I’m undergoing a midlife crisis — only not in the normal sense of things at all. I’ve never been one to mortgage my emotional life for any benefit I hope to gain from the future. This means there’s little need to resent the way I’ve spent my past I’ve made all the right decisions in life so far, and now I gloat over these with the satisfaction of an aging Zen warrior. I’m through to a higher level in the game of life. This is what I had been aiming for. This is what I have achieved. I have become wholly myself — and the lines, although few, tell a story of how much I have conquered by facing directly, rather than turning away from it. I would have cross-hatches by now had I been indecisive.
I had chance to meet an old man for an article I was researching many years ago. He thought he could see “spirits”. His face was cross-hatched in all different directions, like he’s been lying face down on some tightly woven wire mesh. Everything about his face was going in a different direction, with no focal point to pull it all together. My face reveals the opposite — a legacy of working through one particular intellectual and emotional problem: my historical legacy of war.
I’ve just dispensed with the issue of taking care of a historical legacy. Although I did not realize it before, the issue that has preoccupied me has been war. World War Two and how it affected my family and of the legacy of the civil war in Zimbabwe were mine. I learned what it means to be a child of a number of wars and to inherit an emotional legacy that is defined by war. It was very important for me to understand the nature of war and of warriors, so that I could come to terms with this legacy.
That circle is now closed. I’ve defined the problem, analysed it back and forth, and finally understood it. I behold that the weird intensity of my nature also came about through having this legacy of war in me. It’s unlikely to go away, although my Buddhist sense of self-satisfaction increases. Self knowledge produces a sense of security in oneself that youth does not afford. Once again, there is a certain amount of enjoyment in knowing that my face tells this story. It would be hard to project negative qualities onto my face, because my emotional habits tell another story. I’ve become more real than before. My appearance reveals me as I am.
I’ve realized, too, that I have limits. I’m keen to understand complicated issues, but not keen to socialize. I’ve never felt the need for “family” as a means to achieve something in the world. What others gain from having children really puzzles me. I can’t get into the inside of this one. I don’t feel that developing a nuclear family is advantageous. I’m sure I echo my grandmother in this, as she seemed to feel some resentment about her hardships, which included family responsibilities. To fall into the same trap as my grandmother would be to undo all the self-knowledge I’ve worked so hard to develop.
The circle is closed, once again. I’m not in a position to make the same mistake. The door is shut. The offspring trap is an impossibility.
I’ve won all my battles and I’ve won them fair and square. From my new vantage point, the only regret if I have one is that I took the advice of people who said you must adapt and change to other cultural perspectives. I took my own advice — it was both right and wrong in many different ways. One doesn’t always understand that others may have hidden agendas in wanting you to “adapt”. Adaptation is a form of exploration but it must be done on one’s own terms, not on the terms of others.
I now understand what level of adaptation is possible for me and what isn’t. Experience has taught me some simple facts — if I don’t feel an internal drive to achieve a particular task, this is indicative of my not being able to develop the skill-set to achieve it. Quite simply it is not “in me” to take on certain roles that don’t already have intrinsic meaning for me. It’s intrinsically meaningful to me to help others solve intellectual problems, but it is not ‘meaningful’ for me to take care of young children or to help mold them into any particular shape. I don’t have any feelings either way and I can’t manufacture what isn’t there. I feel I have a traumatic brain injury from trying to go down this path too many times. I’d thought of it as “adaptation”: get a job and fit in.
Life doesn’t work that way, because you can’t manufacture emotion. You have to start off with the correct emotions for the particular job, which are then easily transformed into a particular skill set, suitable for that sort of job. As a rule, if you’re not already engaging in a particular task, you probably won’t be able to develop the skill set to do it. There’s no act of will that can force the issue. You have to be already emotionally attracted to the task to the point of active engagement with it. If this is the case, the task will seem easy. There will naturally be a period of adjustment when one takes on anything new, but “adaptation” should never be necessary.
One ought never to push a situation to the point where one is “attempting to adapt”. That always spells out that something unnatural has occurred. Humans are not that flexible that they can adapt to anything. Each is more suited to some sorts of tasks and less suited to others. Those who try to push the issue of adaptation, rather than assisting with adjustment, are generally trying to develop a sadomasochistic relationship with you. It’s important to be alert to this and resist such attempts to break down your character at all costs. Adjustments are acceptable, but “adaptation” ought not to be necessary for adults — and bending to the point that one breaks is never going to be helpful.
I’m at the stage in my life when I’ve realized my limitations. I know where I end and the other begins. I want what I have, and I want these to a higher degree than I presently have them. My skills are thinking and writing, in that order. I’m not that personable, unless you love a laugh a minute: I am wry.
I’m not burdened by the past anymore, so I may just walk into a wall. Something’s shifted. If it’s not me, it’s you.