At Sixty

I know I could do this if things would just slow-the-fuck down,” he muttered. Head bowed, sitting at a dimly lit kitchen table, teetering on the edge of a midlife meltdown.

With more than 30 years in the industry, you think he’d be brimming with confidence. For most, that kind of experience leads naturally to calm assuredness. But with experience comes expectations, and those expectations smother him like a blanket of boulders.

He feels incapacitated by his experience, not buoyed by it.

He fixates momentarily on his wife’s furrowed brow and imagines himself tiny, wandering through those deep valleys of disappointment.

At work, he’s surrounded by the young and hungry. Buzzing with ambition, their bright voices float on currents of frenetic energy.

Was he ever that exuberant (about anything)? He struggles to remember his younger self, but it’s like painting with numbers without the numbers.

In his cubicle, yellow sticky notes pop off the edge of his monitor. A sleek uninviting flower, daring him to delve in – begging him to fail. Tossed to the corner of the desk, a coffee-stained and panic-scrawled legal pad.

His “to-do list.”

After a full day’s work, that list somehow gets longer, not shorter.

Early in his career, he’d slide into a work groove and rip through his “to-dos” effortlessly, like a sickle through the wheat. But nowadays, he’s easily and willingly distracted. His ability to focus comes in short bursts only, and the mental elasticity of youth is frustratingly absent.

His focus is hampered further by a barrage of instant messages and multiple meetings a day. As a result, he always feels two steps behind in a mad dash to a deadline.

He wears his age like an ill-fitting suit, and he struggles to keep pace with his profession.

He lifts his head and speaks again.

“Honestly, I don’t think I can do it anymore. I’m sorry, because I know that puts us behind the eight-ball financially, but every day’s a struggle, and I’m barely keeping my head above water.”

He wasn’t being lazy. He was being honest.

He remembers when success was all the motivation he needed. He remembers plowing through whatever work stress he encountered, because on the backside of that stress were people who depended on him. For 25-plus years, that was all the motivation needed to keep at a job he never truly enjoyed.

Now that his kids are grown and on their own, he faces an increasingly stark scenario.  Deadlines approach, the work pace quickens, his ability to keep up wanes, and the desire and motivation needed to plow through it all has vanished.

He concludes that what’s required of him, and where he is philosophically (at sixty), have diverged irreconcilably. He feels this in his bones and in his gut every morning when he wakes.

And there’s a nagging sense of entitlement, that at this phase of life he’s earned the right to slow down — to take his foot off the gas — to smell the roses. He romanticizes about a job that doesn’t follow him home every night. A job that ends when the day ends and doesn’t occupy his mind ceaselessly.

At sixty, he has no interest in climbing the corporate ladder. Instead, he wants to set it ablaze, sit cross-legged on his cubicle floor, and watch it burn to ash.

At sixty, he has no illusions about discovering job satisfaction. That boat has sailed, and there’s no sense lamenting he never got on it. Instead, he’s looking for balance.

He’s looking for “just enough.”

Just enough to pay his bills and free up some time.

Just enough to sip coffee in solitude, and not worry about work.

At sixty, he sits at a dimly lit kitchen table, looking for a way out.

Loose Pile of Rubber Bands


I am exhausted. Inside my skull there is a frazzled mix of broken synapses and buzzing noises.

I want 3 weeks of nothing. I want 3 weeks to clear my head and empty my brain – to decompress and decelerate to a normal pace, if at all possible. I want to disconnect from everything and everyone so that I can rediscover who the fuck I am – I am totally and undeniably lost. I am over connected to everything but myself.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. I need a radical shift, to jump paradigms, to poke my head through the streaming protoplasm of some parallel universe, to stick out my neck and look left, and right, and then left again and decide whether to pull the rest of myself out of the only world I have ever known and into this new place.

I need to rage against myself (screw the machine) I need to lead a coup d’état on my mind, body, and soul, to rise up and throw out the new me and retrieve the old me, to restore myself to power in a bloodless revolution. How did I get so twisted and discombobulated? It’s like someone blindfolded me, spun me around and placed me in the center of a crater on the dark side moon and said, “OK. . . READY? . . . GO!”

Inside my head, pressed up against the inside of my skull is a mess of wires, tangled and thick with no beginning or end. Basically, it’s a fucking mess in here. Like a tightly wound ball of rubber bands on steroids. I wonder what would happened if I picked at it, pulled on it just a little, would it suddenly heave, expand, and unravel all at once? What if it did? Then what?

I see myself staring inquisitively at this freshly unraveled mass of rubber bands, wondering why there was nothing at its core. What was I expecting, something pure and pulsating and glowing? But there is nothing now but a loose pile of rubber bands – Maybe the ball of rubber bands was the core? Could it be that THAT THE BALL OF RUBBER BANDS WAS THE CORE?? If I had thought this possible, I never would have curiously tugged and picked at it – I would have just walked away from it. But now I have a loose pile of rubber bands. I thought I had synapse issues before the unraveling. Now it will surely be worse – whose idea was this? NOTHING AT THE CORE? Rubber bands with no purpose, with nothing to rally around, nothing to hold them together – now what? Should I roll them up again? Should I reform this pile of rubber bands back into a ball or should I just let them lie loosely all over the place? If I choose to reconstitute this loose pile of rubber bands, will things be any different?

I am standing in the middle of a white room staring at this pile of loose rubber bands, my arms dangling uselessly by my side like clapboards, my mouth agape, my eyes wide shut, screaming at the top of my lungs and from the bottom of my heart in total silence.