Putting the midlife crisis in perspective

There weren’t a lot of books in our house when I was a boy, but I remember a copy of Gail Sheehy’s bestseller Passages sitting on my mother’s bedside table for the longest time, alongside a copy of I’m OK, You’re OK. There they were: two high water marks of mass market pop psychology that my poor mother probably read desperately, a woman born before World War I trying to figure out a world that was changing faster than she could imagine, and into a place that she’d never really understand.

The world is a confusing place, which is probably why we desperately try to contain it with sometimes arbitrary quantification, parsing history out into decades and humanity into generations. Life itself we subdivide into ages – infancy followed by childhood, then adulthood, followed by old age, a period of variable length, sometimes dignified by terms such as “senior,” none of which disguised the truth of gradual physical debilitation.