For the past few months, in the back of my mind, I’ve had this increasingly pushy thought that revolves around the futility of life. As a big fan of Ecclesiastes and its message that most things in life are meaningless, like chasing the wind, this shouldn’t be surprising. I normally see this message as liberating from a lot of life’s stresses because it reinforces the idea to not take things that seriously. Lately, however, this idea has morphed into the futility of life, which is followed by an undercurrent of sadness that is hard to shake. I had tried to just push past it until the other night the idea hit me that this could be a mid-life crisis issue. I know 40 is a bit young to have this, but I’ve always been competitive and try to be ahead of the curve – because that’s the race you want to win (written with amused sarcasm).
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe it’s something else. The feeling resembles grief, but I haven’t lost anything (unless I’m going senile and can’t remember). I know it’s not depression because it feels different and my lifestyle is too emotionally healthy for that. Perhaps it’s just part of how I feel at my worst in October, but normally that’s also connected to the time change that just happened today, so that doesn’t make sense either (although I’m not looking forward to the next few weeks). It also isn’t a crisis situation like six years ago before my therapy practice took off when I was living with my mom, working any odd job I could to pay bills, questioning why I did all my schooling while fearing I’d never have a real career and I failed at growing up. That was very different (and it worked out really well). Year seven of a career and marriage tends to be a higher change/divorce year (along with year 1, 16, 25) and I’m near the range for both, but I know those are the reasons. Some might blame their career or marriage for this feeling because it’s easy, but I know it’s not one of those. I also know what I feel isn’t andropause, which is like male menopause because that happens after 50, and I’m not going to win that race (I hope). Andropause involves decreased testosterone and often sensitive breasts, and I’m normal on both accounts (and not looking forward to 50).
When I was 25 I lost my dad to his second heart attack (it took two to knock him down). He was 63 and since both my grandpas died around 50, my genetics don’t suggest I’m going to have a long life. After the funeral, I went through a different crisis period where I had to adjust to that idea, but now I’m good with my own death; dying? Not so much. Other people? Not at all. But again, what I’m feeling is different.
My feelings could arguably be made worse by the limiting socialization of covid, but I’ve found a really great balance at this time. My marriage is in an excellent spot, my wife’s on mat leave, which is a dream, my kids are great, my faith is strong, and there really aren’t any major hurdles to face right now. That being said, sometimes when things are going well, that’s when buried feelings can surface, but again, that’s not the case for me. I know I don’t have anything buried because I regularly vent to prevent that.
As someone who is okay with death, I’ve long accepted a number of things about being old like not knowing what’s cool, but I’ve never been cool so that was easy to accept (yea, for being uncool). Part of what eats at me, however, is no one really knows what’s cool anymore because there’s such a disconnect in our culture. For instance, there aren’t any real TV shows everyone is watching anymore that you can talk about. Instead, I find a lot of people say, “I watch Netflix” and instead of watching one show a week you can talk about, people binge watch, which limits talking about the show. We don’t even have commercials to compare anymore. Overall, our culture has so many options with TV, movies, media, shopping, and the like, it’s created a general disconnect. Music wise Billie Eilish has a decent following, but she’s far from being Brittany Spears or the Backstreet Boys back in their heyday. Even fashion isn’t as uniting as it once was like in the late 90s with the punk movement that included Blink 182 and Avril Lavigne. There’s just a lot of generic whatever.
One of the things that added to my situation is I went through old photos on my computer to make some memory space. On one side it was great seeing all the fun I had when I was younger especially as a youth pastor, but not only does it feel like a lifetime ago, it’s amazing how little it actually mattered or made a difference despite how much work and love went into it. I’m glad I did it, but it still feels somewhat futile.
This feeling I’ve had has been exasperated by watching the final season of Modern Family, which has this underlying sense of ending, which is sad. This was made worse by seeing a clip of the cast in the first season and seeing how they’ve aged – where did the time go? What happened?
In general, it’s crazy seeing the celebrities I grew up with now be old. For instance, the cast of Friends were once so young and cool, but now they’re the age of grandparents… and look it… minus Jennifer Aniston who has aged incredibly well, but I’m pretty sure she’s an alien. Tom Cruise has also aged really well – maybe being crazy has its benefits. Tommy Lee Jones has aged impressively well… but he’s always looked 100, so I’m not sure that counts.
Shows like Modern Family connect to a greater theme in my mind of how things come and go like the cutest puppy is born and then eight to twelve years later he’s dead or the new computer you were excited about buying is now needing to be replaced because it’s eight years old and you’re erasing pictures to make memory space to keep it a little longer. Things that were once familiar are now gone like Blockbuster and Sears or farm land is converted to suburbia with cars that add to the already congested roads that are infected with stoplights and stop signs designed to cause road rage (I assume that’s their purpose). Meanwhile, the routines of working and trying to enjoy a couple hours a day at home can be wearing.
When I was talking to my wife about this, I told her that I understand why guys buy a car or do crazy things like chase girls because when you have these low moments and don’t know how to deal with them you want a distraction. Guys can be terrible for choosing bad distractions like buying a boat or fancy truck, or they settle for drinking to numb the pain. Whatever I’m experiencing, whether a mid-life crisis, grief, or seasonal affective disorder, fortunately, I am well aware of how I should be handling this time:
- Continue doing healthy habits because this will pass (e.g. go to work, take vitamins, regularly exercise, eat well, socialize, do devotions, pray, etc.)
- Question if there is anything I’m doing to make this worse and change what needs to be changed or let go of questioning if nothing stands out.
- Avoid damaging coping tools like drinking, pot, spending, making any major life decisions, etc.
- Play with my kids.
- Vent, so I don’t have any bottled up feelings like journal, talk with a trusted person, and/or do physical things to help flush out the negativity and help me feel stronger.
- Try to do small accomplishments.
- Do something encouraging for someone else.
Please Note: Giving my situation a name has made a big difference, which is the benefit of a label.
This week may you consider what healthy habits you should implement in your life to prepare for bad times because if you’re not going through one now, you will… the joys of life.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)