Marathons, Mid-Life, and All That Jazz

Apparently, I am smack in the middle of a mid-life crisis. That’s why, it seems, I ran the marathon. It’s got to do with hitting forty (no one lets you forget it, it’s almost like you’d be disappointing your generation if you declare you’re fine).

It’s when the whole mortality, existential stuff hits you, and needless to say, you can’t deal with it. You search for meaning in your life and look for answers, but there aren’t any (or they are, but you don’t like the sound of them). So you panic, somewhat. You wonder if there’s anything more. You wonder if you were meant to do something else, or if you should write that book, go for that start-up idea, learn a new language, or take a trek to figure things out – you need meaning in your life. The whole, if-not-now-then-when syndrome biffs you on the head pretty hard. Then you panic some more. Now you need motivation and positivism, so you read about people who did incredible things in their forties, fifties and sixties. That encourages you, but you still don’t do much about your angst. You start running and it makes you feel better – them endorphins do the motivational job. They fool you into believing that the crisis has passed you by, when all they’ve done is sedated it (but it helps). All this, of course, conveniently comes at a time when your children are young and they need you, when your parents are old and they need you, when your work is not that exciting (or too tiring) but you need it (to me, this is precisely why it comes)

So, if you have the money, you buy a Porsche, as they say. Lesser mortals like us run marathons, or get a dramatic, image-altering hair cut, or just die it blonde. I think what you do and how far you go is directly proportional to the level of the crisis. I am guessing the I-am-going-to-be-blonde ones are the hardest hit. Either that, or they just really want to be blonde. Actually, I take that back. Maybe it’s ok. I mean, who am I to judge why someone should or should not dye their hair any colour; if someone wants to pretend to be somebody else, who am I to pronounce it as a character flaw or wave it away as a mid-life identity-crisis? Who can say that I am not going to be that person in the future? The one thing that you learn by the time you’re forty, is that life has a strange way of coming around. Never say never (or forever) – it’s pretty darn true.

Anyway, I’d wanted to talk about my marathon (you know, blow my trumpet a bit). I still feel good about it, but I have to admit, linking it to mid-life is a bit of a mood killer. I didn’t realize it could be a sign of the crisis that I am pretending has passed me by.

I called my mother the other day and asked her if she had had a mid-life crisis when she was my age, or is this one of those new-generation things that she laments about often – you know, like children were better behaved in those days, parents didn’t agonize over minute details of their kids and just let them be, they didn’t splurge as we do, rents were low, politicians were less corrupt, there was no tawdry display of wealth, teachers taught for the love of teaching and the like.

She said that she was too busy for it. Now, that wasn’t the answer I was expecting. I wanted to be told that she had had it too but it really wasn’t that bad and that it passes (without taking it’s toll). It left me wondering if I am feeling this way because I have too much time on my hands. But then, I thought of my husband, who has the reverse problem – too little time and too much work. He’s not running any marathon (because there’s just no time) but he is turning to philosophy, doing yoga and questioning why he’s working so hard. So, I don’t think it’s about the time one has to ponder over things. Having said that, if you’re neck deep in work or anything else, in a strange way it helps, because you then focus on the task at hand and leave the larger questions for later (the definition of later is not a constant)

I don’t have the answers to the questions in my head. I am not sure anyone does. That’s why, I guess, there’s faith. That’s what my mother told me – to just have faith. It’s what, she says, is gong to help me through my anxious moments – it helped her raise three kids with not much money.

I am not sure I can be my mother. Actually, I am pretty certain I can’t, but I can try and take her advice and learn from her. Have faith, bury yourself in something and keep going – it’s a tunnel, this age, you just have to keep going till you reach the other end. Just focus on the light at the end of it, because it’s there.  This is our rite of passage.

So I am going to continue running. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment. And if it’s a sign of the existential torment in my head, then so be it. I am forty-two and I am going to act my age. Besides, there were some twenty-somethings who I left behind in the dust at my marathon and it felt good.

Now if I write that book, I’d have put my angst to pretty good use.

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