General Interest

Midlife and Crisis

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Someone just forwarded me an article written by Vivian Diller, Ph.D. which recently appeared in the Huffington Post: Surviving Midlife Without A Crisis: Step One. Dr. Diller is a talented, articulate writer, who makes some interesting points. But I’m going to digress for a moment and say that as I was finishing up this piece, I received a call from a friend who was in the midst of a very real, absolutely horrifying life crisis – and not as in “mid” life crisis. I’ll come back to the call in a moment.

Diller asserts that the phrase “midlife crisis” in outdated, emotionally charged, and just plain inaccurate. She proposes instead that we use the phrase, “emerging maturity” when referring to that time of life in which we experience “a heightened awareness of the many years that lie ahead, and a wish to bring fulfillment to the rest of the journey.” We all have, in Diller’s words, an “Uh-Oh” moment in which we must accept that we are moving on. If we’re “wise,” we acknowledge the uh-oh moment and pull-over on the roadway of life, and take a breather while we seek guidance and try to figure out what makes most sense for the next part of the journey. Okay. This is how life should work. Things should be thoughtfully planned and researched so that wisdom prevails. Maybe if that’s all there was to this article, I’d say, “Nice try, Vivian. But real people don’t live like that.” In real life, as we all know too well, wisdom doesn’t always win out over foolish mistakes and horrible blunders.

The saving grace, though, is when Vivian says that the “uh-oh” moment in Emerging Maturity may be filled with frightening emotion reminding us of the “fragility of life.” She promises in a future article to discuss how we can effectively deal with all this and thereby “resolve” our emerging maturity and avert crisis.

Back to my phone call. The phone call is from a friend who is a single parent. She started her family in her late 30’s and she currently works two jobs to put 2 of her children through college. Anyway, “Mary” is weaving wildly through traffic trying desperately to make it to the hospital. Her oldest, 21, a college student, has been admitted. He’s had a complete psych breakdown and on top of that, he’s loaded with drugs and is going through withdrawal. She doesn’t know where to turn or what to do. Maybe if Mary lives through this, she’ll recognize it as one of Diller’s Uh-Oh moments, because it sure is filled with frightening emotion. But Mary doesn’t have time to pull over on the roadway of her life to ponder and/or come to terms with whatever. And I bet that most of the frazzled, overworked, exhausted single parents out there don’t have the time or the patience for pondering either.

So, I’m concluding that dealing effectively with the realities of aging, which is really what Diller means by “resolving emerging maturity,” is actually a luxury that’s experienced only by a very limited few. I hope I’m wrong. I want all the Mary’s out there to have satisfying mature years. But with all due respect, Dr. Diller, I just don’t believe you’ll be able to develop the magic potion that will enable us all to “survive midlife without a crisis.” For some, life’s roadway is too badly littered.

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