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"midlife" stuff

If you're maybe noticing that you're older than you used to be, and are feeling sad/angry/confused/worried/frustrated that you haven't accomplished as much as you/other people in your present or past/annoyingly critical voices inside your head think you should have, and if you're maybe feeling something like "I'm not a real grownup like everyone else," and if you're maybe also feeling sad/angry/confused/worried/frustrated that your body isn't working the way it used to, and you're maybe thinking, "if that's true then how am I going to DO all those accomplishments that I/other people/voices in my head think I ought or want to do?", and maybe you're also wondering how are you going to dig out from under the accumulation of habit and procrastination and self-doubt to some sense of satisfaction in your life again, then post this same sentence in your journal.

Friends keep saying stuff like that where I can see it, and I've been feeling it for a while now too. One said it really well in a friends-locked post:
It's been hard for the last some-odd months, with my age catching up to me, not to feel that I've been a continual failure in school, work, and my personal life. ...

I've been trying so hard to hide from my friends -- most of them not very close, even if they were before -- the fact that I'm not in their league in any sense of the word. ...

Come to think of it, I don't do yard work because I'm afraid of being looked at/judged by passersby. I don't do artwork because I'm afraid of ill-judgment and meaningless or worthless praise. This has gotten as bad as it ever was in the worst years of my adolescence. Worse, because I don't have the energy or the twenty years ahead of me to think I have plenty of time yet to pull myself out of it.
It was a revelation to read this, especially the part about "as bad as it ever was in the worst years of my adolescence," because that's exactly what bugs me about the similar feelings I have—"WTF? I thought I was DONE with these feelings of self-consciousness. No one told me they would come back, dammit! I thought 'mid-life crisis' just meant you went out and got your virtual red sports car and had done with it."

When a whole bunch of my friends and acquaintances are having similar uncomfortable feelings, and especially when each one is having these feelings privately and feeling shame about it because it seems like no one else has them, I ask myself whether there's some kind of cultural pressure going on, and I ask myself whether maybe we would do better examining these tendencies and pressures together, so we can figure out where we stand, and which of the beliefs and tendencies to embrace, and which to say pbtpbtpbtpbt!!!! to.

I wonder how that could be accomplished.

Do you have those feelings? Could you use a way to talk about those feelings with other folks who struggle with them?


( 76 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 25th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
At least three or four times a day, and oh hell yes. To both of your questions.
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:34 am (UTC)
Thanks for commenting...
Jun. 25th, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah. Definitely. And I'd be happy to bring a casserole to a support group meeting.
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:33 am (UTC)
Mmm, casserole...
Jun. 25th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)
Working on a post about this now.

And yeah. Support group. Something.
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for your post!
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:33 am (UTC)
Actually, your comment made me remember having another crisis like this on my 30th birthday, when a brand new back of the head voice suddenly popped in and said "you're supposed to be married by now!" and I was like "What? Where did that come from?"

Eventually I figured out, "Well, it isn't going to happen overnight, so I'm just going to get on with living my life." That worked out pretty well. I hope that maybe it will happen that way again. (For both of us.)
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:29 am (UTC)
Thanks for commenting, O person who looks like a raging success from here and yet still has these feelings.
Jun. 25th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
Yes indeed I do.

Sure, because it probably couldn't hurt and it might help. (The presence of that clause indicates that I'd be uncomfortable and embarrassed talking about it, but that's been the admission price for a lot of good change in my life, so I won't balk at it.)
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
Thanks for passing it on, and well said.
Jun. 25th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
yah sure. yah sure.
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:27 am (UTC)
Thanks, you.
Jun. 25th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)
Midlife crisis comes again after a heart attack. That's something they don't tell you but it's true.
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:27 am (UTC)
Oy, it's good to know that in advance. I don't think I've had any heart attacks, but they're often silent in diabetics, so who knows?
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 25th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
Yes. Speaking of which, I need to make a trip to Purlescence to pick up my Stitch'n'Pitch tickets. Want to set a date and time to meet there? If so send e-mail to stef at cat-and-dragon dot com or let me know an address to send you e-mail.
Jun. 25th, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, I definitely feel that way. I'm in the middle of feeling like that today, even, all of those things.

I'm working on finding ways to sidestep my internal blockages. (There's a book called Your Own Worst Enemy that speaks to a lot of what's going on with me. Some of this book might be useful to others with the issues you're describing.) But hearing from you that that many other people are laboring under the same pressures and fears I am makes me wonder as well whether this is a cultural pressure.
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:25 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you're feeling that way. I think of you as someone who is extremely active with lots of interests. I don't mean to say "therefore you shouldn't feel that way," it's just interesting to me how different a person can look to themselves, inside their own head, than they look to another person on the outside.
(no subject) - liveavatar - Jun. 26th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Kitty on a treadmill! - bastette_joyce - Jun. 26th, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Kitty on a treadmill! - liveavatar - Jun. 27th, 2007 12:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 25th, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
I spent years in therapy at the end of my PhD work working on a lot of those issues -- and was able to quit without the PhD and get on with things. It's a constant battle to reclaim the frame: what is success? What is recreation? Most of the time i do OK, but when i think about job hunting i struggle to figure out how to translate my identification of success to mainstream definitions.

And then there was being on vacation in a city by myself, which i used to do well when i was younger. Somehow i managed to pick up some voices about being in different place ("You should see X when you're in this town"), but there's a different voice, which you refer to, but i think it's really different, the voice that recognizes resource limitations, usually physical (but there's monetary and time, too) or responsibilities (that often are hand in hand with those resource limitations).

I guess the fuzzy part is whether the responsibilities or limitations are real or adopted/imposed. "I shouldn't go to the pool because i'm not attractive enough" is one that is an external one for me, so i always take a swim suit. I never go because i don't really want to (but i know that external voice is there).

Make any sense?

I'm about to return to my intense body-experience focussed therapy, so i'd have to pass on any group addressing of these issues at this time.....
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:19 am (UTC)
It's a constant battle to reclaim the frame: what is success? What is recreation? Most of the time i do OK, but when i think about job hunting i struggle to figure out how to translate my identification of success to mainstream definitions.

Very well said. And a career crisis is partly precipitating this stuff in me I think. (I'm not job hunting, but I don't love my paid work right now.)

"I shouldn't go to the pool because i'm not attractive enough" is one that is an external one for me, so i always take a swim suit.

I go to the pool, but the whole time I'm there, I keep putting words into other people's heads. ("They're looking at me and thinking...") I know that I'm projecting but I can't seem to stop it. And wrestling with all that mental hamstering takes a lot of energy I'd rather spend elsewhere.

Good luck with your therapy.
(no subject) - mjlayman - Jun. 26th, 2007 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - Jun. 26th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
I can relate to the "out of phase" thing, for the same reasons you cite.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:13 am (UTC)
I'm glad this stuff doesn't bug you much. A lot of it comes up around fiction writing for me, too. (I identify as "a writer who wants to write more fiction but keeps not getting around to it and isn't sure why".)
Jun. 25th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
I find myself being resentful and sometimes angry about the ways in which my body is "failing me" -- i.e. no longer being able to do physical things that I handled easily as recently as 5 years ago. (That's most of the reason for the new filter.) As far as hearing what I call the Goddamn Tapes -- the voices in the back of your head that keep telling you how you're not good enough and no matter what you do, you'll never measure up to where you "should" be -- I've done a lot of work on dealing with those, and they don't bother me as much as they used to. I wouldn't mind being in a group that talked about stuff like this, but I don't know how useful my words would be, especially about the tapes; it's not really something you can fix by listening to someone else's advice, because everyone comes to it differently.
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:12 am (UTC)
Thanks for commenting. Wishing you success with the new exercise routine!
Jun. 25th, 2007 11:06 pm (UTC)
My reaction to this is complex--- Hmmm. I just thought of a good analogy: me vs. those feelings is a lot like me and fat-acceptance. I've grappled with those feelings a lot, and I still have them, sometimes even pretty badly, but in some ways I am able to blow them the Bronx cheer.

I do have lowered expectations now, but I think it's the more practical kind that one poster talks about. OK, I've finally figured out and accepted that I'm not going to be a sought-after pundit whose writings reshape the world. Now, what kind of pundit can I be, and what kinds of writings can I contribute in the next 20, 30 or so years? And what else do I want to do that I can?

But like I said, things can still be hard. I was all grumpy for a few days after reading fiction by Joe Hill, and I know part of it was thinking, here I've been reading and writing about Stephen King since Joe was a kid, and now Joe is a great author, and I may write about him, and where am I? It even took me a doy or two to realize I was grumpy over that.

Mostly, though, I accept that I've made the choices I've made and had the good and bad luck I've had, and this is where I am. A lot of accepting of less time left, but in a good way, clicked in around my fiftieth birthday, which I'm glad I went all-out to celebrate.
Jun. 26th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
Yes, fat acceptance is a good analogy because for me that's been feeling shaky along with a lot of other kinds of acceptance and bronx-cheer-deserving stuff I thought I had internalized pretty thoroughly. I'm glad to know that you're mostly not struggling with this stuff.
(no subject) - nellorat - Jun. 26th, 2007 04:07 am (UTC) - Expand
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