The 40th birthday party my wife threw for me was legendary – the next day’s massive hangover being evidence enough.
My head pounded on that first official day of my fourth decade as I trudged out of bed and began picking up the remnants of the past night’s celebration.
As I emptied the second half-full beer can of the morning, I mumbled, “F*ck 40.”
My tone was dismissive – as if I was saying something snide like, “I’m better than ever” or “age is just a number” or “40 is still sort of a millennial, right?”
Maybe I was trying to convince myself.
The hangover, though, has not gone away. Four months later, my solemn disposition persists. And, whether I brand my subdued mood as a mid-life crisis, depression or just a funk – the fog has been heavy, real and has lasted far too long to ignore.
I’ve started calling this mood my “fine fog” – the state of being neither great nor terrible, not good or bad, not well or sick. I am stuck being “fine.”
There is a loneliness of living in neutral. Little has been written to help guys struggling like this. Talking to my buddies about how I’m feeling isn’t appealing either and, face it, men generally stink at emotional discussions anyway.
It is up to me to solve this. But no matter how much I tried, nothing lifted my “fine fog” – and that made me feel worse.
How could I not be “great,” I wondered. I have a great spouse, five great kids, a solid career path and relationships with friends that others covet?
It must be turning 40, right?
When I started feeling down, I thought the approaching holidays would help me regain my vigor. But no jingle bells, no silver bells, not even a trip to see my extended family helped. The fog continued to loom.
That’s when I started to realize that I might not be so fine.
When back at home after another fine day at work, I turned to my wife, “I think something is wrong, hun. I can’t seem to shake this funk. You all seem so happy, and I’m just not.”
She nodded. We talked for a while.
As it turns out, those around me had taken notice of my fine fog, too.
Later that night as I drifted off, I dismissively mumbled, “F*ck 40.”
How I’m beating those 40th birthday blues
I was at a tipping point. I had to change. Fine, for me, just is not good enough.
From the next morning on, I’ve tried.
I can’t say I’m happier than I was as a carefree 21-year-old. I won’t say I don’t have fleeting thoughts of self-doubt or of fear or of feeling unprepared or unworthy.
My fine fog does still roll in – but I try to burn it off quickly. I do so the only way I know how – through my family. After all, being a dad is what I do best – so it stands to reason that lifting the fog has to involved my wife and children.
My family is a case study in energetic happiness – and, I need some of that immediately.
My kids bounce out of bed each day.
My wife smiles more than she frowns.
When my kids see someone – a friend, the school crossing guard, anyone – they get excited.
Each of my five children fight to extend their day – rather than looking forward to it ending.
I’ve been working on modeling these simple behaviors – except maybe the whiny, crying 4-year-old’s “I’m not tired” tantrums each night at bedtime.
Today, I’m good. That is light years ahead of the “fine” I’ve been stuck in for the past half year.
I want to be great, though – to match the way I feel each day with the tremendously fortunate life I know have.
I’ll get there – I have to believe that sunshine await out there, somewhere.
But, until the sun permanently burns off the fog, it feels cathartic to, from time to time, say, “F*ck 40.”
+ + +
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tobin Walsh writes the blog The Good-Bad Dad, and is an aspiring author and speaker … even after his 40th birthday. The Florida resident is a father of five. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook, or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.