstances: sin is self. Selfishness separates me from God and separation from God is death.
I don’t think that it is any coincidence that what I’m learning, at this point, fits so well with the characteristics that Jesus instructed His followers to develop: high honor for God, love of others being on an equal level with love of self, and sacrificing one’s own life for the sake of a friend.
Let my midlife-crisis-avoiding mantra be: out with the old and in with the new. Amen.