I was speaking today with a wonderful client of mine – let’s call her “Carol,” who shared a story about her views of midlife BEFORE she had arrived in midlife, and then what happened when her 40’s came.
It’s funny – when I was my early 30’s, and I’d hear about someone having a ‘midlife crisis,’ I’d think to myself, “Wow, I don’t really get that. I’m focused, doing what I need to, experiencing success, the kids are good, things are moving along well. I can’t imagine waking up to wanting a whole new life or finding out that what I have I don’t want.”
But when I turned 43, something happened. I awakened somehow – after a series of tough events and challenges -- to wanting more, wanting different. It’s like I suddenly saw my whole life differently through the eyes of a middle-ager. The career I spent years rising to the top of, somehow lost its hold on me – it felt empty and unimportant, silly almost. My relationship with my husband had some serious problems too over the years that took a terrible toll on me, but I never allowed myself to stop and look at that – I just powered through it all.
Now that my kids are older and I’m not needed in the same, day-to-day way, I find that I truly want a different life – a life that’s mine – based on what I value and what I love. I don’t want to just push down what isn’t working. I want to bring it out and resolve it, or let it go.
I get it now – a “midlife crisis” isn’t a cliché. It’s real and it’s powerful.
Carol speaks for thousands of folks who’ve awakened in midlife to realizing that what they’ve created in their 20s and 30s just doesn’t fit who they’ve become. (If you’d like to read about my midlife breakthrough, check out my book Breakdown Breakthrough).
Why is midlife a time of major transition?
I’ve observed that the following contribute to our re-awakening in midlife and wanting change:
1) A time of reckoning and re-evaluation. Realizing that your life is potentially more than half over is a jarring experience, and brings with it a sense of urgency to live more authentically, more joyfully. At 50, we just want different things than we did at 30.
2) Kids are out of the house – without the pressing parenting responsibilities that can be all-consuming, there’s room to think, room to breathe, and quiet space to hear yourself dream.
3) Friends start to die – My husband and I discussed this just yesterday, that a number of our 50+-year-old friends have died – from sudden illness, cancer, heart attack, etc. When your friends die, you think hard.
4) Longings won’t be suppressed – After working so hard crafting a “successful” life, we get tired of it. Instead of some outward version of “success,” we long for joy, excitement, passion, peace -- we want to live life more fully, on our terms.
5) We know how to speak up - We won't be talked down to anymore. We've lived through that, and we've learned how to stand up, speak up and power up. We won't tolerate put downs, manipulation or pressure like we used to.
6) We’ve finally earned it – Finally, after all you’ve strived for, accomplished, created, and achieved, you know what you’re capable of. You won’t stand for less. You have the confidence and the courage to embrace the idea that’s been skulking around in your mind for years. You’re ready to admit, “This can’t be all there is. I know there’s more for me.”
So, my friends, if you’re in midlife and wondering why everything looks and feels different, don’t be alarmed. It’s a natural, normal life progression – a stage that doesn’t have to represent hell.
But don’t resist it and break yourself against it like a rock – embrace it. Let yourself look into the deep recesses of your heart, mind, and soul, to find clues of who you want to become now, and what you want to create in this next thrilling chapter. It’s a new time, waiting for a fuller, more expansive you.
Midlife can pave the way to a glorious reclamation of your passion, power and purpose – go for it!
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