In 2003, I shared a conversation:
“Gordo, you know what a REAL mid-life crisis is?”
“Tell me, buddy.”
“It’s when you realize that the woman, the job, the body that you think you just might be able to have (if conditions were juuuust right). Well, you realize that there’s no way that’s going to happen and you are forced to look at the reality of your life. That can be hard. Seeing that your dreams ain’t going to happen.”
A longtime reader asked me to look back and share how I found the journey from my mid-30s to my mid-40s.
I started the process by making a list of all the “bad” things that were done to me. Isn’t this how we tend to see the past? A series of challenges that we have had to overcome.
Our personal history is created by our minds back fitting a heroic (or tragic) journey where we arrive at the present. We take credit for the heroism and assess blame for the tragedies. Sitting in judgement over everyone with whom we’ve shared our journey.
So I have my sh*t list and two thoughts come over me:
- “If I could wave a magic wand over my list then where would I be today?”
- “What use is sharing this list with ANYONE?”
I’m prone to depression but I’ve never been so depressed that I wanted to swap places with anyone.
I’m also aware that we never see the tragedies that we’ve avoided.
So, I thanked my list for delivering a wonderful spouse, three great kids and a family to serve.
Then I asked myself, what’s useful from the last decade?
Reread my buddy’s quote and you’ll see mention of the three gods of the modern world:
- External validation through sex
- External validation through money
- External validation through vanity
If you look at the motivations of men then these gods feature highly. As a former elite athlete, much of the honor we receive is related to the gods of vanity and victory.
It would be easy to write that I transcended these false gods through meditation and fasting!
Truth is, at times, I took each as far as I could and had a lot of success at what others told me would make me a successful person…
…and I saw it wasn’t very satisfying.
My advice would be to look past the sex, money and vanity. What’s on the other side? Is penetration, wealth or beauty going to transform your life situation? Or might they bring a host of new problems along?
My sh*t list, particularly the worst setbacks, gave me an opportunity to ask what’s important and work on being a better person.
What lies on the other side of goodness?
I arrived at my 40th birthday (2008) and my world was falling apart. However, I was a much better person, and that helped me manage my way through. Five years on, I look at my life and am grateful because I missed setbacks that would have been far, far worse.
I’m the age (today) that my friend was a decade ago when he shared his advice. What can I offer that’s useful?
You’re going to be fine.
Keep working on yourself.
If you choose to have children then you will be faced with a choice. The choice is one of openness or closing yourself off. If you choose to be open then you will have to release many of the self-centered beliefs you’ve created. If you choose to be closed then you are likely to feel regret once the window for a relationship passes.
Either way, you will be fine.