Where’s My Stuff?
Midlife Crisis real thing. A formidable foe. A real threat. It can last for more than a decade. Proceed with caution.
My late thirties found me with a three-bedroom house, a beautiful family, and a good reputation in the community.
My late thirties also found me with a flattened career arc, unrealized goals, and a big ole’ bucket of fatigue. I was a prime candidate for Midlife Crisis.
I was in the “middle” of my life feeling like that I hadn’t come anywhere close to living up to my own expectations. I’d always been a person of passion, ambition, and dreams. It never crossed my mind that I would ever fall short of it all.
Yet as forty approached I started looking around in a panic. Where was all my stuff? I was supposed to have much more than this at forty.
I thought I should have had more:
- career promise
I know this line of thinking sounds completely narrow-minded, selfish, and shallow. That’s because it is. That’s the heart of Midlife Crisis.
Moments to myself left me pondering what a train wreck my life was. I didn’t know exactly what to do but one thing was clear. I needed change. I needed to go a different direction.
The truth was (and is) that my life wasn’t a train wreck at all. But I sure could have turned into one if I had I swallowed the midlife crisis lies. By the grace of God, I didn’t. My purpose in writing this post is to make sure you don’t either.
So I’m calling out the Top 5 Midlife Crisis Lies and how you can discover the truth behind them.
Lie # 1: Everyone is Better Off Than You
I looked around at other people my age and felt like a loser.
It seemed like most of my peers:
- made more money than me
- were more successful than me
- had more influence than me
- had a far more promising career arc than me
That was a lie.
When comparing your own miserable life to others, have you every stopped to consider that they might have a problem or two themselves?
- They might have more money but perhaps they would give it all away for your marriage.
- They might have more talent but perhaps they would trade it for the ability to have children.
- They might have a higher profile yet battle depression and anxiety because the imposter syndrome is squeezing the life out of them.
No. Everyone is not better off than you.
DISCOVER THE TRUTH THROUGH… EMPATHY
Harper Lee said:
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
Midlife Crisis doesn’t want you to see the other side of the coin. Instead, it wants to jade your perspective with envy and cynicism. But if you can truly empathize with others you will see that everyone has human being problems.
With a dab of empathy, who knows, you might even be able help some that you once envied. Tweet: With a dab of empathy, who knows, you might even be able help some that you once envied. http://bit.ly/29WAURU“>
Lie # 1: You’re a Complete FAILURE
Midlife crisis completely exaggerates how mightily you’ve under-performed.
There’s a cliche that says:
You’re never as good as your best performance and never as bad as your worst performance.
I’m not saying you haven’t had some real failures. I know I did. I’m not saying you didn’t overestimate your ability to succeed in a hypercompetitive world. Guilty again. But, c’mon. You’ve got so much more to celebrate than to mourn.
In my case:
- Although our church didn’t have many people, they were some of the best people on the planet. They were loving, faithful, and committed to serving me as their pastor.
- In a society littered with broken marriages, I had a great one.
- I had three beautiful children. I know people who bankrupt themselves on fertility treatments and adoption because of barrenness.
- Although my finances were tight, I was comfortable and not under a mountain of debt.
- I wasn’t at the top of the career ladder, but I did have a steady job. Two of them.
And the list goes on and on…
DISCOVER THE TRUTH THROUGH… GRATTITUDE
Johnson Oatman, Jr., wrote:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Do that for the next 30 days and see what happens. Count you blessing. Actually name them. Say them out loud.
Your perception of yourself will change because your definition of success will change. It ain’t all about money, prestige, and possession. Besides, your family and friends will want to be around you more because you finally stopped whining so much. (Trust me on this one 😉 )
Lie #3: You’ve WASTED the Years
The aforementioned body blow of failure segues right into a right hook of regret. I remember thinking of how much farther down the success road I would be had I made different decisions. Better decisions. If I could just go back and do some things differently
You might ask yourself questions such as:
- Why didn’t I choose a different major in college?
- Why didn’t I have the courage to move away from home? Now I’m stuck.
- Or maybe you DID move away from home and now you’re asking…”Why did I move to this place so far from home!”
- Why did I stay with that dead-end job so long?
- Why did I date or stay married to that person so long?
I’m sure you did make some bad choices in the past. Perhaps you did stay in a relationship too long, only for it to end unceremoniously. Maybe you did let a great opportunity pass you by that would have changed everything. I question your possession of a pulse if you’ve not made similar mistakes.
But all of those years a complete waste? Not even close.
DISCOVER THE TRUTH BY… RECONNECTING WITH THE PAST
To say that your life has been a waste is to say that you nothing of value to show for the years that you’ve invested. Nonsense. Let’s add up the value you’ve collected from the past twenty-ish years.
YOU HAVE YOUR FRIENDS
At every stop along the way you’ve made friends. I’ll bet you still hang out with people from that decade-long, dead-end job. Not a waste.
YOU HAVE YOUR SKILLS:
At every stop you’ve learned new things. That stuff doesn’t go away. And time has a magical way of taking our eclectic experiences and crafting something unique and beautiful out of them. All of that will serve you well in the future. Not a waste.
YOU HAVE YOUR MISTAKES:
Please don’t tell me you tossed your mistakes. Those are some of the most valuable possessions you have. Unless you’re still bitter and angry over them that is. Please get over it. Move on. Your mistakes are not a waste. That is, they don’t have to be.
YOU HAVE YOUR CHILDREN:
Perhaps you’re in a marriage you regret. Perhaps you’re divorced and you regret that. But are you going to sit there and tell me that you wish you’d never met your children?
This should go with saying but I’m going to anyway. Your children are not a waste. Please don’t treat them as such.
Lie #4: You need to take care of YOU.
Midlife Crisis will tell you that it’s time to finally put your own wants before everyone else’s. You’ve earned it. After all, you’ve taken care of others for the first half of your life. Now it’s time to take care of yourself, even if it’s to the detriment of others.
Bullroar. (Wreck-it Ralph reference. Gimme a break, I’ve got small kids.)
Do you really want to destroy those closest to you? Do you really want to take a dagger to emotions of the people you care most about? After all, strangers aren’t the ones you’ll hurt. Those closest to you are the ones that will bleed out.
I don’t believe you want that. I just think you’re being lied to. Please don’t believe it.
DISCOVER THE TRUTH THROUGH… COMMITMENT
I know this word is almost taboo in our instant-gratification, self-promotion society. But the skill of living up to your commitments cannot be overstated. It is a fail-safe that can be your saving grace in times of confusion.
Look, I’m not saying that you should stay in toxic relationships that threaten you or your kids’ well-being. I’m not even saying that there is not a point at which at which you’ve given so much that there’s nothing left. Vicious cycles will destroy you and need to be escaped from. For more on that, check out my post “Why I Burned Out Instead of Asking for Help.”
But the over-emphasis of our right to personal freedom has just gone too far. Too many marriages, careers, and reputations are being flushed down the drain because of the misapplication of the principle of personal freedom.
The fact is, you forfeited some of your rights by some of the choices you’ve made. Choices that you made with no gun being held to your head.
You gave up some personal freedom when:
- you brought children into the world.
- you committed to a spouse.
- you received that paycheck from your employer.
- you bought that shiny, new, red sport car. (please tell me you didn’t)
Be committed. There are a lot worse things that you can be accused of these days.
Lie #5: You Need to Make Big Changes Now
The “quarter-life crisis” referenced in John Mayer’s Why Georgia doesn’t compare at all to the midlife crisis. Here’s why.
At twenty-five, you’ve got plenty of time correct mistakes and catch up with the rest of the field. At forty, however, you feel like you’re running out of time.
Pardon the sports analogy but here goes.
When your favorite football team goes down by two touchdowns in the first quarter, it’s not time to panic quite yet. Why? Because there is plenty of time left to make adjustments, chip away at the deficit, and still win the game. (Yes, I do meltdown when LSU goes down by 14 in the first quarter in case you’re wondering.)
Remote-control-throwing meltdown mode does occur when they go down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, however. The reason being is that there’s no longer enough time left to be patient. At this point drastic changes need to be made to the game plan if there’s any chance to win. Ditch all the running plays and throw the ball.
Forty-years-old feels like the fourth quarter sometimes.
Over half of your life is over. You’ve got to do something now or you’ll never catch up. You’ll never reach your goals. You’ll go to the grave with all of that greatness still trapped in your body.
Bad idea. Really bad idea.
Divorcing your spouse, quitting your job, moving a thousand miles away, dying your hair does nothing to close the gap between you and your perceived success.
Quite the opposite. All this does is heap a crushing weight of anxiety, debt, and shame upon you.
DISCOVER THE TRUTH THROUGH… PATIENCE
Luke 21:19 says:
In your patience possess ye your souls.
I know. I hate it when people quote this scripture to me too. Until I get my attitude right. Then I’m thankful that they did.
The best things in life truly do come to those who wait. Look around at what you have. Let your life bake a little while. Don’t take it out of the oven just yet. You’ll ruin a tasty thing. You’re just going to have to believe that.
My friend Shane recently reminded me on Facebook of Eugene Peterson’s book on discipleship entitled:
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
The “middle” of your life is often a strategic time to make a pivot or two that leads to personal growth. What it’s not the time to do is detonate a bomb just because you got some bad intel. And Midlife Crisis is very good at giving out bad intel. Don’t fall for it.
For although you would do well to remember that Midlife Crisis is a very real thing, you would do even better to remember that it’s as fake as that $20 Gucci purse.
How has Midlife Crisis affected your life?
Is there a lie that needs to be added to the list?
I would love to hear from you in the “comments” section below.
Get unstuck by believing the TRUTH about yourself.