The Gift of a Mid-Life Crisis (Or Two or Three)

It’s never to late, or too early, to have a mid-life crisis.

The phrase “mid-life crisis” has become impossibly trite. But a mid-life crisis still describes an experience that many, if not most, people have at some point in their lives. I think I had my first mid-life crisis at the age of 27, when my first marriage fell immediately and disastrously apart. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several since then.

I say fortunate, because if used properly a mid-life crisis forces one’s attention into the present moment. Particularly when we are young, some of us have a tendency to live life focusing on the future. Developmentally, that can make a lot of sense. “I’ll finish college in four years.” “I’ll get married after I’m 30.” “I’ll make my first million by age such-and-such.” We look forward with our hopes, our dreams, and our plans.

A mid-life crisis is what happens when something interferes with, or in fact even destroys, this forward living perspective. The marriage is unsatisfying. Or it makes us miserable. The business venture fails. We spend three, four, five years in graduate school only to discover that we can’t stand working in our chosen field. “The best laid plans of mice and men!”, and all that.

The golden ring of the future lands squarely in our lap, and we discover that it is in fact a rusty metal band. The “unpleasant present” wallops us over the head.

And oddly enough, this is the gift.

All the sages agree that life is lived more fully, and in fact can only truly be lived at all, in the present. Unpleasant realities have the effect of bringing us directly in to the here and now. Our task is to distill the gift of that reality from the mid-life crisis – the gift of living in the here and now – and use it to guide our life into the future.

So go ahead – have a mid-life crisis. Have one, or two, or three.

Welcome to the present.

About Karen Caffrey

I'm a psychotherapist in private practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. I enjoy helping people become more fulfilled and resilient, so they can lead better lives.
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