All That's Gone

Adam Gordon Sachs

Midlife gets a bad rap. What else can be concluded when “midlife” is practically married to “crisis?” But are they really well matched?

Far from the stereotypical image of the balding man in crisis who dumps his long-devoted, slightly graying wife for the younger blonde bombshell and trades in his minivan for a red Porsche convertible, midlife ideally is a time of re-evaluation and re-imagination. For adults game for an introspective challenge, midlife requires acceptance of reality, leaps of faith and tolerance of uncertainty. Midlife calls us to make tough choices, the biggest of which is whether we will transition toward a life with new possibilities and purpose, or hunker down, circle the wagons, kick like a mule and hang on mightily to the status quo, resigned to becoming a member of the Weekend at Bernie’s walking dead club until the nursing home comes calling. 

Midlife may step on and smash our rose-colored glasses of young adulthood, challenging our earlier assumptions about work, success, achievement, self-gratification, relationships and everything else we hold important in life.

During the period from about the late 30s to the early 60s, we encounter the realization that our careers may have hit a ceiling, and re-evaluate whether the work at which we might have labored for decades provides meaning or nourishes our soul anymore, or ever did. We pause to question whether the race for success, advancement and achievement, as defined in young adulthood, is worth chasing anymore. If we haven’t already experienced job loss through no fault of our own, we are prime targets for downsizing and early retirement packages because of our age and salaries. We have to run ever faster to avoid becoming obsolete in the face of rapid societal and technological changes, the province of the young.

We grapple with the financial pressures of supporting families, mortgages, college tuitions, accumulated debt, material acquisitions, increasing health care costs, investment risks, and looming retirement – not to mention day-to-day survival for those struggling to make it. We may question whether our marriages are satisfying or have gone flat, whether the grass may be greener, whether the benefits of breaking matrimonial bonds outweigh substantial costs. We groom our children and ultimately set them free – hoping that they don’t suffer from Failure to Launch Syndrome -- experiencing a sense of loss entering the empty nest phase. We may be sandwiched, caring for ailing parents while parenting our own kids. Mounting midlife challenges can be associated with high levels of stress, anxiety and sadness, which can lead to unhealthy lifestyles, physical and mental health deterioration and acceleration of aging. 

In more than 80 essays, the author, a clinical mental health counselor, captures the opportunities and challenges, hopes and fears, risks and rewards, and triumphs and setbacks of midlife. The essays cover existential issues, such as meaning, purpose, grace, choice, freedom, independence, responsibility and death, as well as practical concerns, including career, parenting, kids, marriage, divorce, finances, culture, recreation, creative expression, health and addictions.

The author culls from his own life experiences, observations, pursuits, struggles, successes, disappointments and difficult choices to describe this transitional phase of life with the heartfelt emotion and raw candor that only someone who is living through the midlife period could appreciate, and to which others going through similar experiences can easily relate to their own lives. 

  

Books by Adam Gordon Sachs