You bought the condo. You got the job. You might even have the boyfriend. You came out. You made friends. You saved for retirement.
You took the trip. You ate the food. You posted the photos.
And yet, you wonder: Is this all there is?
For many of us, these are the experiences of gay men at midlife.
We spend the first half of our lives doing and striving. And when most of the goals are met, we feel lost and disappointed.
Everyone talks about getting, but no one talks about what happens after you get it. It doesn’t seem right to complain about having a lot.
If we run away from this discomfort we may end up with too many hangovers, too much time on the internet, or too many disappointing hookups.
Things get interesting if we stay curious about this uncomfortable experience of “blah”. Underneath the boredom or light, depression is a rich world of feelings and a new vision waiting to be discovered.
For most men, the first half of life is about building a life and building the world. The external takes most of our energy and commitment.
In the second half of life, men often start to pay more attention to the internal realm to figure out what is within that sustains and inspires us.
The roadmap, which was so clear during the first half, is more confusing and diffuse in the second half. The instructions for the first half essentially came down to: make money, make love. Who will give us the marching orders for the second half?
What makes the process a minefield is that our inner critic can start to flare up at this point. It may start with a litany of fears like “I’m too fat”, “I’m too old”, or “I’m not good enough.”
Fortunately, you can tap into support when the mid-life experience becomes bewildering, depressing or painful. Some ideas:
- Read books like “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life” by James Hollis.
- Spend more time alone, without the internet, and start journaling and asking yourself questions.
- Stay open to the idea that this time, the answer might be closer to “being” rather than “doing”.
- Work with a therapist who is over the age of 50.
- Catch yourself when you find that you are running from sticky questions like “what am I experiencing, what am I afraid of, what’s important to me, or what if I can’t find anything inside?” Then gently bring yourself back to curiosity.
If you are willing to go towards the discomfort and sit with it, on the other side you will find renewal, hope, and excitement.
For those of you who have already been on this drive, please share on the blog what you found down the road.
Previously published on thegaytherapycenter.com.
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