The conundrum of Midlife requires it’s own chapter the size of an encyclopedia (remember those?).
This stage finds us sandwiched between elderly parents and university age children on the cusp of leaving home.
We enter this slippery slope with a very different energy to the one we had when naively stepping out of the care-free adolescence years and into our twenties.
The excitement we had then was uncontainable, as we looked forward to the new chapter ahead; which would include welcoming an adoring partner, childbirth, carpools and family lunches. Except without even noticing, extra responsibilities crept through the back door.
As the transition into adulthood sneakily introduced the concept of looking after partners, children, and often elderly parents.
Tending to everyones needs by being a nurse, cook extraordinaire, a permanently available Uber service and having the ability of diving into our childrens homework assignments like a pro.
After decades of performing these routines, our job as carer then becomes redundant when children gingerly give us their final wave as we drive out of their university campus.
We stare into the emptiness that awaits, which in the midst of raging hormones (us not the children) and the dreaded menopause menacingly looming over, can make this stage even harder.
We look around at the life we created and realise with irritation that we are out of practice with asking one pretty basic question;
‘What do I want?’
For the number of men and women I coach through this stage; they find it almost impossible to ask or answer this question.
They have blurred and diluted who they were for the sake of others and although often they have healthy children, wealth, possessions and professional achievement; they feel increasingly empty and crave for a feeling of aliveness, vibrancy and fun at this stage of life.
This is when the prospect of reinventing begins to prod away mercilessly.
Reinventing in your forties and beyond is a way of peeling off who you were, so that you can begin to expose who you are.
It’s frequently called a midlife crisis; but I call it a midlife awakening.
UCLA psychologist Alan D. Castel, in his new book ‘Better with Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging’ states:
At midlife, you have enough life experience to take stock of what is important, dismiss what isn’t, and become what you want to be.
I can totally relate to this; I left my husband 6 years ago. I was forty-five years old at the time and with two daughters in tow, I automatically knew that the men would not be queuing to wine and dine me on the other side of the divorce. Nevertheless, I proceeded forward.
This being my second divorce, would possibly place me as the pariah of my community, but I actually stopped caring. It no longer mattered.
For the first time in my life, I chose self-respect above caring what others thought. This was life-changing and it was possibly the worst and best thing I did simultaneously.
As a middle aged woman, I had no desire to waste any more time.
Letting go of all the beliefs I had accumulated, that had never been mine in the first place was incredibly freeing. Instead, I started from ground zero, and began to build myself up; not a skyscraper or the size of the Dubai Burj Khalifa, but a beautiful being has sprung forth.
Unencumbered by others expectations or demands is incredibly uplifting.
Discovering a wealth of strengths, talents that have become reawakened. These must have been waiting patiently by the sidelines whilst I was too busy hiding behind a marriage, children, religion, culture, community and family expectations.
There are often too many layers hiding our true self.
We might be under the illusion that the point of life is to become something or someone. So we spend years fighting desperately to be acknowledged, validated and seeking a sense of belonging. We will compromise who we are unreservedly for this.
Perhaps the point of life is to un-become everything we aren’t so that we can step into who we were meant to be in the first place.
I remember in the midst of my second marriage, what shook me most was the moment my mother looked into my eyes and uttered a question I had been avoiding for years.
‘Where has Michele gone? I want her back.’
I don’t think any statement had impacted me more, and it gave me the courage to step out of the road I had taken, and start navigating through the road less travelled. An incredibly rocky, uneven terrain that has led to the most exquisite path.
I learnt a huge lesson;
It’s okay to change your mind in your midlife years; it’s perfectly okay to backtrack, undo all that isn’t you and start anew.
Isn’t it about time we uncovered what is behind the shutters?
The child self we left behind. That cheeky, spontaneous, carefree fun self, and pursue our hopes and dreams with the same curiosity passion and excitement we did when we were children. Fearlessly and unashamedly.
Ask yourself; would the carefree, spontaneous, curious and excitable child you were, make the choices you’ve made since covering up that part of you?
During my turbulent times, I connected to this child inside me, I began to go through old photos of myself as a child and teenager.
I giggled to myself as I went through a selection of black and white photos of me, as an 18-year-old, dressed in 80’s outfits and draped around American teenagers I had met in the middle east. Travelling, exploring, taking risks and having the time of my life.
Connecting to this curious, tenacious, fun and interactive person, who had never left me, but had been covered up through a mountain of responsibilities, was a revelation. It was high time I invited this part of me to come out to play.
And we have not stopped playing since.
One of the most powerful elements of entering middle age is knowing that there is no time to waste. That every moment is precious and a gift we cannot take for granted.
Faced with this, we no longer want to tolerate dysfunctional relationships, false friendships, work that is undermining or a situation that doesn’t make us feel nourished. As we awaken to this, we realise that we no longer yearn to be physically alive, but spiritually and emotionally alive too.
It’s never too late to reinvent, re-create and rebuild from the remnants of your life and create a brighter more beautiful future.
If you liked this article, you can read more chapters like these in my latest book ‘Look Inside: Stop Seeking Start Living’ available now on Amazon.
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