spritual awakening turns to self-indulgence? or just "normal"
August 18, 2009 7:17 AM   Subscribe

I turn 40 soon, married. A few years ago I had what I believe to be a major spiritual awakening, but it really hasn't "stuck", to the core anyway. I have since found the pendulum swing far the other way to where I'm a surprised to find i'm now inclined to: drink to excess, flirt with women (some pretty young), smoke marijuana/ tobacco, listen to stuff like Kid Rock and relishing the vulgarity/attitude, watch porn - (this is mostly all "private" behavior) is this all indicative a midlife crisis situation? or "spiritual backlash"? or do i need to come to terms that i've taken a road down towards creepville?
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Seems like both. Should be pretty easy to find some self-understanding with therapy, although when I found myself flirting with typical mid-life crisis symptoms I just got inside my own head and found some self-understanding on my own.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 7:21 AM on August 18, 2009

It's hard to tell what your question is. Are you unhappy with these new behaviors? Are they causing trouble in your life, or do you just enjoy the thrill of being a little "naughty" once and again?

The spiritual awakening you describe...was it embracing Christianity? Becoming a Buddhist and eschewing worldly things? Following the teachings of Mohammad?

Do you consider the behaviors you're currently engaging in sinful? Does your spouse disapprove, or are you hiding these things from your spouse?

The list of things you mention don't sound like a checklist for someone who's become a "creep," but everyone's boundaries are different. The way your question is phrased makes it seem as if you're on the fence about whether you want to move back to your chosen path of spirituality or to indulge in the excesses you've listed. If it's the former, I'd say see someone you trust who is a spiritual or mental health advisor (your pastor, therapist, trusted friend) and work out how you can adjust your behaviors and/or attitudes.

If it's the latter, figure out where your limits are and work within them, as long as you're not hurting yourself or someone else.
posted by xingcat at 7:25 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

You are describing your behaviors as if you're an outsider who can only observe. Why?
posted by fritley at 7:25 AM on August 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

If occasionally drinking to excess, smoking, listening to Kid Rock and watching porn is the road to creepville, then that highway is jammed. I think it is a phase. Fight it off one day at a time.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:26 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Is it becoming a problem? Are you losing friends? Pissing off (or hiding this from) your wife? Screwing up at work? Making these women you're flirting with uncomfortable? Significantly affecting your health?

Or are you just skeeving yourself out because you think you're better than the vulgar masses?

Everyone is entitled to occasionally behave badly. It's only a problem if it's a problem. It's a cliche, but people in middle class America _DO_ have that protestant all-work-no-fun thing going on. If your spiritual awakening was the sort that didn't involve any of the more earthly delights, maybe THAT was the bullshit midlife crisis.

I question your taste in music, though.
posted by paanta at 7:28 AM on August 18, 2009 [8 favorites]

Totally a mid-life crisis; I think the spiritual awakening is probably just a part of it. And if this is Christianity you're embracing, please understand that there are many kinds of Christianity, and not all are the don't-drink-don't-dance-don't-"backslide" variety. You might need to find another denomination or a different religion altogether.

or do i need to come to terms that i've taken a road down towards creepville?

Or you could start thinking that you have some autonomy in your life and start taking initiative and responsibility for your actions. It's actually pretty refreshing to do so.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:32 AM on August 18, 2009

Mid-life crisis. Also, I think this part is key:

this is mostly all "private" behavior

So, which of these behaviors could you move away from private and into the public, and you're not ashamed of? Those are keepers, IMO - you shouldn't be hiding any true aspects of yourself from the world, so anything that you must keep hidden isn't really you, it's the phase you're going through.
posted by jbickers at 7:38 AM on August 18, 2009

flirt with women (some pretty young)

Unless you are handsome and well-off and charismatic as all get out, I can tell you that this is pretty much not just the "road down towards creepville" but the rocket-powered sled to it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:39 AM on August 18, 2009 [23 favorites]

Everyone is entitled to occasionally behave badly. It's only a problem if it's a problem.

Seconding this. I firmly believe that everyone gets a couple of "lost-weekend" types of phases in their lifetime, particularly if you've been through an ascetic phase prior to this. It's kind of like the pendulum swinging back the other direction for a little bit.

If no one is getting hurt -- and I include you in that "no one", of course -- then what you do is your business, and I wouldn't worry about it. Just make sure you don't get anyone else hurt in the process -- physically or emotionally -- and check in with yourself now and again to see if it's still doing anything for you. And if it just starts...feeling not so fun any more, then just stop. No big.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:43 AM on August 18, 2009

A few years ago I had what I believe to be a major spiritual awakening

Perhaps the answer you seek lies in re-examining this awakening. How can you get back to where you once belonged? & is that where you truly wish to be? As for this listening to Kid Rock thing: my God, man, that is most definitely indicative of a mid-life crisis. Recommend you keep that very private & seek professional help henceforth.
posted by n o i s e s at 7:52 AM on August 18, 2009

Eh, in my experience this is pretty typical of any spiritual conversion. It's like starting a new relationship - there's a honeymoon period where the convert is totally devoted, spending all their free time hangin' out with the holy texts or with other spiritual people. Then they'll start to backslide into what we called "their old life" (i.e., before being "born anew" or whatever your particular religion believes in) unless they set up permanent and durable support structure to develop "good habits".

I don't know the particulars of your situation beyond what you describe, but if you're concerned with how your behavior is affecting your spirituality or your earthly relationships (something that's unclear to me), then you should talk with a pastor or rabbi or counselor of your particular faith. They've heard it all before and should be pretty compassionate and receptive.
posted by muddgirl at 7:57 AM on August 18, 2009

I'd leave the Kid Rock and tobacco alone, but flirting, pron, weed and getting plastered occasionally? Go nuts.

And really Optimus? Flirting is only non-creepy if you're rich and beautiful? Give us a break.
posted by Scoo at 8:00 AM on August 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

If it's any consolation, I'm almost 40, too, and married. I drink in moderation, I don't smoke or do drugs, I don't meet younger guys much less flirt with them, and I don't watch porn. So if these things = mid-life crisis, then I really don't know what to say.

But. *deep breath* Here goes for all the world to see... Kid Rock is a guilty pleasure of mine. There I said it. I'm not even going to make excuses for myself. Yes, I listen to lots of other music. Yes, I realize he's like the epitome of vulgarity in many ways. But I can't help but like bits and pieces from his albums and I admit I currently have a few songs of his in my iPod nano as I speak. So, uh, Kid Rock's not so bad. Well, maybe he is, but who cares? Listen to what you like; it doesn't automatically make you a creep.

I'm not sure what exactly I'm trying to say here. Chin up, maybe? Hope you find your answer.
posted by misozaki at 8:01 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Could you say more about this awakening and what tradition (be it Christianity or none at all) it fits into? I think you might get more targeted and knowledgeable answers that way.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:24 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

What constitutes "flirting"? There's a world of difference between being attentive to someone in the hopes of eliciting a warm reaction (which should be pleasant and validating to both parties), and hitting on people (in your situation, dodgy with the potential for gross). It has to do with your social awareness - being able to recognize when your attention is unwelcome and being aware of where the boundaries are when it is welcome. If your social awareness isn't good - if you're getting uncomfortable reactions or aren't sure you're able to recognize when you're getting uncomfortable reactions (hint: brief answers, minimal eye contact, "polite" smiles), it would be a good idea to stop. Or, if you're only flirting with women who initiate or are open to conversation, but you're getting numbers or otherwise venturing into suspect territory - a good rule of thumb is "would I want my wife or her best friend to overhear this?" - on a regular basis, that's risky behavior, and potentially hurtful to your wife. If neither of these apply, it's likely only a problem if it's incomprehensible to you why you're doing it. (You do not need to be handsome, wealthy and charismatic to successfully pull off light, appropriate flirting without being a creep, as long as flirting with others isn't entirely inappropriate in your marriage.)

If you don't know what your own motives are for any of this behavior, some work is in order - a counselor, spiritual advisor, or trusted friend might be able to help. Or some deep journaling, maybe, if you're more inclined to want to work on this yourself. Once you figure out why you're doing it, then you should be able to see whether or not it's behavior you need to modify in order to be happy with yourself, or if it's a largely harmless indulgence that you should allow yourself because you're human and imperfect.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:42 AM on August 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

Sorry, I'm going to 2nd Optimus here. I'm in my early/mid-20s, and when dudes in their 40s decide to hit on me or my similarly aged friends, it seems creepy and lame, ESPECIALLY if they have a wedding band on, sorry. My dad is in his 40s, so maybe that's why, but still. The other things, whatever, but they definitely scream midlife crisis.
posted by ishotjr at 8:43 AM on August 18, 2009 [6 favorites]

I had something of a spiritual awakening while stuck firmly in middle of my quarter-life crisis. I think the two go hand in hand. We lose (the illusion of) control, and then we seek it again in myriad ways. Spirituality is one of the primary ways that we seek to regain control of ourselves. Cosmic answers, or even just insight, are deeply comforting.

The benefit is that they are usually more productive than the other (usually self-destructive) ways we seek to control our fate. And yet, it is important to point out that what is self-destructive for one person is not for another person.

I feel like my spiritual experience was the watershed moment in accepting that my life was not going as I wanted it to, and some things needed to change. For me, that meant taking a break from trying to make it in the legal profession. It also meant ending a three year relationship that was not a true partnership, and that had no future. Later, it meant admitting I had a drinking problem and that I needed help getting sober. Most recently, it has meant admitting that I need to take a time-out, get on my feet, get a career together and get out from behind the financial 8 ball.

But that's a quarter-life crisis - the crisis of paralysis and indecision. A mid-life crisis is a crisis of disappointment. I suspect that you will find, upon re-examining your spiritual awakening, the path laid out for you to find appreciation, enjoyment, and contentment with your life. Maybe that means you wont need the Kid Rock, the pot, the booze, the flirting and the porn. Maybe it means you will learn to incorporate those things that you enjoy privately into your life more fully.

The examination of our lives in the wake of a spiritual experience is a deeply personal journey. That said, deeply personal journeys are rarely ones we take alone.
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:47 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is going to sound a little moronic, but the flirting thing is only creepy when it's creepy. I'm 25, and I don't mind if an older guy flirts with me if it's casual, but if there are clear intentions of wanting more than flirting, that's when it gets icky, especially if there's a wedding band. Tone really matters a lot here. Who you're flirting with is also important. I have less of a problem with random strangers dropping a cheeky wink, than someone with whom I have frequent contact. I think EvaDestruction has a great handle on the flirting issue.

Kid Rock isn't my thing, but I don't think there's a problem with liking him, per se, but you haven't given any indication of the kind of music you used to enjoy. If you were a classic rock kinda guy before, I wouldn't think much of it, but if you were the type to, say, frequent the symphony, it might be more of a red flag that you're trying to work through some issues.

As for the drinking to excess and smoking, again, these aren't necessarily problem activities, but they seem to bother you, so that might be something to think about, namely, why it bothers you so much. Same goes for the porn.

Find someone you can trust to talk with about this, and you should probably bring your wife into the conversation at some point, especially if you've been hiding things from her. Remember, the road to creepville isn't a one-way street, but there's no speed limit and a lot of debris on the highway, so be careful out there.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:10 AM on August 18, 2009

(You must fight the urge to have fun now that you're 40. Seek therapy immediately.)

By the fact that you posted this it shows that you are self-aware. So you really have no problem. Also, if you can pull-off flirting with 20 year olds, then you obviously have something going on. No harm no foul. Why worry about being "creepy" if they are digging you? Makes no sense.
posted by Zambrano at 9:26 AM on August 18, 2009

Also, if you can pull-off flirting with 20 year olds, then you obviously have something going on. No harm no foul. Why worry about being "creepy" if they are digging you?

Point of order here -- anon only states that he attempts flirting with them. He does not state whether he is able to pull it off, or how his overtures are being received. So we don't actually know whether people are indeed "digging him".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:39 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is perfectly normal to ask one's self 'who am I and what am I doing here?'

It is also perfectly normal not to be satisfied with the answer. That dissatisfaction is probably the germ of most 'spiritual' awakenings, as well as their eventual downfall.

Do what's right, right being defined as what works for you that doesn't hurt anybody else.

The above, of course, applies whether you're at an introspective phase of your life or not.
posted by Pragmatica at 9:48 AM on August 18, 2009

Just a thought off one of the other commenters. If you really do feel like you're experiencing your own life as an outsider looking in, not having control of the situation, then you might want to check in with a therapist. This is a symptom of several psych issues, which are curable. That said, it's far more likely that you're not having a chemical imbalance, but it certainly doesn't hurt to be on the safe side.

Good luck finding your way.
posted by Citrus at 10:09 AM on August 18, 2009

It is my opinion that any sort of unwelcome personality change is cause for a visit to a psychiatrist.

In this case, the spiritual awakening that didn't stick and your current behavior speak to a possible mood disorder, like Bipolar I or II or Cyclothymia. Have you ever been depressed?

Look up "hypomania" and see if it sounds like what you're experiencing.

Of course, it could be nothing.

I am not a mental health professional of any kind.
posted by kathrineg at 10:46 AM on August 18, 2009

I'd be worried, too, but take heart, others with a spiritual awakening have been able, with diligent effort, to get past it.

Joking aside... what to do between birth and death is a question seldom answered, and you don't sound anywhere near as creepy as folks who have spiritual awakenings and market them extensively (Pat Roberson, Jerry Falwell, Bill O'Reilly, Mark Sanford, Tom Delay, George Bush...)

Don't sweat it, just don't kill anyone or do anything felonious.
posted by FauxScot at 10:56 AM on August 18, 2009

I'm 37 and get hit on/asked out by girls in their early/mid twenties quite a bit.

But I'm a musician and play in a lot of bands and spend a ton of time on stage. I doubt I would get treated the same were I an accountant at my age.

So--yeah--creepy is relative.
posted by sourwookie at 4:42 PM on August 18, 2009

i'm now inclined to: drink to excess, flirt with women (some pretty young), smoke marijuana/ tobacco, listen to stuff like Kid Rock and relishing the vulgarity/attitude, watch porn - (this is mostly all "private" behavior)

Flirting with other people is not "private" behavior, because it involves other people. If by "private" behavior you mean that your wife doesn't know about it, that's still not the same thing.

To be honest, it sounds like bog-standard straight man's midlife crisis, except that you haven't bought a red convertible.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:13 PM on August 18, 2009

Dude no one said you can't ENJOY a mid life crisis. Just listen to Mick sing 19th Nervous Breakdown. Enjoying all that stuff can be so liberating. Realizing you are halfway-to-dead sucks. Self medication is called for. Angry rock is called for. Flirting, catch and release or bedding those few young women who actually dig older men is called for. Seek them out. Your early 40's are your last chance to be genuinely attractive to 20 somethings unless you are exceptional. Just try to avoid the divorce we all ended up having as a result. Be smarter than the average bear. FWIW my crisis lasted about 8 years in fact I may still be having it. Did the red car. Did the black car. Did the Jaguar. Went to Taos with a 23 year old at 42 and fell hard in love and made the most unbelievable love. Such an insanely horny chick and she was so TOTALLY into me. Don't miss that shit. Telling guys in a bar she was 18 and throwing huge PDA's for me. (and yes she left me for a younger man and made me suicidal...) loooking back IM SO GLAD I DID ALL OF IT. It usually hits at 42. Candidate for judgemental thread of the month btw ladies.. Rock dude. Rock.
posted by Muirwylde at 1:24 AM on August 19, 2009 [9 favorites]

Candidate for judgemental thread of the month btw ladies..

You're right, we should have told him to go cheat on his loving wife and hopefully end up suicidal. That is great advice.
posted by kathrineg at 10:19 AM on August 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

I haven't heard the phrase "horny chick" in years. Thanks for the flashback. I think.

Though I would consider Muirwylde's advice to be taken with a bucket of salt (ask yourself, anonymous, how you would feel if your wife was having wild sex with a 23 year old boy and expecting that she could do this without you filing for divorce), he does have a point. These things you describe-- music, pot, porn-- are those which could be pleasurable if shared with your wife. Sharing them might also relieve them of the charge or excitement that you find in keeping them private. If the private thrill is what you find the best part of it all, and private means keeping them from your wife, then that's something to think about, seriously. Otherwise, perhaps you can embrace these pleasures and use them to enhance your relationship and your life overall. Just a thought. (My mid-life crisis, if you can call it that, led me to a smoky, steamy, overfilled bar in Amsterdam watching Architecture in Helsinki tear the place up at 2:00 a.m. Mid-life crises can be exciting times and productive ones, too.)
posted by jokeefe at 8:33 PM on August 19, 2009

I'm not in my 40's yet, but I do get hit on by "creepily" young women sometimes, including teenagers, especially in LA and Europe where it seems younger-woman-older-man is a common thing. Maybe it's all that boyish moxie I have in reserve. (Do you crazy kids still say that? Moxie?)

Now, I've no use for the average teenaged girl, really (so shallow, so boring, sigh), but I do find the whole thing entertaining. So I hope that the consensus in this thread is incorrect, and all that won't come screeching to a halt after 40.

OP, enjoy yourself. If you're not harming anyone else -- and there's no indication from your question that you are, unless "flirting" is now considered damaging -- then don't let a bunch of assholes on the internet* tell you that whatever makes you happy is somehow "wrong."

* Including this one, of course. Follow your heart.
posted by rokusan at 9:59 PM on August 19, 2009

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