I have a birthday. And I just wrote about having a deathday. So there really must be a moment, exactly between the two, that is my midlife.
That precise midlife moment is behind me (since I can't plan to live past 95, and I'm nearly 48). But when exactly was it?
I have five candidates:
- A bicycle ride in eastern West Virginia this summer with Alisa and friends. We leisurely wound for 20-30 miles on a gravel path over two days alongside the Greenbrier River. We enjoyed casually gracious country dining and hospitality. It was delightful. I knew then that it felt like the middle of life, the intersection of two lives: youth, riding his bicycle; wisdom, enjoying the beauty of nature and friendships.
- Getting to know my sister during a weeklong trip to her home in Tucson. We hadn't had such conversations since she betrayed me by going off to college in 1973.
- My summer week at a writer's workshop at Chautauqua. I returned to writing.
- Our family's trip to Israel earlier this month. I'll write more about the trip soon, but — for now — it seemed like a mid-point because looking backward and forward was so clear. Forward (many years off) appears to include living in Israel. The moment of that recognition felt like a mid-point — or, you might say, the midlife crisis.
- Yesterday, atop the Brooklyn Bridge just after daybreak. I love walking across the Brooklyn Bridge; the footpath raises pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists high over the automobile traffic, where we can enjoy the panoramic view of the East River, the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines, and — most breathtakingly — the engineering and architectural delight of the Bridge itself. I've crossed the Bridge dozens of times over the years. I heartily recommend the experience.
Why are all these defining moments on the road? Is that where meaning is found, when we're not in our comfort zone?
Pick a Crisis, Any Crisis
I prefer to call the midlife crisis, a midlife adjustment, which is how the psychologists regard it.
The Chinese write "crisis" with two characters, those for danger and
opportunity. That's why midlife (or the decision to move to Israel or
Topeka) with its danger and opportunity — popularly thought of as "new
car! new wife!" — seems like a crisis.
If I get to choose my midlife moment, I'll take Moment #5, please,
atop the Brooklyn Bridge. Of course, by choosing the last moment, I
extend my life a few months or weeks.
But I also like that moment because of its visual poetry: a bridge,
a crossing over, the sun at my back, rising and chasing me across the
bridge. The cold of the morning discourages me from lingering too long
— can't stay in that moment, no matter what the Buddhists teach. Must move on, looking back, knowing what just happened.
Onward. Now What?
Where should my first steps off the Bridge take me?
Next: dumplings in Chinatown.