Object Dar't

April 15, 2013

The Art of Crisis

When I was little, the term "mid-life crisis" was a dirty one. It was something said in hushed tones, generally about some man who in the middle of his life, supposedly lost his marbles and traded in his "old" wife and car for newer, younger, less practical ones in search of HAPPINESS.

In my teens, I started to hear about the "lost souls" who left their 6-figure salaries (or whatever success they had garnered) to run away to Africa or some screwball place to *gasp* help others and give their lives some MEANING.

I was always left with the nagging "why?" What is it at the heart of people that they one day wake up with the compulsion to completely scrap their lives? But in considering this, maybe the better question becomes, what is at the heart of so many human beings that they build UNHAPPY, MEANINGLESS lives?

I remember one day, my Dad said to me, "One day you wake up and realize that your life is the lyrics of that song; 'Is that all there is?" I was impatient with him when he said that. I really hated my Dad trying to teach me how much I should hate life. He'd done it my whole life. So I told my Dad then what had been on my mind for years; that I thought he was jaded. And he was. He was an abused, inner city kid and he'd seen the ugliest side of life and love. At the core, he fundamentally didn't believe in human goodness and clearly had a general sense of hopelessness that life just never delivers so why ask or expect what you clearly can't have? Sad. He cornered himself into a world that was both unhappy and meaningless.

In looking back though, I honestly suspect that my Dad was feeling vulnerable and was really trying to connect with me emotionally at that moment. Similar to someone standing in front of you saying, "Help me, I'm in pain and sad." If I were faced with that moment now, my response would have been entirely different. I would have experience on my side and instead of criticizing him, I would have encouraged him profusely. I would have told him that sitting there stewing in unhappiness was his choice and that for as long as he did that then his song was indeed true. That IS "all there is" if that is the choice you make. And I would have told him that it could all be different if he'd only TRY to be open to the possibility that he'd been wrong all those years.

I've had a hard three years; My first husband and friend passed away recently, I don't speak to my mother, my Dad died not wanting to speak to me and I've been going through a nasty divorce for 3 years now for no reason other than the other person wants to punish me for not accepting abuse for a lifetime. The things that have happened in these three years at times boggles my mind. I admit to being a woman in crisis in the middle of her life. For as hard as it has been, it's also been a blessing. That's right I said a BLESSING. There's an art to crisis and I'm becoming quite practiced at it. If my Dad were here now, I'd tell him that this is not all there is. What I know about my Dad and so many other people is that they are seldom willing to gamble the small comforts they have garnered over the years. They'll settle for a crumb of miserable comfort rather than willingly run toward the crisis of change. I see people spending their lives avoiding adversity at all costs and recoiling when it presents itself. That's an epic mistake. Because while crisis does come with "growing pains", the result is profound. We grow, become stronger and reinvent ourselves for the better. So the "Art of Crisis" is actually to embrace (and walk toward!) what on the surface seems like a very negative experience.

I wish my Dad could have had a mid-life crisis. It would have at least given him a 50/50 shot at dying a happier man than what he was. I think now about those early stories of men having mid-life crisis' and the supposed fruit loops that trotted off to Africa or wherever. I'm proud of those people. They were brave. Maybe they wound up happier, maybe they didn't. They definitely wound up with some great adventures and probably a whole lot of pride that they gave life every effort. There's honor in not settling.