Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
How do we get there? I mean, no one sets out, cheerfully saying “Gee! When I grow up, I want to lose my ability to feel unbridled joy, cry at a beautiful sunset, or develop myself as a unique and special creature”.
We’re merrily chugging along through our 20’s, full of optimism and dreams. As yet unravaged by failure, heartbreak… or the numbing weight of day-to-day responsibilities. The emotional exhaustion of the hamster wheel. We play, we grow, we learn. We chart a course for an unknown future. Restless at times, lost at others. We know we’re just getting started – and the journey can still take us anywhere. It’s exciting and unscripted! There are possibilities… there is hope.
We do that thing that is expected of us. Socially and biologically. We ‘Settle Down’. We play less, we worry more. We furrow our brows as we plan our future. But we have purpose. We are wives, husbands, mothers, fathers. Employees – with increasing responsibility. Those dependent little faces? Our children. Our parents. Our employees. We care for them. They are counting on us.
Along the way to “Settle Down”, something is lost. There is no free lunch you can’t have it both ways you can’t always get what you want. We let go of things. We lose our Selves. Dreams. Passions. Hobbies. Creativity takes a back seat to bill paying. Our friends who didn’t head for “Settle Down” seem irresponsible. How dare they call us at 11:30 pm on a weeknight? We are grown ups.
That person in the bed next to you is different, too. Lost among the routines of taking out the trash, cleaning up the dog puke, fixing the plumbing…. No longer a “person of interest“, to steal a phrase from modern law enforcement. A room mate. A co-parent, if you’re lucky.
You watch him sleep. Listen to his endless snoring. Knowing that he’s gone, too. You walk the house at night, tripping over your amiable, but thoroughly confused, dogs. You walk quietly, so as not to wake your sleeping family – and all you hear is the white noise in your head. The noise that replaced passion.
We still have purpose, but it’s less compelling. They don’t need us as much now – that was the goal, right? Fly away, babies! We’re aware of the clock hanging over our heads. We can see the finish line. We watch the old couples… The men who drive their wives to WalMart. The ladies who lunch. We listen to our elderly parents – recounting every item of food consumed during the previous week as a “scores and highlights” reel. No exit ramp in sight. We know exactly where we’re headed…
“Only cowards stay, but traitors run*…”
Then the white noise in our head is replaced by something else… the screaming… No one else can hear it. Except maybe the dogs…