Come on a ride (Talking Heads).
Midlife can be a road to nowhere, the clock running out, a thousand ideas and no idea. A race to reach what?
I heard a story on NPR-a 53 year old journalist took up bicycle racing while studying midlife experiences. She commented in the story that midlife has few markers compared to the early adult years, which are often full of courtships, graduations, purchases, births. Then the endless middle chapters, with the center of the story shifting to first words, steps, schools, teams..the story of the adored little ones. The journalist suggested a goal to structure the passage of time, for her, both the book and the bicycle race.
Subtract the narrative of the little ones, soon the young adult ones..and where do we find ourselves? In a morass, fertilizing the grounds of midlife confusion and crisis. Somehow the solution of making a goal or two seems perfunctory, a coda or two after the symphony is over. You can try a return to early striving, invent something new, but the energy is not quite what it was, and the rewards at the end of the race don’t glow as brightly. The naiveté that kept you moving is gone.
And the pressure of time running out..what is the race best run? Have a better relationship? Paint? Write? The senior games? See the world? And what is to be let go of? The house? the marriage? the job? the view of yourself ?
I know one person who has given up trying to make a difference. Just doing a good job is enough for her. She does that and faithfully, but has given up on the idea that anything will change through her efforts. You may imagine that she is disheartened, but I think she is past that turmoil. Her inward consistency leads to her stability, she is in alliance with her values. It doesn’t matter that the world changes, what matters is that she is who she wants to be.
I do not have her stability, her pyramidal shape and personality, her faith in herself. I believe I was better suited to earlier life, while she told me once she had trouble as a younger person, sensing herself an old soul and in a holding pattern until that moment arrived. She has arrived. I’ve run a race and I’m shocked it’s over. But I’m also not ready to stand still. So I spin round and round and wonder if I’m on a road to nowhere.