It’s a scary thing

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It’s a scary thing when you realize while brushing your teeth, getting ready for bed, and approaching 50 years old, that what you do, and what you have done for 8 to 12 hours a day, for the past 27 years, you do not because you enjoy it, but because you have a deep-seeded  fear of failure and a strong desire to be liked – and it just-so-happened that you ended up as a software technical writer – and the desire to be liked and that fear of failure, rather than your love of the job, is what fuels you every day, and with watery tooth paste running down your chin, and a tired expression looking back at you from the mirror, you imagine, just for a split second, that you see your father’s face, a slight smile that is both wry and full of regret, and as this moment of clarity extends a little bit longer, you realize how much time you’ve wasted and that the time laid out before you has a thick visible horizon that is a little too close for comfort and you begin to drift, and wander, and suddenly realize the profound affect your family dynamic from childhood has had on all of the decisions that you’ve made right up to this toothpaste moment, from choosing your spouse, to taking your first technical writing job, to not taking risks, to blindly putting your nose to the grindstone for so long you may have missed a true calling and to the heart-sinking realization that so many of your decisions were totally unguided, that you made them with little forethought and as a result you became a cork in a rapidly rolling river, and now, as you approach your 50th year, you’ve been granted time to pause in front of your bathroom mirror at 11:45PM on a Sunday night, as if the river has taken sympathy on your plight and dumped you momentarily into an inlet where you can see shadowy opportunities swaying on the shore, and a murmur of a thought bubbles up from a thick murky place in your brain about how good it would feel to take control of your life while you still have the chance, before that river pulls you back into the current and you drift ever more swiftly from the shore and resign yourself to the river’s plan, which you know ends with you being dumped unceremoniously into the Ocean – which is of course  a metaphor for the end – and you start to wonder about your kids, and the role you’ve played in their family dynamic and what effect you’ve have had on their formative years, and although you know with absolute certainty that you love them more than life, you still wonder about the messages conveyed simply by you going through your daily, weekly, monthly, yearly routine and you wonder if there is anything positive, if there is a scintilla of good that might have seeped into their subconscious, and you understand that your kids are in a sense passive participants in your life,  and you begin to worry that they learn through observational osmosis and therefore are in a sense doomed to repeat the mistakes of their parents, and you start to think that the best thing you can do for your kids would be to get out of that god damn river and set your own course, because by staying in that river you are basically telling your kids that life controls you rather than the other way around, and that is probably the worst thing to tell anyone,  let alone your own kids, who still have so many decisions to make and so much time ahead of them – so you start to clear 50 years of brush from your mind in hopes that you will be able to find your life’s passion, while at the same time you question the logic of  having to search for one’ passion, shouldn’t passion come from within? If you have to search for your passion, are you not saying that, at least for the moment, that you don’t have a passion, and let’s face it, all of this means starting over again and you begin to sink into your sink at the thought of that, and then you  start to rationalize by telling yourself about the importance of setting a good example and providing for your family and its approaching midnight and tomorrow is a work day and you are so far behind on your work, so you press-down and twist the top off your bottle of Ambien and fumble for one of the pills and turn off the bathroom light and walk away, your Father’s reflection remains in the mirror, all the wryness in his expression has melted away, replaced with just sorrow and regret.

11 Comments

  1. Wow – you have just so aptly summarized my emotions lately. Whenever I hear reports about how stress can kill you, and how if you do the job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life – I can’t help but wonder how I got to where I am. And what on earth I can do about it now, at 54 1/2. So much of this dawns on us upon reflection, but not as we make the decisions along the way. It sure is scary!

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  2. Very nice Geof. There’s 50 in an eloquent passage. Your writing reminds me of Jonathan Franzen. Have you read Freedom? I know youd love it after reading this.

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    1. I read “The Corrections” a few years back and I enjoyed it. Just finished up “Where’d you go, Bernadette?” which was
      quite fun. Thanks for the kind words!

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  3. Wow! This is powerful stuff. I think a lot of us have been looking in the mirror lately. Hard to believe that life is half over, isn’t it?

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  4. I think you have plenty of passion. It shows in this post. But you are hitting on something that many of us at this age are pondering… Add in the fact that retirement for me will only come when I’m a jar of ashes.

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  5. Discovered this today while in my google drive and clicking on stuff…I’m easily distracted. I got goosebumps reading this passage. Love, love, love this piece!

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      1. All is well. Finally sold MA house on 1/31/2014. Nice to end the ownership of two homes & double utility bills. 🙂

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