In a blinding flash of light last week, I suddenly understood why middle age people - mostly men- "suddenly" have affairs, buy expensive things, develop risky hobbies, or kill themselves.
(Note: None of these things are actually occurring in my life. Just had an epiphany, that is all).
It came last week in the middle of some rather long hours at work when, coming home one night feeling completed exhausted and burnt out, I chanced to mention my concerns. "But this is what you wanted, right?" responded The Ravishing Mrs. TB. "A responsible position, correct?"
Which was precisely true, of course. But in the midst of feeling like my life was rapidly being consumed by work, that achievement suddenly did not seem like something of note.
She pressed me. "I understand that it is a lot of work like now, but what would do if you were not doing this? What are your goals? Maybe you cannot fit them into your work life, but you should work on fitting them into your free time."
I shrugged back. "I am not sure anymore what my goals are."
That statement took me aback. And made me think a great deal more.
There comes a time in a man's life where the realization that you are closer to dying than being born. A time when you suddenly realize that contrary to your hopes, goals, or dreams, the remaining portion of your life will (to a great deal) be governed by your career (which, at your age, is probably the career you will keep until the end of your work life - starting over at 50+ is difficult). If you are lucky you can get 10 or 15 years of retirement - but truly, at some level of declining health and energy (for the most part).
In other words, somewhere along the line you passed as good as it is going to get. And you may have missed it.
How do men react? One of two options: the first is by trying to re-engage the "thrill" of the younger life. They get a new risky hobby like skydiving or motorcycles or living dangerously or get a new girlfriend to make them feel younger - or in desperation, that decide that the future is simply not what they thought it would be and decide not to be in it. In either case, they have decided to hit the "reset" button on their lives in the rather vain hope that somehow these things will either fill the gulf that has developed in their live or end it entirely.
The equally foolish part, of course, is that our culture does not address this fact at all. Churches, for the most part, gloss over any sort of life event like this happening or paint a veneer of "season of life" over something which is far more profound. Counseling will most likely either tell you accept the despondency or continue on with the wild behaviors. And society - at least that part of society right now that sees men as merely one more kind of evil - will either cluck their tongues and shake their heads or wish that more men simply chose to disappear, figuratively in their madness or literally.
Do I have a solution? Not fully, but partially (more on that tomorrow). But even my partial solution will not address the very real issue of a crisis that we simply ignore or pretend is not occurring - even to those trapped inside of it.