Writings

The Midlife Labyrinth


The Silent Mourning of Youth
The Midlife Labyrinth

Earlier for some, a little later for others, there comes a time in life when all of us must face the fact that the prime of our life is behind us. There is of course a highly subjective and psychological component to this realization and one can feel 'young at heart' at any point in life, but the decay of the body, the accumulation of consequences of past actions and the awareness of the future being both shorter and simultaneously pregnant with loss, make it undeniable. It doesn't happen overnight of course, we go through a number of stages before we are ready to acknowledge that things are different, we claw ourselves to youth with all we've got for a while. But no haircut, gym membership or yoga practice has the magical ability to reverse time and the internal struggle of resisting the inevitable eventually reveals itself both futile and extremely taxing, so one good day, we look at ourselves in the mirror, and reluctantly, still surprised and somewhat in disbelief confess: 'I am not young anymore'.

While the fact that it comes as a surprise is kind of humorous, the experience is actually very sad. The gradual loss of vitality, health, freedom or time isn't new but the coming to terms with the fact that it is not going to get any better, at least not in absolute terms, is. Not only that, we realise, it's gonna get worse, in all those departments and in many others that we have not yet discovered. As the shadow of death becomes, for some of us almost for the first time, a point of referenece, we instinctively recognize that if we want to enjoy happiness and meaning from now on, a new, subtler, softer approach to living life will be required, but this first theoretical acceptance of a mature psycological or spiritual understanding of life has not yet set deep roots in us and we feel that discrepancy very painfully. We could know better, but we actually don't, not yet at least.

The expression of this sadness is also new. It lacks the dramatic drumming of younger breakdowns, it hides discreetly dehind duty and responsibilities, behind our social know-how. It doesn't leak out too much because it is bearable but mostly because you should bear it. This is no longer that young & cool 'Kerouacian' what-will-I-do-with-my-life dilemma and no one really cares about it either. Everyone in your circle is silently trying to find exit from their own labyrynth, solve their own middle age riddle, while children are growing up, houses are being bought, mortgaged and refurbished, marriages are being mended of their slow but inevitable cracking and facebook accounts are kept shiny, full of sunset and tiramisu pictures. So, just when The First Noble Truth is finally interiorized, when we develope enough maturity to look life stright in the eye and see it for what it truly is, we also discover that that realization is ours to carry, alone for the most part.

This silent, solitary mourning is unsexy, uneventful and somewhat painful so busy as we are, we feel tempted to skip it altogether and pretend that we remain untouched by the swift passing of youth. But without honoring this important transition in life, we take the risk of turning into empty emojis, smiling out habit rather than joy, so painful as it might be I find that the anticipatory awareness of The Great Sorrows of Life is an important compass to navigate through middle age without losing direction and the sense of meaning, so I am taking the time to welcome and make friends with it. Sometimes people ask, what is your yoga practice at the moment? My answer now would be that: I am sitting with middle age, taking the time to make friends with it.

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