Being a planner, I’ve been trying to plan my midlife crisis. While I’m not sure exactly when it’s going to happen, at times it certainly feels closer than further, I do feel like it’s important to try to get handle on it early, before it surprises me and makes me do something stupid like buying an overpriced sports car, dating my kids former baby-sitter or worst of all, succumbing to the temptation to start dying my hair to get rid of the dignifying grey which at the moment is confined to my temples. And my eyebrows for some reason.
Grey is wisdom, and ironically wisdom, can often be grey. Thank you very much.
My thinking on this is, if you know you’re going to go temporarily insane in the near future, why not try to guide your way through it and go for a soft landing on the other side. You know, be kinda my own Wavy Gravy and guide myself through the madness which self-doubt, dead dreams and the realization of my own mortality is going to bringing me over the next few years. Maybe, just maybe I can recognize the signs now, and have my spirit guide lead my on the walkabout of the old dude.
The good thing is, I have my wisdom.
That’s what having a fat old experience portfolio does for you
The important thing I think, is to embrace this new phase of my life and not comb over crazy, or start up on the Grecian Formula. Critical to happiness in America is being able to ignore the onslaught of messages from my so called friends at Walgreens and Rogaine and every other profiling product peddler who wants me to feel inadequate enough to buy their life changing products. I had to watch my own poor father go through the hair dye thing.
There is nothing worse that on old dude with thinning jet back hair, the dark shade somehow not quite syncing with weathered face. Hair which on closer inspection is actually a weird light brown in sections because the Grecian Formula isn’t quite taking hold as evenly as it should. Add in a comb-over of dyed old dude hair… when I’m doing that and wearing an umbrella hat in the sun I’m going to request that Mrs S quietly pull the CPAP hose of the machine one night and attached it to the exhaust from the Scion. The adaptor is in the junk drawer in the kitchen. Of course, we’ll be driving hydrogen cars by then so all I’ll get in nicely humidified air, solving a CPAP issues I’ve been fighting but leaving around the embarrass my children and humiliate myself, and sadly I won’t even know.
My Dad never knew ho lame he looked with jet black hair at 68, or black socks and sandals, or plaid shorts, or Sans-A-Belt trousers which he always told me were custom made for him with his initial right on the buttons.
Holy crap, that’s what it’s coming too, I can feel it as the damned waistline on my pants gets more comfortable the higher up I go. Its starting already.
Speaking of temporary insanity and how best to handle it, you’d think I could go to my beloved bride for some advice and guidance on this. At the risk of bodily harm I’m going to suggest that my wife has been going temporary insane with a sort of stunning regularity for the last 30 years that I’ve know her. When I say regularly.
The big difference is her day of rage or day of sadness or day of mind lost’dness, and by the way, can be all three on the same day depending on the moment, is a subject totally taboo for discussion. As I’ve learned, the hard way mind you, mention that her mood might in some way be related to a completely natural set of processes bestowed up on her by her creator, a celebration if you will of the fertility of humanity and of life and so forth.. even a hint that this might be why being out of milk on a Saturday morning makes her weepy and I will have my head removed with extreme prejudice.
“Mention it and you release the demon.” Phil Dunphy- Modern Family.
And I may have gone too far even here, but couldn’t she just tell me what’s going on and leave us all to stop guessing? Apparently that’s acknowledging what we already know, she needs a spirit guide too, about every 28 days or so. Until the hot-flash thing stops. It does stop sometime right? I’m in unchartered territory here where the only thing I know for sure is that what ever I do.. will be wrong.
So in order to prepare for the next short phase of my life when I start to question “why” and “what could have been” or “what’s next” I’ve picked up a copy of Saul Bellow’s classic novel Henderson the Rain King.
The opening paragraph caused me to stop:
“What would make me take this trip to Africa?.. The facts begin to crowd me and soon I get a pressure in my chest. A disorderly rush begins- my parents, my wives, my girls, my children.. my habits, my money, my music, my drunkenness, my prejudices, my brutality, my teeth, my face, my soul! I have to cry ‘No, no, get back, curse you, let me alone!’ They belong to me. They are mine. And they pile into me from all sides. It turns to chaos.”
Oooo this is going to be good, wow I wish I’d written that.
The idea of reading this book, which up until last Tuesday I’d never heard off came to me thanks to one of America’s favorite douchebags, Steve Jobs. Great design, cool gadgets and neato toys does not make up for poor humanity; treating people like shit and monopolizing the music industry, sorry. But it was thanks to the iPod and a playlist that one of my favorite bands of an earlier decade in my life came home to me as a comfort in the last year of my pre-50’s.
Hot damn were they good band, and I’m sad to say that I hadn’t listened to them in like 20 years. But with the iPod on “Randomize” with setting “pick something for me listen to while I fall asleep, up came the Crows. First was Round Here.. a fantastic song. What followed was one my very favorite songs of all time, which, like some of my family members, I loved so much that I completely forget it even existed until, in the dark, from the iHome clock radio came the chorus;
in the service of the of Queen
anywhere but in between
I’ve been sinking
And I am the Rain King”
I don’t know that the lyrics are all that profound but the hook, the hook stayed in my head for the rest of the week. And being naturally curious I had to know what the damned song was about. All I could think of was a King, who could tell you how many matches were on the ground should you throw down a box of them, like Dustin Hoffman in the Rain Man.
Turns out, the song is about the book of the same name which, according to the Wikipedia Oracle is one of the greatest books of the 20th century.
Why didn’t I know that? Because the last time the Crow’s and I got together I don’t believe there was an Internet, at least didn’t start with an song, a chirp and an AOL screen.
So there ya ago. This is the same reason BTW, I read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe a couple years ago. Apparently when they were talking about great books and literature I was in the bathroom, probably with the SI swimsuit edition ‘cause I hadn’t heard of that book until Achebe’s birthday was called out, ironically, on the Wikipedia splash page.
Another book pronounced “great” that I’d never heard of is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and it too is now on my list, I was told that my writing reminded someone of him. My heady response on learning this bit of information was; “Who?” It remains on my “to read” list because on further research I learned that it’s about 15000 pages long, and like a second grader I’m a bit intimidated by that.
I’ve also recently read Howard Raines guide Fly Fishing Though The Midlife Crisis. My last three fly fishing adventures could have easily come from the pages of that book as I spent a lot of time thinking about stuff, walking around rivers, driving around looking for rivers and very little time actually fishing. That’s how it goes in the pre-middle age. I find myself relishing the time out side more than the activity I’m out there to pursue.
As a matter of fact I enjoy the time out there so much I’m finding that I’m not getting in the reading time I was hoping for, especially for something like Infinite Jest.
But I my hope, futile perhaps, is that in those books I can learn for the old dudes that came before me and look the pending insanity right in the face and give it the middle finger. Because, after I get through that phase of my development comes gyserhood where true serenity comes; not giving a shit about anything and no remembering the things I used to care about.
No brains, no headaches.