I’m 51 and in full mid-life crisis. Somewhere between age 32 and 51 I totally lost what was important to me. I totally forgot why I was here, and what was worth making sacrifices for.
Thank God (The Universe, Yahweh, spiritual Ewoks, whatever) I have been afforded the luxury of stepping back from the life Autoban and being able to make the time to put all this shit into perspective. I SHOULD have made the time earlier, and could have, I just didn’t see it that way.
Being able to take a perspective break, ables us to maybe see where we have been self sabotaging our own lives.
My brother tortured me when I was a kid. He’d often pin me down and tickle me till I cried, or would practice wrestling moves that would end up hurting me. Sometimes there was teasing. He seemed to enjoy it. This was almost always looked at as the “sibling rivalry” thing, or “boys will be boys.”
But because of the 9 year difference in age, not only was he more powerful than I, but should have understood better that this was hurting me, and that this was above and beyond playful. (We have a good relationship now, it’s all cool)
I found out how this manifested itself into my adult life. When my own children get into it, I can feel this irritation, like a sudden pinched nerve in my soul. I get angry and yell “KNOCK IT OFF!” My kids look at me with bewilderment that I am blowing up over their “fun”.
It took a long time of inner work to realize that this is where it all stemmed from. My own hurt feelings from when my brother “tortured” me. I am fearful that this is going to happen with them, and that hurt wound opens up and BOOM! Dad explodes. It is all in my own perspective, and I put it on them, and should not.
Sometimes you JUST don’t learn
Why the fuck is this? It is something I am still exploring in my own personal deep dive. Maybe, sometimes, lessons just take time and further exploration. Let me give you an example.
I am HORRENDOUS at confrontation. Really, I’m terrible. Lot’s of fear. Lot’s of, “don’t upset the apple cart” with a smattering of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
That last one is actually a really shitty analogy. I mean define when something is broke. The exhaust fan in my bathroom still works, but it makes a terrible noise for the first 3 minutes (something akin to Velociraptors mating). So, do I leave it until it truly does not work, or do I fix/replace it now?
When it comes to relationships, it is MUCH more difficult than your dang bathroom fan. People don’t make huge whirring noises to let you know that something is screwed up. Sometimes they do, and we just ignore it. SOMETIMES they do, and for whatever reason, we just don’t hear it.
Then there is the fear. “If I point this thing out, they will get mad, or upset, or hurt” As humans, we tend to care enough about the valuable others in our lives, to not want to “be the cause” of what we personally see as negative emotions. That is on us.
Bad experiences with confrontation in the past just exacerbate the issue. Seriously, there should be a class taught in all schools, how to properly confront, and be confronted. Back when I was a therapist, it seems that 3/4 of couples therapy was just teaching these skills. (That I have apparently lost)
But you LOVE these people! Shouldn’t we WANT to fix the squeaky fan? Better yet, shouldn’t we do the preventative work so that we don’t ever even HAVE the squeaky fan? Yes, but again, that all comes down to the confrontation.
The truth was going to hurt…
…And even with solid numerical evidence, they might not even see it.
I know that in part I learned my poor confrontation skills from my parents (who in turn learned it from both of their parents, and so on, and so on). They did not confront their issues. And for the most part, they didn’t NEED to because the rest of life was just going swimmingly. They had money, friends, fun, and a nice upper middle class life. But, there was shit sitting there, that nobody was willing to clean up. (Ever watch kids ignore a pet accident in the house like it does not even exist? Yeah, kinda like that)
My dad got into the insurance business with his father-in-law at an early age. My grandpa was pretty successful (there was a LOT of luck there) despite being a raging alcoholic. As time passed, of course my father was doing more and more of the business. Towards the end, the whole company was really my dads. Grandpa wasn’t even showing up.
But the initial contract was still in place. Legally, only 10% of the business was my dads. There was a lot of pride there for my grandpa, and confronting that would be hard for my dad. He waited too long. Grandpa passed before renegotiation could occur, and the business fell to my severely alcoholic grandma. Confronting HER was WORSE!
In the end, despite the fact that 90% of the clients were created by my father, my dad had to pay my grandma for the business (it was not a small chunk of change). But he was young, and business was booming, and a payment deal was struck, so it all worked out. Lesson learned, right?
WRONG! It happened again! Only this time my father wasn’t young, and there could be no family payment deal made. He had partnered with a friend, to pool resources. Same scenario. Business grew for my dad, and shrunk for the other man. The original 30/70 contract was in reality now 70/30. He NEEDED to confront this. He didn’t. I am guessing my dad thought he had time. Time to figure out how not to hurt this man’s ego that his business was failing. Time that my dad’s partner’s heart didn’t let him have. A massive unexpected heart attack took that time away, and my dad’s partner died unexpectedly.
The family didn’t know about the business, and honestly didn’t care when confronted with the numbers. My dad knew he would lose a court battle. Much shame and hardship occurred. My dad worked into his 70’s to pay that off, and I believe it is what took his health. He died at 72.
Looking back is important, but DOING is too
This is why I believe that looking back is so valuable. AND why working your SHIT out and TRULY finding what is really valuable to you is paramount in having more joy NOW. You have a rear view mirror in your car for a good reason. It keeps you safe. You don’t use it nearly as much as other things, but it is still important.
Some might say it’s the divine that has afforded me the luxury of insight recently. So many things in my life in the last 5 years were such a mess. A few things that could not be avoided, but most of them could have been. FEAR kept me from confronting much of that. I won’t lie, fear continues to do that.
I HATED my job for so long. It affected me and my attitude so negatively. So did my former marriage. Had I stopped, and really latched on to what was really valuable to me, perhaps i would have confronted those fears more head on. Job insanity can do that, and I couldn’t figure a way out. Of course I needed money, and it was good. Now out of that environment, I can see the tremendous damage it has done to things I value. My sweets, my kids, my friends, ME, these are what are my treasures. Loving them means understanding them much better. And I am SOOOOO working on that right now!
In the heat of the only real “fight” my ex and I ever had, she bellowed out this question, “WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR TRUTH?” Her answer was the Bible (though, in the long run I don’t think that is really true). I didn’t have one. I didn’t know I was looking for it. But what I have found now, is this: I find truth in others caring deeds.
My why is to inspire others to find and be better selves. I thought I could do that with religion at first, then as a therapist. Now, maybe it’s just through this. I still don’t have it all figured out, and that’s okay. I’m getting better. I’m doing the work, and that is all I can do right now.
Peace to you my friends!
If you want to look deeper into confrontation fears, I suggest this great post.
If you are looking to start a daily practice to help you calm the insanity, I suggest this book.