Saturday, March 13, 2010

Crisis? What crisis?

Recently I was reading an email to a friend, proofreading really, before pressing Send and it struck me how much it sounded like a country music song.  In reality it was not lyrics but a summary of my hunting season  and it was downright pathetic.  No duck hunts, no grouse hunts, no woodcock.  Didn't make it to South Dakota.  Bird dog died last spring so I had to bum quail hunts off friends.  Shot one doe - in the gut - and it turned out to be a buttonhead.  If it weren't for a few good dove hunts I'd be forced to write the whole thing off.

The reasons behind the catastrophe are myriad but carry a common thread in the reminder that my life isn't quite what it used to be.  I vividly remember seasons that I hunted every weekend and was no stranger to playing hooky during the week to steal a few hours in the field.  I raised a really good bird dog because of this, put him on lots of birds at a young age and let him do what he loved doing.  Honestly I couldn't haven't owned him at a better point in my life.  Sometimes things just work out.  And sometimes, like this season, they just don't.  And when they don't you start to get these odd emotions, odd because you're pretty sure you haven't felt them before, at least not in the way they feel at the moment.  Sort of unhappy but not entirely, kind of resentful but not at anyone in particular, well short of miserable but with the feeling that more of the same could bring it on.

I haven't taken a poll but my guess is that I'm not the only guy out there who's had this feeling.  Plenty of us have kids, a job, a mortgage, a house with something constantly in need of repair.  They all sap your time, your money and your will to fight them off and go hunting.  Some of the guys you used to run with waved the white flag years ago and the ones that haven't now live so far off that it's an expedition just to catch up with them.  At some point you realize you're in purgatory, no longer able to do the things you enjoy and not yet having accomplished the things you set out to do.  And then it dawns on you: maybe this is what they were talking about when they said 'midlife crisis'.

When I was younger the whole concept of a mid-life crisis seemed absurd to me.  More ridiculous still was that someone would use this to justify buying a sports car or fooling around on his wife.   If you want a sports car and can afford it, buy it and don't apologize.  If you can't afford it, don't buy it.  If you feel the need to cheat on your wife, well, that's your little cross to bear and I'll offer no advice.  On a more abstract level, why a mid-life crisis at all?  Why not an early life crisis or a golden years crisis?  What in the world could or would trigger a crisis at this stage of the game?  Simple - the realization that the hands on the clock are moving and you no longer have your whole life in front of you, no longer is there plenty of time to live out all of the great dreams and big plans you had as a younger man.

Most men live in fear of insignificance.  Fearful that they will reach the end of their lives and look back and see they have done nothing more than exist for the previous 70+ years.  Some men want to leave their mark in history books, some want to leave a mark on the land, some merely want to pass on a treasure to the next generation, but most all of them want to feel that they accomplished something.  And in the middle of life something happens like this disaster of a hunting season and it taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that the clock and calendar wait for no one.  This one's gone and you can't get it back, and the opportunities you missed are like a stock you thought about buying but didn't, and then watched it double in value.  It can drag you down if you let it.

So you take stock knowing that those great dreams aren't going to happen all by themselves.  The road divides and the choices appear: abandon the dreams and settle for what you have or figure out how to make it all work, keeping what you have while chasing down the rest.  Is there a happy medium?  Is it even fair that you have to choose?  As a lawyer friend of mine likes to tell his clients, "The fair comes in October."  Either way you find out what you really love.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, Mark. Really enjoyed it. I've been thinking about many of the same things lately and coming to many of the same realizations.