There sometimes seems to be “seasons” or “epidemics” of life events or crises.
Sometimes you wonder what is in the air, when many of your friends start getting married.
Or what was in the water when they all start having children around the same time.
Or when outwardly fine marriages/couples start to crack or break up.
And because it can happen to us, and because it is happening to your friends and loved ones, you get emotionally invested.
You want to help, but… the best (and possibly the worst) people are already handling it – the couple themselves. And it is complicated.
You want to take sides, because you never really liked X ’cause you always thought Y was too good for X, but if you are prudent, you hold your tongue and keep your opinion to yourself because, it is unlikely that whatever you say will help. But very probable that what you do say could just make things worse.
One couple is a sunset couple. He’s retired for some years now. She stayed home raising the family (one son).
But then the husband retired. He had his health. He had wealth. But he did not have much to keep him occupied.
So he dwelled on past grievances, past injustices, and probably tried to run the household the way it should be run. You know, like most Type-A retirees do.
He generally made himself disagreeable to his wife and son, and would tell anyone who would listen (or likely couldn’t escape fast enough), about how his siblings swindled him of his inheritance 40 years ago.
Then one day, he told his wife he wanted a divorce.
His son, financially secure (relatively) and independent (though still living with them, and unmarried) decided he had to intervene and told him bluntly, that if he did, he would be living alone, by himself.
That threat apparently worked.
And it was probably not *just* a threat. Between living with the generally pleasant and agreeable mother or the cantankerous old goat that is the father, who is likely to bore you to tears with his tales of injustice and conspiracy, I think most of us would know who we would choose.
So whether it was the threat by the son, or he was just shooting his mouth off, or he knew the limits of his “power”, or he realised that he was not as independent as he was (the wife went on a long trip to visit family leaving him to cope alone – well, with his son – and he probably came to realise he would be lost without her), he never raised the subject (so far) again and just settled for being disagreeable and cantankerous.
It was, stereotypically, a 3/4 life crisis, or a near-the-end-of-life crisis, or a retiree with too much time, too much wealth, and too much mental acuity to settle into ageing gracefully crisis.
Then there is the forty-something with 2 kids (pre-teens) who wanted a new start, or to start anew, a “reboot”, with a fresh chance at true happiness.
If this were a man, we would say, he’s having a mid-life crisis.
If this were a man, he would either buy a red sports car or convertible, or have a fling (or a serious affair).
And he may want a divorce.
And his good friends will tell him, he’s just having a mid-life crisis and he should just pull himself together, count his blessings, and get on with his real life.
But what do you tell a woman? There is no sports car. There is no fling (as far as we know), there is no infidelity, abuse, neglect, or any of the usual reasons for a woman to leave a marriage.
There are two lovely kids who will probably be confused by why mommy has decided that their entire lives (in the last 10 years or so) has to be reset, rebooted, reversed.
There will be two kids and a father who will learn that their lives will have to be turned upside down, while mommy goes… find herself? Find happiness?
There was this link by a not-very-close friend: “When it comes to deciding whether to stay in a relationship, leave love out of it”
Maybe, she’s also thinking about leaving a relationship. God knows.
But I’m not going to ask. Too much damn emotional investment needed to care. (I’m not a very good friend, I know.)
Here’s a relevant quote from the article:
In the absence of any other significant problem, you do not necessarily leave because the loving feeling is gone… genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present.
We (some of the people close to or who knows the couple) talked about their splitting up. Of course, our opinions don’t matter. Of course, there is no way for us to tell her she’s (probably) making a mistake (I’m sure the husband has tried to tell her that). Or rather we could, but who are we to change her mind?
She said she thought it best that they (the couple) gave each other a chance at true happiness.
Or some new-age shit.
The biggest lie we can raise our kids in is to believe in something called “true happiness”.
I am sure she did not come to this decision lightly. It does not mean that she thought through this rightly.
Think about your happiest moment in life. What was it? Hold onto that memory. What was it that made that the happiest moment in your life? Do you know what made that the happiest moment in your life?
WHY AREN’T YOU REPLICATING IT EVERY DAY?
Don’t you want to be happy? For ever? (or at least for the rest of your life?)
I don’t know what your “happiest moment” is, but I don’t have such moments. Or rather, I have such moments, but they are fleeting, transient moments of joy or even ecstasy. Not “true” happiness.
True Happiness for me is in the mundane – experiencing life with my daughter, seeing her grasp new concepts, and understand the world. Happiness is contentment, and satisfaction shared with my wife for a job (looking after the kid) well done, or simply survived. Looking out for them, or giving them enjoyable experiences, or considering their needs. It is contentment I seek, not the adrenaline or dopamine of joy.
Then a mid-life crisis comes along.
You look back at your youthful dreams and aspiration and realised that you have fallen way short of your “to-do” list. Or “do-by” list. Or your life goals. Or whatever goals or aspirations you had set for yourself in your idealistic youth.
Maybe you could try a re-boot, you think to yourself. To reset your life and try again. It’s not too late. You still have the rest of your life. But for every day you defer that decision, it is one day less to lead your new life – the life you were meant to live.
Or maybe you realise that you are not the most happy you could imagine yourself being. Maybe your life is satisfactory, but not satisfying. Maybe, you think, there is something missing. Some… je nais se quoi.
I’m speculating. I do not know her thoughts. I hear from those who know her better, or whom she chose to share her thoughts, or what she felt comfortable sharing. Or what she felt she could explain. Or was comfortable sharing. Or what she could rationalise.
I return to my first impression and original concerns.
There are three lives affected, and two of them are her children, and this “reboot” of her life will have implications for them, the first of which is that they have to choose between her and the father.
And it still sounds like a freaking mid-life crisis no matter how you frame it.
Why couldn’t she just buy a sports car?
Another comment: Life is the art of drawing without an eraser. You don’t get to try to erase the “mistakes” you made (or think you made).
I’m not going to tell her she made a mistake. I am not that close to her. And my message, if any, is ultimately to tell her that the purpose of life is not simply to pursue “true happiness”. If she still believes in that shit, then really, any conversation is a non-starter. If she has not realised that her decision will have profound and life-changing impact on her children, then nothing I say will reach her. If she is blind to, or has rationalised away her responsibilities to her children, who is right in front of her everyday, who am I to tell her different? Or make a difference.
Ultimately, I only have “bad news” for her: the purpose of life is not to find “true happiness”. The purpose of life, is to live meaningfully.
And so during a midlife crisis, one starts to question the meaning of life, and to question if the meaning you have found is the right one, the true one, the real meaning of your life.
And of course, some may say I speak with hubris, thinking that I know the answers to the purpose of life.
Wait til I face my midlife crisis.
Well, I have HAD my midlife crisis.
I got married.
And I got a child (actually, that was my wife’s midlife crisis, but our lives are intertwined now, so her midlife crisis is also mine).