Bife = Beware Midlife
Tim Robbins and Susan Saranden- longterm relationship r.i.p. Using a lemonade out of
lemons approach it’s the occasion for a new word- bife, beware midlife and
the roads that lead to becoming a midlife SB.
Tim is at that ripe age, just past five-oh, which is a sweetspot of midlife
havoc. Since I don’t do things halfway, I took the occasions of both 40 and
50 to engage in midlife meltdowns/ resurrections. Whichever age you choose-
which may depend on your actuarial expectations and skills, midlife at 40
implying longevity of 80, midlife at 50, well you can do the math- my advice
is to take a step back and watch out for telltale signs of the midlife
talking instead of your inner compass.
What the #%*&$ does that mean? Some people hit midlife like a boxer hits
the canvas- hard and not pleasantly. You look around, especially you look
forward, and you see the time horizon more clearly than you did at say 30 or
20, when it seemed like the ocean on the horizon- infinite. Now you lost
the “in” and it’s finite, and you’ve accomplished what you have, so far, and
you have the relationship you have, so far, and the kids are growing, often
by this age they are teenagers, i.e. within shooting range of intolerable.
You have climbed some sort of mountain to get to this age, probably worked a
long time navigating some sort of career. You have gotten more and more
over the initial powerful pangs of love for your partner, and now perhaps
the initial pangs of boredom, conflict, annoyance are creeping in like a
tide, gradually but relentlessly. You are seeing the end, and in your
darkest moods that’s like seeing a coffin lid closing. So what do you do?
Run like hell. Some of us run like hell and don’t think much about where we
are going or where we have been. We find some young thing at the office who
makes us lose a decade or two in the time it takes to rip off her blouse.
We drop our lucrative career for some myth in our mind from college, that we
are actually a writer, a painter, that it’s actually possible to wring fame
and fortune from something really fun to do. We change our gender. Wait-
hold on, we don’t change our gender. We relocate, to the vacation house off
Massachusetts without thinking so hard about how the mortgage will be paid
while living in a town the main economy of which is based on- people like
you who made substantial livings somewhere where there actually IS an
economy! If you’re Tim Robbins, for redemption, you escape from the prison
of your career and relationship by living your childhood dream of making an
album. And your beautiful wife becomes like Louise- don’t know who Thelma
is, maybe Glenn Close based on proximity?- driving her Mercedes convertible
out of Bedford into- Manhattan . But that’s them.
In other words you do damn fool things just to run away from the inevitable
fact of mortality and the toll time takes on relationships and careers.
But- it’s not all meltdown. It’s part resurrection. From the other side of
the coin, who ever said you had to have some cushy (or abhorrent) job for
your whole life? Are we really equipped at 20 to make that kind of
decision based on almost no experience? Same for relationships- we get
married, often riding a wave of passion, which acts like a drug, obscuring
what we want and who the other person is. We enter into the most crucial
decisions kind of blind if we do it while we’re very young. Which I define
as under 30. This is why they say youth is wasted on the young. So why
can’t we revisit these decisions when we get to 50 or somewhere in that
neighborhood? Life isn’t one size fits all, sometimes it may be the better
part of valor to admit the early decision making either was wrong or worked
for some part of our lives, but not this one. Setting aside kids of course.
Kids you don’t grow out of, they grow out of you. But their mom- well,
sometimes, when your idyllic beach vacations together increasingly become
2-bedroom, argumentative affairs- or when the economic toll these rough
times take on your salary serves to slam the bedroom door shut and to make
for dinners punctuated by crickets and the sound of forks clinking on
plates- sometimes you know you have to move on.
Do as I say not as I do, is the best best advice I can give. Separate out
the voices in your head and try and listen to the wisest ones, not
impulsively, but giving due thought to things like- yes, that young thing is
an animal in bed now, but her lawyer may well be an animal in divorce court
10 years from now when you are- gulp- 60 and she’s just hitting her sexual
peak. Or the fact that your last art instructor likened your paintings to
having an eye gouged out with paint- have you ever considered accountancy?
(That instructor was an asshole, mind you, but still…)
Finally- go see our friends at midlifebachelor.com for more exhaustive
discussion of this dangerous and sometimes exhilarating moment in your
lives! Remember, the glass of life is half full- until you pour it over
your wife’s head and walk out the door…