I used to laugh when I saw the stereotypical middle aged guy portrayed in Hollywood movie. A classic example of this was in the movie, American Beauty. At the time that I watched it, I could not appreciate the story line beyond the surface; however, now that I’m smack in the middle of the middle passage, I can understand a bit better. Kevin Spacey turns in an excellent performance as a guy who is trying to navigate this middle passage the best that he can. He’s reached a point in his life where he’s done all the right things, said all the right things, been the best dad, husband, etc. that he can be, but there is deep dissatisfaction. I think that I’ll put the movie in my Netflix queue to watch it again.
I’m a big fan of Robert Longpre’s website, Through a Jungian Lens. Robert made a comment the other day on one of my posts. In it he said:
I can see it:”He said all the right things to all the right people, always with a gentle smile. He made us all feel loved, valued and at the center of the world. He was focused on us. Trouble is, we never, ever got to know him. He was like the perfect mirror for us. I wonder what he was really like, you know, who was he?”
This quote, I think, sums up the deep feelings in the middle passage, or mid-life crisis. Somewhere between 40 and 60, you reach this point. I’m 47 and haven’t a single clue as to who I am. Sure, I’ve worn various roles: Father, husband, caretaker, friend, etc. With respect to culture, etc., I’m a kind, considerate, polite person. I was taught that. In some ways, as Robert put it, the perfect mirror. However, in the second half of life, middle age, other feelings start to emerge. That shadow side that was suppressed for so long wants to assert itself. The other side that we disavow, but that really completes us. That part that wants something more from life than to just be a yes man, to have the right job, right house, right spouse, the smile on the face. There is a hunger, a deep hunger, to discover one’s true nature and desires. The earthquakes of the soul begin.
This is a time of intense growth and necessary suffering that goes along with it. Thinking back to my SoFoBoMo book, In Retrospect, it rather reminds me of middle school. That was a tough transitional age, but totally necessary.
In the evening, when all is quiet, the questions arise: Is this what you want? Why are you still doing this type of job? What about your photography? What about the things that you want from life? Have I simply ‘settled’ all of my life? Sometimes I just want to yell from the rooftop: “Who the hell am I and what is the purpose of all of this?!!!”.
I know that this growth is necessary and it is a gift; however, sometimes, I just want to know where I can exchange this gift or get a refund! If you are interested in this, a great book is: The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife by Dr. John Hollis. I have it as an audio book and have listened to it a couple of times already. The book talks mainly about how this time is a time to have a great relationship with yourself, your true self, whoever that is. It’s about taking responsibility for yourself and knowing that no one, absolutely no one, can make you happy in this life. That’s up to you, but first you have to dig a bit and find that quiet voice, all the while removing layers and layers. This excavation is tiring work, but rewarding.
I cannot possibly state in words how much I have changed in the past year. I can probably state that it was probably the very small tip of a very large iceberg, however. I think that there is a lot more to come. Still learning …