Pretty much from the time you’re born, you can be categorized as being in some crisis state or another. In chronological order:
• The Screaming Newborn Thing that Ends at 6 Weeks
• The “Terrible Twos”
• or if you’re a late bloomer, the “Terrible Threes”
• the 7-10 year-old Obsessive Years
• Post-Puberty Metabolism Change
• the “Saturn Returns” thing around 28-30
• MIDLIFE CRISIS
• Existential “What Does It All Mean” Quandary
…and so on. Admittedly, it’s an awful large brush to paint with, but I’ll say this: there should be a category between Saturn Returns and the Midlife Crisis for the craziness my particular cohort is going through right now. For the sake of argument, I’ll go ahead and call it the Early 40s Reboot (E4R).
Yes, I know back in the Reader’s Digest era, they would’ve called it the Midlife Crisis, but we’re living a lot longer now, and besides, I always think of the Midlife Crisis having to do with valium and Porsches.
I would not have considered the E4R, were it not for overwhelming evidence that something is going on in my general sphere of friends. Unless it’s a remarkable coincidence (which is totally possible), many people I know are finding themselves in VASTLY different positions than they were three years ago.
Let’s take a look at the subset of folks who have visited us at the farm since June. I have changed everyone’s names for the obvious reasons, so don’t jump to any conclusions.
– 3 years ago, James G. was in an unhappy marriage fraught with guilt and turbulence. He remarried, had a baby, and visited with his wife who is pregnant again(!), which is awesome, but has thrown open the doors to untold amounts of anxiety.
– Sally H. and Tom A. came here together in July, which is amazing, since they were both married to other people nine months ago. They are ravenously in love, but have to tiptoe carefully.
– Patricia L. was an investment banker making high 6-figures, in a relationship with another woman. Now the woman is gone, she had a baby alone by choice, left her job, and she broke down at our kitchen table sensing that she was reaching the end of her money and her clarity.
– Clay K. was in a stable marriage a year ago; since then, he was in a car accident, and he is separating from his wife. It is all going amicably, but it has thrown open a scary world full of new possibilities.
– Violet M.’s partner died, in dire fashion, a few months ago. She visited with her daughter, and is considering leaving her community, and the state where she has spent all of her life.
– A couple of years ago at the age of 40, Tara Y. discovered a new art form that she has become world-renown for. She has broken things off with her former mentor, and has begun her own teaching course, traveling around the entire country.
– Brad B. thought he was going to marry the girl he was dating in March. When he was here in July, they had broken up, and he was devastated. He is at the top of his career game in a high-stakes business, and he still feels like a failure somehow.
OKAY. As I was writing this, I realized I could put at least four more people on here, but some of the circumstances are too specific, and I don’t want to venture into the salacious or the macabre. But there’s definitely something afoot.
Is it the general depressive zeitgeist of the USA right now? Is the polarized, agitated nature of things not giving people enough normalcy to draw upon? Or is it the economy, which seems like it will never get better, dragging people into toxic mindsets?
Or is it truly a new phase, the E4R, where people are coming off the highs of their first career phase, and having revelations about themselves personally, insights they can’t hide from themselves anymore? Is the E4R where you realize who you really are all along – and now, so much of your past world doesn’t fit anymore?
Remember, we all thought we were doing it right, at any given time. We all swore we wouldn’t be like our parents, that we would wait for the right relationship and the right job, and we’d always have our irony and sarcasm to protect us. Everyone’s wedding day was full of hope; nobody was faking, and everyone knew the pitfalls.
And yet, the smartest of our hundred-wide circle, the ones who did everything right and had it all together, ended up where they swore they wouldn’t. Even those of us who are still deliriously in love after all this time – yes, we can say the things you say – “it’s all about communication” or “you have to laugh with one another” or “it’s the little things”. But as much as we find ourselves unwavering in our dedication to one another, we watch our loved ones in crisis, and we’re forced to admit that we have almost no idea how any of it works.