Sanctuary and Interlude
I read a friend's post this weekend about her brother -- he's in his sixties, he's chronically ill with debilitating illness and she believes he's about to give up. He's sick -- and sick of living.
I don't think this is an aging thing. I think it's a state-of-mind thing.
Often it's triggered by reaching a point in life when you realize you will not be able to do everything you'd dreamed. It can be a realization of limitation of skill and temperament as much as an acknowledgement of time limits. It can also be a crushing realization of what has been denied you -- or what you have denied yourself -- emotionally.
You are forced to see that you will not be able to fly the Concorde, you may not make it to CEO, you may not have the baby, you may not have the perfect marriage, or home, or job. You may not write the novel.
I no longer believe in the much laughed-at mid-life crisis. Just as many 30 year olds as 60 year olds turn their faces to the wall and literally or figuratively give up. It can happen at any time of your life -- mine occurred in my early 40s -- and this "existential malaise" manifests in many ways.
Many minds write checks their bodies can't cash: they push themselves so hard, they trigger heart attacks. Some individuals invite lifestyle diseases such as smoking-related emphysema or lung cancer; obesity or food-related issues such as diabetes or eating disorders. There's an arguable case for certain temperaments under some circumstances being cancer or autoimmune disease-prone. Some individuals descend into depression -- either the "high functioning" kind in which one goes about everyday life in despair (often numbed by shopping, food, drugs, alcohol, sex) or the incapacitating kind in which one just goes catatonic.
You "hit the wall" in terms of what your life was supposed to be.
What do you do then?
One approach -- the bootstrap approach -- would tell you to get real intent on what you do have. Make what you have better. Make what you have last. Intensify what does exist in your life. Make your life work as it is. A certain type of personality works well with this approach ... and I have great respect for the strength and discipline this pragmatism requires. And a love for the intensity and passion-overcoming-all inherent in this personality.
My approach -- by the grace of God -- was to be given sanctuary by someone who loves me -- and an interlude in which to rebuild hope, reassess strengths and decide to build forward on the ruins of what was not possible. I am a softer, kinder personality because of what I've been given.
I have been changed for the better by this opportunity to step away from all that I was and determine how I could realistically shape a good rest-of-my-life. I will never be able to fully repay my debt for this gift -- from a person whose generosity of spirit I can not adequately put into words. The gentleness I have been shown is a gift that I'm honor bound to return -- or pass on -- when it's needed.
Both approaches acknowledge how much life is worth. Real life, not what you were supposed to live. Life that you don't sleepwalk through in despair. Do what you can to open your eyes and your heart to what is really there. And value it, cultivate it, live it. Be grateful for it.