Middle-age is disorienting. You arrive at this place where you shift from mostly asking questions to mostly answering questions. This is not to say that you’ve stopped asking questions–for to do so would be a tragedy of stagnation. Rather, on a given day, you find yourself answering more questions than you ever have in your life.
One of the stranger aspects of The Middle is what to do when the questions you’re being asked are poorly formed. Or worse, are not being asked at all, but seem rather urgent. I have long struggled with a general distaste for unsolicited advice, will I become distasteful to myself and begin dispensing it? Sure can feel like a catch 22. Perhaps this is one of the greater lessons for me to learn during this phase. (Along with a more compassionate understanding of the awkwardness I’m sure I’ve put my parents through as they’ve carefully weighed whether or not “they ought to say something.”)
Perhaps C.S. Lewis will help me.
When you invite a middle-aged moralist to address you, I suppose I must conclude, however unlikely the conclusion seems, that you have a taste for middle-aged moralising. I shall do my best to gratify it. I shall in fact give you advice about the world in which you are going to live. I do not mean by this that I am going to attempt a talk on what are called current affairs. You probably know quite as much about them as I do….I am going to do something more old-fashioned than you perhaps expected. I am going to give advice. I am going to issue warnings. Advice and warnings about things which are so perennial that no one calls them “current affairs.”C.S. Lewis, “The Inner Ring” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 142-143.