Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I just want to repeat an honest question

I know this preacher guy who every time he speaks I can't help but think he is telling on himself, an open air confession of his thoughts, be they pretty or not. I usually get a little squirmy, not because I am convicted, as he might hope, but because I think he's depressed and overwhelmed with life. I'm no psychologist, but I'm thinking the dude needs some help.

And who doesn't?

I heard on the comedy channel the other day George Carlin's "List of Things to Watch Out For." (http://www.totalobscurity.com/smile/carlin/carlin.html) I laughed - loudly - in part because of my own anxiety issues, but also - and mainly - because of the absurdness of it all. We are told so many things every single day. It's no wonder the preacher guy is overwhelmed!

A friend of mine received this "honest question" from an old high school friend the other day. I found it especially moving, if not symbolic of what is occurring across the nation.

Hi "Friends" (individual names replaced!!
I don't know how to go about this but to come right out and ask if I am the only one, but I guess I should preface it by giving you a little insight as to my life.

Well, since I had my heart attack in 2005, I was put on three different medications and I gained 25 pounds. I lost my sex drive, I lost much of my hair. I cry soo much over everything my heart hurts. I went through empty house syndrome when My daughter left. Its like.. It can't get worse. and then it does. My relationship with (my husband) is, like always, up and down. We made a bad financial decision during the housing boom that cost us our life savings. Now my oldest is in (another state) with the love of my life, my grand(child) and I can't go. My other two (children) are never home. I am just so sad all the time because of everything... I decided to get off my meds myself since I finally read up on them and two major side effects was rapid weight gain and the other was rapid hair loss. I hate my 40's, I don't really have friends outside of (my children). They are my life and they are all growing up and moving on.

I guess I just want to say hi! This just isn't the kind of stuff I can say to a neighbor or my mom or (my children), ya know? Nothing like old friends to help you put life in perspective. Anyways all advice is appreciated and thanks for reading and I hope you write back.
(Your Friend)

(Dear Friend),
I think honestly that you and a lot of us have been going through changes. One might say that economic changes, marital status, medical issues, children growing up, and death accompanied by pre-menopause and mid-life crisis could have something to do it (our group age 44 & 45). Together at an Anniversary Party, remember how our small group of girls uttered more than once, "Is this it? " speaking about our lives at that point. I was quite surprised listening to everyone, and since then it has been a common feeling shared by others that were not at the party. My husband, and my (child) swear that I am Menopausal, I am in denial. I just read an article recently that the age 44 was a prime time for woman to start mid life crisis, (and not what we might typically think of) but the tears, sadness, and "Is this all there is?" kind of thinking. (Friend), I think this is a stage in our lives, and probably not the best stage in our lives, but I think things are going to get better, and contentment and happiness will follow. Expectations, disappointments, hormones are probably huge factors in the way we feel.

(Friend), I know you are not in this boat alone, lots of us our experiencing some of the same things. If we could just get together, ride around, swim at (a friend's pool), maybe go dancing, and go back to the simple times. Remember we were going to be together everyday, and then my mother told us that we would all grow up, have our own lives, and we would never see each other. Who knew?

My advice, (Friend) is to take one day at time, pray or meditate spend quiet time, and try to look at all the positive and good things in your life. I have book I love "Simple Abundance" that helped me in my life about 10 years ago, and Sunday morning church always helps to see things in a more positive light.

I have been thinking about you all week.

Your Old Pal

Well, I have been thinking about her, too.

And about this article recently published by ABC News; ABC News: "Middle-Aged Misery: Why 44 Is Worst Age." Not that it is all that uplifting, frankly, but it validates the preacher guy's doom, if not the despair of my friend's friend. It reads:

"Middle age makes you miserable, so don't blame your job, your kids, your spouse, your income or lack of it, suggests an international study of 2 million people from 80 nations.

"Researchers from Great Britain and the USA analyzed data spanning more than 35 years on measures such as depression, anxiety, mental well-being, happiness and life satisfaction.

"They found that men and women in their 40s were more likely to be depressed and weren't as happy as other ages. Middle age is such a low point for well-being that it's at the bottom of a U-shaped curve that indicates greater happiness among the young and old.

"It's midlife per se," says co-author Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. "It's something deep beyond all the controls in our equation. It's a developing midlife low. It doesn't just happen one year and go away another."

For both sexes, the probability of depression peaks around age 44.

Oswald doesn't have any concrete answers on why such a slump occurs.

"My best conjecture is that people eventually learn to quell their infeasible aspirations," he says. "They manage to get their expectations into line with what they can actually achieve."

The study by Oswald and fellow economist David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., being published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found the same U-shape by age for 72 of 80 countries studied.

"You can be almost certain you will follow this U-shaped curve," Oswald says. "If you are finding life tough in your 40s, maybe it's useful to know this is completely normal."

Research by Angus Deaton, a Princeton University economist, has found a similar U-shaped curve in some countries, but he says it doesn't hold true globally.

"Young people are happier in some countries, and in some countries middle-aged are happy. It depends on which country," he says. "In my data, it's true if you look some places, older people are really miserable relative to younger people. It's not U-shaped. (Happiness is) just going down."

Despite the skepticism, Oswald says the age factor appears real.

"We're correlating mental well-being with age, having factored out 100 other influences," Oswald says.

"In 2008, social science can't do better than this."

Great, right?

I am left to ponder a quote I once heard from the great philosopher Cher: "I've been 30 and I have been 40. 30 is better."

And I wanted to blame it on our economy...

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