Cummings: Avoiding Grown-Up Doldrums a Constant Challenge

Doesn’t it make sense that we should all feel pretty good about ourselves? After all, we’ve acquired so much of what we’ve always desired:  spouses, kids, careers, friends, homes, cars, education, electronics, shoes galore, and microwave ovens with innards that twirl around and around.     

It’s scary almost, how well we’re doing, even when you factor in economic frazzles and the volatility in so many sectors of our lives. So of course, things aren’t exactly perfect, but we never counted on perfect. We did somehow expect, though, that we’d feel a little better about things. Instead, around midlife (your mileage may vary), almost without fail, burnout sets in. Maybe severely, maybe mildly. The blahs. Stagnation. Just at the point in life when we should feel proud and accomplished and something approaching happy, we begin to feel … flat.

There’s no mystery why the haunting song “Is That All There Is?” was a hit. It oozed ennui, that corrosive disillusionment so many adults experience. We feel it, most of us, but we try to deny it. And our culture offers up lots of ways to tamp it down, things that are quite contrary to Julia Child’s proper binge noted above.  “Improper binges” could include drink, drug, demon chocolate, antidepressants, shopping for more shoes, or buying microwaves that are even fancier in their ability to spin the food around yet still leave cold spots in it.

No, the problem isn’t that things aren’t perfect.The problem is that we’ve lost our ability to be seduced by the world. Children are enthralled by everything, because it’s all new. As adults, though, we believe we’ve been there, been everywhere; done that, done everything; bought the T-shirt, bought the iPod. We’ve become blasé. We’ve started to flatline. And we don’t know how to fix it.


Ingrid Cummings, founder of Rubicon Communications LLC in Zionsville and author of The Vigorous Mind, is the keynote speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s 46th Annual HR Conference & Expo, May 5-6, 2010. Click here to register or for more info.