In the world of social media, everyone appears to live in a happy, carefree place.
But do we really?
Is it more the reality that, as Henry David Thoreau once observed, that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
I wrote the following as a snapshot of some of the struggles that I — and I think many guys — confront at a certain age:
The Irish, according to my wife, have an expression that goes like this: “It’s a grand life, if you don’t weaken.”
It captures some of the dark humor of a society that endured famine, discrimination and all kinds of hard times.
But it also embodies something else I have been thinking about: Does life ever get easier?
Think about it: When you were an infant, someone fed you, you napped when you want and crapped your pants at your leisure.
As a child, you got to play pretty much all day and had your meals and laundry done for you.
Chores, responsibilities, careers, paying bills, parenthood, confronting aging and your own mortality, all of that nonsense that is part of adulthood can really rob you of the joy of life.
There is a scene from the British television comedy “Fawlty Towers,” where the protagonist and henpecked husband Basil Fawlty, played with such comedic brilliance by John Cleese, need someone to write a paper for me with his wife, Sybil, played by Prunella Scales:
Basil Fawlty: [putting an arm around Sybil] Seriously, Sybil, do you remember, when we were first manacled together, we used to laugh quite a lot?
Sybil Fawlty: [she pushes him off and exits] Yes, but not at the same time, Basil.
Basil Fawlty: [to himself] Ah, that’s true. That was a warning all right, I guess? Should have spotted that, shouldn’t I? Zhoom! What was that? That was your life, Mate! Oh, that was quick. Do I get another? Sorry, Mate. That’s your lot.
I find myself at 53 having more and more of these kinds of introspective thoughts — more questions really.
Is that all there is?
Is this what life is supposed to be about?
One endless clawing your way from one day to the next, trying to survive and maybe scratching your way forward in increments?
Can I still find my passion in my profession, one that I’ve dedicated more than 30 years to?
Yes, I’ve been blessed with good health, a loving family and friends and a rewarding career but when I look forward 20 years, I am not sure I can have a lot of confidence in my future quality of life.
Maybe some of these dark thoughts are fueled by corrosive world developments: a rogue state with growing missile capabilities led by an erratic and unpredictable leader, dire forecasts of how climate change will affect a sustainable future and an evolving economy in which job insecurity feels more like the rule than the exception.
It seems cruel to me that at the time you can most enjoy your life — after you retire (although who knows what that will look like) — you will likely be on a fixed income and unless you have taken care of yourself, your health might be too iffy to do many of the things that might enrich your life.
Is it really the case that as the saying goes “Life’s a bitch and then you die.”
I sure hope not.