(A generic therapist office that looks exactly like you think a therapist’s office should look. I am sitting on a sofa facing a therapist who is seated.)
Me: I am back!
Therapist TBD: Back? Back from where?
Me: Well, almost back, I am not quite there yet.
Therapist TBD: Can you clarify?
Me: I’m back, doctor, well almost back, to the person I used to be.
Therapist TBD: I don’t understand.
Me: Sure you do.
Therapist TBD: I assure you that I don’t.
Me: What have we been talking about these past several months?
Therapist TBD: Nothing, these sessions haven’t happened yet, remember?
Me: Oh, that’s right. Okay, let me rewind a bit. I am a 25-year-old man stuck in a 40-year-old’s body.
(Therapist TBD scribbles the words “mid-life crisis” on his/her notepad.)
Me: I know what you are thinking, mid-life crisis, but I don’t think that’s the problem.
(Therapist TBD subtly places his/ her hands over his/ her notepad)
Therapist TBD: Why not?
Me: Well, isn’t a mid-life crisis an emotional state of doubt and anxiety experienced when a person realizes that life is half over and many of life’s aspirations are unrealized?
Therapist TBD: Yes, that’s a basic description, but what makes you think it doesn’t apply in your case?
Me: Doesn’t one have to have a life before it can be half over?
(Therapist TBD busily scribbles in his/ her notepad.)
Me: What was that all about?
Therapist TBD: What?
Me: All that scribbling.
Therapist TBD: I will take notes from time to time for later reference about your case.
(A long pause)
Therapist TBD: Go ahead.
Me: I asked you a question.
Therapist TBD: What was the question?
Me: Why don’t you check your notes?
(Therapist TBD pretends to look through his/ her notes.)
Therapist TBD: I must have missed the exact question.
Me: Doesn’t one have to have . . .
Therapist TBD: Oh, yes, I remember now. No, the quality of your life or lack of is actually believed to be a contributing factor to the mid-life crisis.
Therapist TBD: Yes.
Me: Maybe I am having a mid-life crisis. That sucks.
Therapist TBD: Why would that . . . be so bad?
Me: Because mid-life crises are for old people.
Therapist TBD: You are 40 years old.
Me: I told you that I am only stuck in this body.
Therapist TBD: So, you truly believe yourself to be twenty-five?
Me: Emotionally, yes.
Therapist TBD: But, you are aware of your actual age?
Me: I have attended 40 birthday parties if that’s what you mean.
Therapist TBD: Then what makes you feel like you are a 25-year-old stuck in a 40-year-old body.
Me: Because I still think the same way I did then. I don’t feel like a grown-up.
Therapist TBD: You have a job. You pay your bills on time. You meet all of your responsibilities. You made this appointment to seek out help. Those are very grown-up things.
Me: I haven’t made this appointment yet. I’m still thinking about it. I have a job, but it’s not what I want to do, and I rarely pay my bills on time. You should see my credit score.
Therapist TBD: Okay. I’m game. What do you want to do when you grow up?
Me: I have no idea.
Therapist TBD: What interests you?
Therapist TBD: Surely you can limit the list a little.
Therapist TBD: You are interested in everything.
Me: Yes, I even want to be a therapist.
Therapist TBD: So, you are considering being a priest.
Me: Not a priest, but a Buddhist monk sounds pretty interesting.
Therapist TBD: How about a politician?
Me: Not a politician, but an honest elected official would be cool.
Therapist TBD: How about . . .
Me: Doc, we could be at this all day.
Therapist TBD: Good point. We’re getting off track. When you first arrived, you mentioned that you were back. “Back to the person you used to be,” I believe you said.
Me: I’m not back to anything, doc; I’m just having a stupid mid-life crisis. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I drive a 16-year-old Mercedes that’s falling to pieces and I live in a one-room guest house that I rent, my life is half over and I have no prospects, no dreams. I can’t even get a date. I could get a date, but not with the women I’m attracted to. JESUS, I’M HAVING A TEXT-BOOK MID-LIFE CRISIS.
Therapist TBD: Let’s not go back to the mid-life crisis just yet and continue our current discussion.
Me: How can I, doc? I am having a melt down over here.
Therapist TBD: Fine. Why are you having a melt down? I know you don’t want to hear this, but a mid-life crisis is quite common in a male of your age, I mean of your physical age.
Me: But a mid-life crisis is for somebody who has accomplished something: someone who is married with kids, a mortgage, two SUVs, and a corporate job that pays six figures, but offers no upward mobility. That’s a person who has pressures and commitments to escape from. I have always consoled myself with the idea that although I have nothing and have done nothing of note, at least I wouldn’t have a mid-life crisis.
Therapist TBD: I see.
Me: I’m sorry. I have wasted your time.
Therapist TBD: This is your time and I don’t believe you are wasting it. I think you are making real progress.
Me: This isn’t going at all like I had envisioned.
Therapist TBD: How did you envision your session would go?
Me: Not the session, this story.
Therapist TBD: Right. How did you envision your story would go?
Me: By using this clever, theater-like therapy session that I actually borrowed from a play idea that my best friend is writing, I intended to make a case for my recent life changes and show how those changes, that are giving me feelings of euphoria closer to the ones I experienced when I was younger and happier, could lead me to a greater sense of passion and willingness to take greater risks in my life.
Therapist TBD: You borrowed this literary device from your best friend’s play? How does he feel about that?
Me: I don’t know because he is finding out right now.
Therapist TBD: I see.
(The Therapist TBD tosses a quick glance out of the computer monitor and offers the best friend a “he-is-your-friend-not-mine” look.)
Therapist TBD: So, how did you plan to advocate these recent life changes?
Me: I was going to tell you that I had rediscovered music after many years, and despite what all my thirty-something friends say, I love it and I am happier than I have been in a long time.
Therapist TBD: What do your friends say?
Me: That I am having a mid-life crisis.
Therapist TBD: (Clearing his/ her throat) What do you mean when you say that you have rediscovered music?
Me: I have owned an iPod for about a year and a half and I believe it to be the best purchase I’ve made in recent memory. I download music like crazy. I have been to about twenty concerts this year. As a matter of fact, I just got back from Coachella.
Therapist TBD: What is Coachella?
Me: The Coachella Art and Music Festival. It’s a two-day concert in the desert.
Therapist TBD: Who was there? Anyone I’d know?
Me: Coldplay, Wilco, The Arcade Fire, BlocParty, The Dresden Dolls, Nine Inch Nails. Any of those ring a bell?
Therapist TBD: I don’t think so. The nine-inch thing sounds familiar.
Me: Sometimes I think I have more in common with most 16-year-olds than people my own age.
Therapist TBD: Do you have a girlfriend?
Me: I think we covered that. No. What are you trying to insinuate, doctor?
Therapist TBD: Nothing. I was just curious.
Me: I don’t want to date teenagers.
Therapist TBD: Well, you did mention earlier that you couldn’t get dates with the women you are attracted to.
Me: Yes, and I used the word, women.
Therapist TBD: So, what women are you attracted to?
Me: Women in their twenties.
Therapist TBD: How’s that working for you?
Me: Not great.
Therapist TBD: Why not pursue women closer to your own age?
Me: Because we have nothing in common.
Therapist TBD: What do you have in common with a 21-year-old, other than music?
Me: Good point.
Me: Well, what do I have in common with a 40-year-old, divorced woman with two kids, other than age?
Therapist TBD: Why does she have to be divorced with two kids?
Me: Because if she hasn’t married by the time she’s 40, doesn’t that make her as crazy as me?
Therapist TBD: I would prefer you not use that term.
Me: What term?
Therapist TBD: Crazy.
Me: Sorry. Do you prefer psychologically challenged?
Therapist TBD: Let’s move on. You mentioned “changes”, plural. What other changes have you made?
Me: I am going to the gym four days a week and I feel better than I have in a long time.
Therapist TBD: That’s great.
Me: Don’t give me that “great” shit, doc, you’re thinking that I am about five minutes away from buying a little red sports car that I can’t afford and leaving my wife and kids for a 16-year-old blonde.
Therapist TBD: I am not, and I resent the implication.
Therapist TBD: Anyway, you don’t have a wife and kids.
Me: That’s right. I don’t.
Therapist TBD: And?
Me: If I told you that I had rediscovered music, started working out, replaced my 16-year-old Mercedes with a new, shiny red sports car, and met this really hot TWENTY-SOMETHING blonde chick that I’m crazy about and who's crazy about me, would you necessarily say that I was experiencing a mid-life crisis?
Therapist TBD: Based on only those conditions and given your current life style, no, I would not.
Me: SO WHY AM I HAVING A MID-LIFE CRISIS?
Therapist TBD: I don’t think it has been established beyond all doubt that you are having a mid-life crisis, but I don’t think we should disregard it either.
Me: Okay. I can live with that.
Therapist TBD: Do you feel better?
Me: Yes, I do.
Therapist TBD: Can we return to our previous discussion?
Me: It was the wife-and-kids outburst that changed your mind wasn’t it?
Therapist TBD: I haven’t changed my mind. I was never convinced of that diagnosis.
Me: Sure you weren’t.
Therapist TBD: You mentioned that you were almost back. “Not quite there yet, but almost,” I believe you said.
Me: I’m just so happy not to be having a mid-life crisis. You are a great therapist. I feel better already.
Therapist TBD: I’m glad, but the question still stands.
Me: This is the part of the story where I wanted to include a dream.
Therapist TBD: A dream?
Therapist TBD: Why?
Me: Because therapists always want to hear about dreams.
Therapist TBD: I don’t.
Me: So, does that mean I can’t?
Therapist TBD: Is it pertinent to our discussion?
Me: I think so.
Therapist TBD: Is it long because we’re almost out of time?
Me: It’s not that long.
Therapist TBD: Go ahead then, tell me about your dream.
Therapist TBD: Keep it brief. I hate hearing about dreams.
Me: I’m going to start now. Is that okay?
Therapist TBD: Please.
Me: I am in New York City. I am driving a really sweet, new car and as the dream begins, I am parking in this desolate lot on the west side of midtown, only it doesn’t look like midtown; it looks more like the south Bronx circa 1978. Understandably, I am a little concerned about leaving it there, but my friends tell me not to worry. Several friends have come to meet me and walk me to my new job. I am starting a bartending job at a restaurant where I used to work for this asshole boss, but the place is under new management now, and I am excited about going back there to work. Well, that’s not exactly true. The place is like a combination of two different restaurants I had worked at before.
Therapist TBD: How so?
Me: I know in the dream that I have to go to West 55th Street, but the restaurant should be in the Village.
Therapist TBD: Got it. Continue.
Me: On our way, we come to a long, narrow pedestrian bridge that will take us into midtown. There is a long line of people waiting to get across. So, we are standing in the line when I hear a woman’s voice say, “We’re not going to win the best couple contest.” I look down to see a beautiful woman in my arms who I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before in my life.
Therapist TBD: How old is she?
Me: What kind of question is that?
Therapist TBD: I’m curious that’s all.
Me: She’s in her mid to late twenties, I think?
Therapist TBD: What did you do when she said this?
Me: I asked her, “Why not?” And she said, “Because I’m too short.”
Therapist TBD: Did you win?
Me: No, but all her friends said that we looked great together.
Therapist TBD: How did you feel about this woman?
Me: Like I had known her and loved her all my life, so much so that I missed her terribly when I woke up.
Therapist TBD: Were your friends there, the ones that were walking you to your new job?
Me: No. I don't know what happened to them. Is that important?
Therapist TBD: No. Continue.
Me: The next thing I know I am with a group of people that know that I am supposed to know, but I don’t recognize. We are running towards another narrow, pedestrian bridge, but this one is not much wider than a balance beam and no guard rails. I look down to see that the bridge is very high above the street below and I start to panic.
Therapist TBD: Why?
Me: I am a little afraid of heights. As my therapist, you should know this stuff.
Therapist TBD: Sorry, go ahead.
Me: I decide that I am going to cross the bridge anyway. When I reach the other side, there is a man hole.
Therapist TBD: Where does it lead?
Me: It’s a ladder that goes down about a thousand feet to the street. It’s not really a ladder. It’s like those steps that go into a manhole. You know, metal rods bent and imbedded into concrete to create steps?
Therapist TBD: I think I know what you mean.
Me: Well, these steps have teeth like a ten-speed-bike pedal, and I am not wearing shoes. I am already freaking out about the height and the steps are sure to dig into my feet and hands.
Therapist TBD: What did you do?
Me: I decided to go down anyway. I was running late for my first day at work, and as far as I knew, this was the only way. Plus, I didn’t want the guys I was with to know how scared I was.
Therapist TBD: So, what happened next?
Me: I slowly made my way down the ladder, my feet writhing in pain, all the time choking down a panic attack, but I noticed that on the wall by every step there was a bumper sticker with one of my favorite sports teams printed on it.
Therapist TBD: Your favorite sports teams?
Me: Yes, you know, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Therapist TBD: And what did these bumper stickers mean to you?
Me: I don’t know what they meant, but they made me feel a lot better. The stickers gave me something to concentrate on and I eventually made it to the bottom.
Therapist TBD: How did that make you feel?
Me: I didn’t have time to feel anything, doc; I was running really late, so I sprinted home to my apartment to get changed.
Therapist TBD: Then what?
Me: I couldn’t keep my shirt on.
Therapist TBD: I’m sorry. Did you say you couldn’t keep your shirt on?
Me: Yes. Every time I thought that I was dressed, I would look in the mirror and see that I was shirtless. So, I would put my shirt on only to unplug my iPod headphones in the process. Then I would plug in the headphones, turn around, look in the mirror, and the shirt would be gone.
Therapist TBD: Why not leave the iPod, so that your shirt would stay put.
Me: I’m not leaving the house without my iPod.
Therapist TBD: I see. So, how did you resolve this?
Me: I didn’t. My cell phone rang, and I answered it. It was work calling to find out why I was so late. I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear me. I kept screaming into the phone that I was on my way, but the person kept saying, “is anyone there, can you hear me?”
Therapist TBD: And?
Me: I woke up to find that I had slept through my alarm.
(Therapist TBD scribbles for several seconds in his/ her notepad.)
Me: So, what does that mean?
Therapist TBD: I think it’s obvious.
Therapist TBD: You are experiencing a classic case of mid-life crisis.
Me: That’s it?
Therapist TBD: I believe so.
Me: You’re not going to interpret my dream.
Therapist TBD: No.
Me: Why not?
Therapist TBD: I told you that I hate dreams.
Me: Any suggestions?
Therapist TBD: No.
Me: You expect me to call you tomorrow and make this appointment when your big diagnosis is going to be “mid-life crisis?”
Therapist TBD: Truthfully, I never expected that you would call.