(A joyous introspection on the wonders of midlife)
In and around my mid-thirties, I had started to feel a little pull towards understanding the meaning and purpose of my life.
This was my intuition trying to warn me.
‘Wait…stop…you’re headed for trouble!!!’
Noone warns you about what actually happens in midlife. We talk about a ‘crisis’ which is a bit of a joke. A crisis would suggest that there is an acute, definitive period in which there is an issue. There is an understanding of the issue and a plan to deal with the issue. Then there is an end.
This is not the case.
Amidst the ‘busy’ and the kids and everything that keeps us running forward, what I experienced was a little voice saying ‘it’s not enough’. It’s kind of like my intuition was trying to tell me something that I’m not sure I was ready or willing to hear. I think it might have been saying ‘there’s so much more’.
But I was busy. I had no time or inclination to rock the boat or dig where I had no business digging. It’s kind of like a battle between heart and head…my heart was saying that there’s something more but my brain was saying, ‘ain’t got no time for that’.
As time progresses and we silence the voice, we suppress what’s going on. Or at least we think we do. Eventually, it starts to get a little louder until finally…WHAM… and there it is…’What are you doing that really matters?’.
It’s a full-blown choir calling you out on every single part of you that is not aligned with who you are truly supposed to be.
- All of the beliefs you hold about yourself
- All of the walls you’ve constructed to prevent getting hurt
- All of the coping mechanisms you’ve been using to protect yourself
- All of the ways you perform and pretend to distract from your authenticity
It’s kind of like taking everything that has defined you so far and just trashing it. Right. Great. Back to square one.
Who am I really?
We live through experiences that create trauma in our lives. And I talk about trauma because its’ effects are much more profound than any of our positive experiences. Trauma appeals to a very basic function of the fight or flight response: Under the threat of injury, we react in a manner that is consistent to protecting ourselves (whether physically or psychologically). This trauma creates a response…typically our brain fosters a belief about ourselves or assumptions about the world, and this response sits in our subconscious just waiting for reinforcement. As life progresses, we have subsequent similar experiences that build on that belief or assumption, serving to reinforce that thought. As we develop more of these beliefs, we also create coping mechanisms, armor for protection, and distractions from our authentic selves.
Midlife is about unearthing all of the pain, beliefs and judgment and getting super clear on what that has created…or rather WHO that has created.
It’s about understanding ourselves.
Understanding and coming to terms with all of the good and the bad within ourselves…and changing what we chose to change.
Maybe, like me, you’ve learned that you need to give to others in order to earn love. Maybe you’ve learned that you have to be something you’re not in order to be accepted. Maybe you don’t believe in showing your true self because that makes you vulnerable, and vulnerability leads to being hurt.
Which all can feel like a weeee bit of a breakdown.
It can all feel a little overwhelming and like we’re starting at the beginning again, having spent our entire lives protecting ourselves from being hurt…and now we need to tear down the walls to see our real selves.
We can no longer hide.
I don’t know if there’s a specific age…I don’t think so. I think it can happen at any age from 35 to 55…but you’ll know what it is by the feeling of discontent. That feeling that can’t be bought or traveled away. There’s no escaping the feeling of something not being quite right…especially when that thing is you.
And I think that there are some people who chose to ignore this little voice…and I think that comes with a cost. The denial of your inner dialogue is never going to yield a great result and possibly will take you even deeper into the depths of judgment, control and unhappiness.
I have not been able to embrace this process.
While I believe that this is an opportunity to grow and I am learning and unearthing an amazing understanding of myself, this is not easy.
This is uncomfortable.
My armor has been protecting me for a long time…that’s what is comfortable. My beliefs hold my actions consistent and my mask hides me from being vulnerable.
…but then I ask myself, “is that enough?”.
Maybe the real question is, “is that what you want?“.
I am learning. Learning to embrace the imperfect, scared, awkward, brave, compassionate and creative person that I am. …And there’s probably more.
I can honestly say that the last 10 years have been a process of personal understandings, meltdowns, anger, frustration and re-evaluations. I have…or am in the process of reinventing myself.
What does this reinvention look like?
Understanding. Compassion. Courage.