Self-Medicating Midlife


“Art is the act of navigating without a map.” ~ Seth Godin

Back in January I shared Seth Godin’s ArtNav wisdom. No editorial comments. Not even a doodle. (Though I’ve been known to update posts when inspiration strikes, so don’t hold me to the spartan quote-only simplicity!)

Seth Godin is ever gifted with a full quiver of sage zingers. Short, insightful quips that stick. This is one.

Medical Marijuana

The United States is mid-plot in a state-by-state revision of marijuana benefits, risks, social norms, and laws. It’s an interesting process to observe, and I suspect that we’re nearing a national tipping point. I’m no political pundit, but it seems increasingly likely that we will witness a federal shift toward broader acceptance if not full scale legalization of marijuana. At the very least medical marijuana legalization feels inevitable.

As I’ve been sucked deeper and deeper into the midlife transition “rabbit hole” I’ve become increasingly attuned to the often intriguing, sometimes horrifying, and occasionally inspiring ways that people navigate midlife. Whether reinventing oneself or simply self-medicating, a large portion of the population finds themselves semi-rudderless at midlife, mapless, maybe even slightly lost. I suspect that midlife medical marijuana is not an uncommon prescription during these years. It’s probably diagnosed as something else. Anxiety, maybe?

Rein in your judgment, reader, I’m not pushing dope. Nor warning my midlife away from the wacky weed. In fact, I didn’t really mean to wander so far asunder with this medical marijuana tangent at the outset of this post. I was more interested in mapless navigation and art. But the media’s marijuana hyper saturation kidnapped my whimsy for a moment. Sorry. I’ll collect myself and try to articulate a little better…

Self-Medicating Midlife

What if the current fascination with liberalizing marijuana use were paralleled with a similar acceptance of art for self-medication? I mean, sure, art is legal. Mostly. But social norms and habits can become so confining that many (most?) adults abandon artistic creativity looong before midlife. In fact, often adolescence brings an end to unbridled art creation for lots of people, banishing art to youth and a few lucky souls who manage to forge their creative bent into careers (or occasionally enduring hobbies).

But what if art turns out to be the perfect midlife self-medication? Creativity is joy-making, humbling, calming, empowering, mind expanding, and in so many ways just incredibly healthful. And it’s free, legal and poses relatively few (mostly innocuous) side effects.

The Art of Navigating Midlife

Though I’m by no means the first, I am designating myself guinea pig – no, maybe lab rat – in an ongoing study of whether or not art is an effective midlife medicator. Medical art. I say ongoing for two reasons. The first is to improve the data. Too short a study might skew the data! And the real reason? This project has sprawled since I started. Swelled. Metastasized?

It started as a 1+ year introspection as I weathered the four-oh (second syllable pronounced as if sucker punched mid utterance) transition. But the original 40×41 concept is already halfway into a 42×43 iteration, and I’m lately thinking that a full decade, wrapping up at fifty, would offer an interesting documentary snapshot into the midlife transition. And by then I damn well better have hacked this life reboot!

So stay tuned. I’ll be self-medicating with art, and so far I can honestly report that creativity (especially writing, photography and analog/digital doodling) are serving me well. I’m not sure I’ve found a midlife crisis panacea (and some credit is definitely due the nutrition gods), but I am confident and committed going forward. Which feels a fair share better than balding, horsepowered-up and chasing skirts! ;-)

Long story short: If you are marooned at midlife, swap medical marijuana for creativity!

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