Hello, midlife crisis

Joey Garcia

All my decisions have been based on the fear of my mom’s disapproval. I’m 40 years old, and I’ve spent 12 years in an office. It feels dishonest to play a part in a business that is fundamentally dishonest to its employees. I want to teach yoga for a living. My mom says yoga is a fad. When I think about attending yoga-teacher training, I hear my mom’s voice in my head telling me how she worked a crappy job for 35 years. I feel sorry for her that she didn’t want more for herself and that she thinks this is as good as it gets for me.

Ah, yes, the midlife crisis. It’s painful, isn’t it, to realize that you’ve hit the bull’s-eye but aimed at the wrong target? That’s what a midlife crisis is—the realization that you have lived your life according to someone else’s notion of success. It’s also a wake-up call. When properly heeded, the midlife crisis prepares us to face death with the right answers to life’s most vital questions: Did I love fully? Am I loved? Did I matter?

Unfortunately, most people don’t respond to their midlife crisis with grace. It’s like the saying: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” People who are superficial, selfish and status conscious will buy a sports car, have an affair with someone 20 years younger (or an old flame found on Facebook), get divorced and take up an adrenaline-rush activity like skydiving. It’s a response to the numbness caused by years of slogging through a daily grind of obligations, now replaced with the rush of infatuation and other forms of thrill seeking.

Some people experience the midlife crisis through sudden depression, anxiety and anger, the latter often directed at a partner or family. These people blame others for their unhappiness. In their cloudy thinking, they did everything “right” and are not happy, so the fault must rest elsewhere. Then there are midlifers who burst out of a gray existence yearning for the alternative lifestyles they previously envied. Is that your clan? If so, becoming a yoga teacher won’t help. Hey, there are yoga studios that are fundamentally dishonest to their employees and patrons. There are also yoga teachers who think yoga is a fad. Don’t put yoga on a pedestal. If you want to explore a new lifestyle or career, do it. But don’t assume that the mind now claiming office work is meaningless will be satisfied. In time, your mind will have to discover that yoga, too, is meaningless. That’s because the problem is a lack of appreciation for who you are and what you have right now. Without that perspective, it is difficult to complete the task all humans begin in adolescence: finding a true identity. The midlife crisis is just nature’s clumsy attempt to force us to mature.

Ready to grow up? Begin a gratitude practice. Like this: I am grateful for my mother’s gift of reflecting my fears and negativity back to me so I can see myself. I am grateful for my role in the flow of an office that serves (fill in the blank). I am grateful for discovering the ways that I have been fundamentally dishonest with myself and I am open now to be honest.

Whoa, did you read that last one? Yes, this is a chance to explore how you have deceived yourself by pretending you needed your mother’s approval and by telling yourself that your work is meaningless. Practice true yoga by bringing your mind, body and spirit into alignment with reality. That’s enlightenment. Acceptance and contentment—while working in the office of any company or yoga studio—follows. Namaste.

Meditation of the week

“You’re only allowed to live as long as you can bear what is going on in the world. So I’m trying to keep an open mind,” said Flash Rosenberg, an artist who bills herself as an “attention span for hire.” What are you most aware of? Why?

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