Q: Here we are, near 2020, the year in which I turn 50 years old. My wife warned me the other day, “watch out for your midlife crisis.”
I chuckled and went on my way but to be honest with you, other than it is supposed to be bad, I have no idea what a midlife crisis is. Would you mind going over that a bit for me?
A: I think that to understand what the midlife crisis is, you might want to better appreciate what midlife is.
The first person to recognize the significance of midlife was Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist who practiced medicine in the mid-20th century. Jung said that midlife is more than just an aging process, turning 40 or 50 years old or somewhere halfway through life expectancies. Midlife is the starting point for something new and different.
Jung said that we have two sets of goals stringing throughout our lives: physical and spiritual.
Our physical goals encompass all of those things we accumulated during the first half of our lives. We were born, we grew up, we got jobs, bought houses and started our families, sometimes got divorced, sometimes started new families, and challenged that bank loan that financed all of the above.
Somewhere along the way this thing started to dry up. The kids grew up and left home, the house or farm got paid off and the need to climb the corporate hierarchy, either through promotion or the purchase of new lands, suddenly was not as stressful as it once was.
Just about that time, we started to refocus our attention on new goals. This was the start of the search for spiritual goals. More to the point, it was that attempt to draw personal meaning through life’s journeys, to look beyond that which was mundane in the search for significance, the meaning of life, perhaps the real meaning of Christmas.
For some, this part of their life’s journey channeled them through their churches, while for others the significance of their being was interwoven in personal commitments to their professions, to their farms, to their families, to nurturing their grandchildren while caring for aging parents or even to the well-being of their communities.
Spiritual goals can be found anywhere. They depend mostly on where you might want to look for them. Spiritual people walk in the rain, others just get wet. Spiritual people wake up and smell the coffee, others crawl out of bed. Spiritual people cultivate the soil, nonspiritual people plow the land. Spiritual people worship the birth of each grandchild. Nonspiritual people buy presents for the kids.
People caught in the midlife crisis are those who struggle making a transition from physical goals to spiritual ones. They cannot do it. If you crawl out of bed in the morning, if you can’t enjoy greeting the day, if neither church, nor family nor community are making any sense to you and if you can’t see the beauty of the universe for the clouds on the horizon, you are most likely caught in a midlife crisis and you might want to reconsider where your life’s journey is taking you for the last half of the venture.
Driving a flashy sports car or recycling back to the immaturity of adolescence will not get you there.