My fellow blogger and writer Jen Mann recently wrote about her midlife crisis and the need to talk about her generalized sadness and dissatisfaction with where she is at this point. Coming from someone who is a humor writer with a huge following and many published books, I am sure that her revelation that she is in need of more – more success, more passion, more excitement, more money, more everything – may have been a surprise to many of her readers. Though I’ve only met Jen once, we had a very nice and lasting connection, and I knew right away that she is an intelligent, likable person who shares her life with others not because she wants to, but because, like so many writers, she must. It’s only natural that she would put down on (virtual) paper her doubts about her life, and of course, her guilt about those doubts. I get it because it happens to me.
There is so much bad in the world. All I have to do is look down the street to see the ever-growing homeless population living on the streets in my community to see the fracturing of society. I turn on the news (far too often) and listen to horror stories about children separated from their families, about terrorists blowing up American troops, about angry white men with guns shooting large groups of people for no particular reason. There are babies dying of cancer, overt racism and anti-semitism, and opioid abuse by desperate and miserable people (some of whom wander the streets of my neighborhood) that has affected the pain treatment of those genuinely in need of help. Less overwhelming but more pervasive are the little hurts and insults that happen each day just because you leave your house – the driver who cuts you off, the doctor who is inattentive, the friend who seems to have lost interest in you. Each little ping at your soul leaves a dent that doesn’t go away.
It’s no wonder that Jen is feeling bad. Life is hard, even for those of us who have it easy. And for those of us who have it easy, like Jen – and like me – experiencing dissatisfaction, sadness or a general sense of ennui can make us feel not only irrational (you have food to eat and a warm bed!), but indulgent. “Snap out of it,” we tell ourselves, when in fact, we cannot. And then we feel the guilt of feeling dissatisfied, and the vicious circle of beating ourselves up for beating ourselves up begins.
I have written about many things, just like Jen has. I have been honest about my life, my kids and my marriage. I have written a little bit about my struggle with chronic pain, which has been a big part of my life for the past few years. I, like Jen, have wondered about whether I have done enough, whether I am enough. My husband now travels for work most of the week, leaving me a lot of time alone to spend writing, and yet I haven’t been writing at all. I find myself feeling guilty for being unproductive, even as I deal with headaches on a daily basis that, while less severe than they were before surgery, are still nearly always present and a deterrent to being creative.
Sometimes I think I am overwhelmed by social media. Not that I want what other people have – but I would like the chance to live a million different lives. I am generally a satisfied and, to be honest, lucky person. I have a fantastic marriage, which I have to say, is a delightful surprise. I never would have thought that 30 years in, my husband and I would be more in love than ever. Above all else in my life, this is the most important and most satisfying thing. I have a small but wonderful circle of close friends who keep me going, keep me honest and keep me from hibernating. I have a wonderful family.
And even, with all that, with love and kindness and adult kids who call and visit and a mother to talk to any time I want, even with all that, there are days when I am so sad and, yes, dissatisfied. This is not something I should feel guilty about – this is the human condition. Because we cannot live a million lives, we have to be satisfied with the one we have – and that’s not always easy to do.
As I head down the hill of my 50’s (I am 57 now), it is my greatest wish to find a way to be content with the peaceful, mostly healthy, always comfortable life that I get to live. I work to accept that there will be days when none of that will make a damn bit of difference and I will, for a while, just feel unhappy. It happens to all of us – no matter who we are.
It’s not easy being human.