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Reader Jim Lemire comments:
All this talk of death, these midlife blog changes. what’s next? A Ferrari and a bikini-clad coed?

Reader A.C. emails:
You mention other books in waiting. All parenting? All secularist? Out with it!

In the face of those two perfect setups, I am unable to muster the simple self-control to not share an excerpt from one of my unpublished books, Northing at Midlife — my death-obsessed philosophical secular travel narrative. I know I know, the Sombrero Galaxy doesn’t care that I had my midlife crisis while hiking the long-distance trails of Britain. Shut up.

Excerpt from NORTHING AT MIDLIFE ©2005 by Dale McGowan

At midlife, in the absence of much else to strive toward, Death snaps back into focus as – let’s face it – the actual, ultimate goal.

That’s when you begin to notice your heartbeat as you lie in bed and wonder how it just keeps, you know, doing that, and how long it will keep doing that, and whether thinking about it for hours at a time could make it stop doing that. It is gently suggested that you increase your visits to the doctor from – well, never, to pretty much always, and to start inviting gloved fingers to go adventuring through some of your least-often-fingered regions – in search, of course, of Death.

When you hit that barrier to your timeline’s eastward progress, that increasingly three-dimensional awareness of your own impermanence, you have two choices: carom wildly to the south, or veer purposefully northward. It all depends on whether your reaction to that glimpse of the Reaper is screaming denial or a sort of terrible fascination. The forty-five-year old in a convertible with the Texas A&M Pep Squad and Drill Team in the back seat is Southbound. He is busily denying Death by embracing youth – quite literally, in this guy’s case. He has a lot more alcohol, sex and speeding tickets than I, but he will still Die. There’s just a greater chance in his case that when it finally gets him, it will come as a genuine surprise.

Something to be said for that, I suppose.

No I don’t suppose. Not really. I’m Northing, myself. While Southbound Guy is trying to think himself younger, I’m actually thinking myself older, squinting into the distance with ever-less-capable eyes. It’s meditative, Northing is, and introspective, and quiet, and mature – and, I’m fiercely proud to say, humble. Southing happens in public while dressed in a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned to the crotch. Northing is solitary. Southing crushes a beer can on its forehead while shouting “Woooo.” Northing drinks alone.

During my first career, teaching at a small midwestern liberal arts college (the name of which escapes me at the moment), I had the golden opportunity of a semester’s leave, during which I took my family to live in England. Being forty-two, I thought it an ideal time to schedule my midlife crisis. I’d long since decided that my crisis, when it occurred, would be of the Northerly ilk, if for no other reason than fourteen years ago I made the tactical error of marrying happily and well, which leaves all the really fun bits of Southing off-limits. So I knew it was to be then, at age forty-two, and there, in England. Still didn’t know just exactly how.

Northing is my authorial heartbreak, the work of mine for which I have the greatest affection but cannot seem to get published after two years trying.

Okay, enough self-indulgence! Back to, uh…blogging!

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.