Portrait of a young man at mid-life

A friend of mine on Twitter this morning posted that 2016 is officially the Year of the Fiasco. I’m sure he was talking about politics (who isn’t?) but his sentiment rang true for me personally. This year has been such a fiasco – nothing has gone as planned. I’m kind of ready for it to be over. It’s tempting for me to wallow in this feeling as it’s a familiar place to be and, in its own fucked-up way, it’s comfortable. I try to tell myself that it’s just life and this is the stuff that makes a life and while sometimes that works, it’s mostly frustrating and makes me feel like a huge failure. I know that what happens to a man does not define his success, but it’s been something that’s harder and harder to believe.

We started off the year with a gigantic tax bill that I thought I had under control but is looking more and more like I will need to sell my body on the street corner to pay for. My wife’s income is down this year for lots of reasons so that’s made it hard as well. So as you can imagine, the way we thought things were going to shake out financially are now very, very different. If I had known that, I would have cut back on the concerts. I would have said “don’t buy me a birthday present.” The choices I made would have looked a lot different than the ones I ended up making with only part of the information. We’re setting up Heidi’s business as an LLC to hopefully mitigate some of this, but in that are lawyer’s expenses and accountant’s fees because, just like me, neither of them work for free. So I’m not sure what the way out is at this point, and I don’t expect anyone to help me fix it.

As you might expect, all this has taken a huge toll on my mental health. My baseline anxiety is up which makes my sleep poor, which makes me anxious and on and on it goes. My bad sleep makes it much more likely that I’ll make bad food choices and all the weight I’ve lost this year is slowly finding its way back, which is what it wanted all along. I second guess everything, ruminate about the decisions I’ve made going forward this year. My inclination is to sell the tickets to every remaining concert that I am going to and stay home and do nothing, but it’s not like that will solve anything. It’s a short term, knee-jerk reaction.  I also don’t want to wreck the experience that I’ve already paid for – smart decision or not. I worry what people will think when I am anxious and nervous about finances and then in the same breath hear that I have $500 tickets to Barbra Streisand.  Inevitably, this makes me not want to share anything with anyone for fear of judgment. So I withdraw and don’t share things with people.

This leaves me feeling isolated and lonely. Even surrounded by people, I feel lonely and isolated. This is not a new feeling. It’s one that I’ve struggled with most of my life. I’ve had varying degrees of success with just coming to terms with it. Right now, I’m struggling with it a lot.  I am disengaged from people I work with – not because I don’t like them but because I don’t have the energy to be engaged. Besides, I’m very much a guy that would rather live a life of four quarters vs. 100 pennies. Trying to maintain a million different superficial relationships is like trying to juggle – and anyone who has ever seen me juggle knows how bad I am at it. Also, for all my talk of taking chances and putting yourself out there, lately it seems like that ends up hurting me more than paying off, so it’s not surprising to me that I am becoming less engaged with people in general. I eat by myself every day at work, which is ok really, but there’s still 19 year old Dan in there, wondering if that makes him a loser. Every Tuesday morning, I see a men’s group that meets in the cafeteria and even though they are there for Bible study or something like that, I can’t help but be jealous of the connection. Yet I lack the gumption to do anything about it.

I started seeing a new therapist about 6 weeks ago. It’s been fine but it costs money, and frankly, I was so spoiled by my therapist Maura that I’m not sure anyone will ever work again. I talk myself into thinking that I don’t need it when really, I need it now more than ever. So much is changing and although it is so cliche, I cannot help but think that I am almost certainly half way done with my life.  The thing I think so much about now is time. Will there be enough of it? Or will I be like my grandfather who retired and then was dead within the year? What will the second half of my life look like? Will I ever feel any differently than I do right now? Or will I die feeling anxious and worried about finances and disasters that will never happen?

I did not think I would be 44 and feeling this out of sync. But it is what it is and I guess the only thing to do is go forward.  Last night I got a haircut and Jill (the only person I trust to cut my hair) noticed that I was tense and unsettled and asked if I wanted a beer. I shouldn’t have due to my liver stuff, but I did anyway. The last time I had PBR was at Mike’s in Iowa City when Heidi was in her pool shark phase. I don’t want to just medicate myself out of feeling anything. I want to live (and live now as Barbra would say) but 2016 has really managed to make life challenging.

My grandfather (my  mom’s dad) once said “life is great if you don’t weaken.” It’s so true. But like most things, it’s easier said than done.  I hesitate to even put this post out there, but I don’t feel like many people read what I write here and I certainly don’t post with enough regularity that people would be waiting with bated breath for my next post. It mostly sounds like the whining of a privileged white male, which just pisses me off most of the time.

I took this selfie last night and I kinda like how it turned out. It’s me past the midpoint of my life, still not sure what the hell is going on and not sure what the way forward is. I see my teenage and college self in there, the new dad that I was 15 years ago, the pharmacist that I chose to make my life’s work. There are years on that face, but they’re not hanging there by any stretch. Mostly, I’m still trying to figure this out. I know a lot of people feel like this and to think this is unique to me is completely folly. I don’t know what I hoped to accomplish by writing this and sharing it the world other than to calm the storm of anxiety that I feel about my life these days – this whole year actually, even though to many my life looks like a blue calm sea. Looks can be deceiving, but I think writing this worked at least a little bit. Things may be crazy and I may be struggling a lot, but at least I have a cute haircut.

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6 Responses to Portrait of a young man at mid-life

  1. Mary says:

    I think more people will relate to your post than you think. I can’t believe I’m 44, almost 45, and how the fuck did I become an underwriter? 🙂

    • Dan says:

      Heidi and I have the conversation “how have we been together so long” conversation because it seems like we met just a couple years ago.

      I think it’s normal to be more aware of time as you approach mid life because, like it or not, time waits for no one! 🙂

  2. John says:

    Nothing here screams “whining”. In fact, it’s probably much more common to feel this way than it is to feel like everything is sunshine and rainbows. Hang in there, mister.

  3. Rachel says:

    More people get this than you know. It’s hard to admit that we need help, even harder to talk about anxiety and depression. I’ve only just discovered that talking about it CAN help. Thanks for sharing, and hang in there.

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