A Recipe for Radically Reinventing Yourself in Midlife
Are you in the market for a seismic shake-up that re-calibrates you from the inside out? Something more lasting than a new purse, a different hair color, the latest raw food or green juice diet?
About the time we reach our fifties, awareness shifts from the immortality of youth to the reality of the fact that our time here is limited. It’s a critical juncture. It can prompt strange behavior, depression, and fear.
Looking back – and I say that with immense relief that the crisis is now behind me – I see the logical progression that took me through the utter chaos of that time. But I didn’t have the recipe, and that’s my gift to you.
Wanting Something More, Something Different
It may start as early as your 40s when you think, if that’s all there is it isn’t enough. And let me stop right there. Some people never experience it. They’re the lucky ones who find their path early and follow their truth. But these folks are rare.
Most of us have a melt-down at some point and muck around in the dark for a while. Or we shop. Or we self-medicate to dull the uncomfortable feelings that won’t go away. Unnamed desire for something more can be the best thing that ever happened to us if it spurs us on to a quest for answers.
Making a Change and Reinventing Yourself
To change our life we cannot continue doing the same things, thinking the same, feeling the same, or believing the same. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things but expecting different results. I knew that, but I didn’t understand it then the way I do now.
We have a body, and within that body are emotions, thoughts, and the mystical realm of soul. To reroute life’s course, none of these aspects of our “self’ can be allowed to remain in the old stuck places. Since our mind is the machine that drives everything, changing the way we think comes first.
How to Change Your Thoughts
The single most effective tool to begin the re-invention process is to question everything: Why do I think this? Why do I believe that about myself, my abilities, other people, money, the future? One “why” question can lead to another, and another.
As you follow the trails of why back to their origins you’ll discover entrenched patterns of thought often stemming from childhood. I’m only good if I do what I’m told. There isn’t enough money for that. Stop daydreaming and get to work. The discovery and clearing out of misinformation makes space for new ideas, creativity, and possibility. A picture of what you want for yourself begins to appear.
How to Change Your Body
As the mind uproots worn-out beliefs, the body gets restless. Your emerging identity wants physical expression. At this point in my development, I was invited to an evening of ecstatic dance called Sweat Your Prayers. Now if that didn’t scare the stuffing out of me nothing could! I hate looking foolish and vastly prefer a controlled, predictable environment. Just the name, ecstatic dance, propelled my anxiety level off the charts. But I accepted the challenge and let go of ego.
When I allowed my body the freedom to move with the music, it was both physical release and spiritual awakening. I found if I just said Yes to opportunities that came along, my unwilling body would not overrule my accepting mind. Bit by bit, if you give it a chance, your body will learn what it loves and how it feels most alive.
How to Change Your Emotions
As you might imagine, this upheaval can produce a heightened emotional state. It may be a radical departure from a previous flat-line existence and make you feel exhausted and unsettled. Take a step back. Become an observer of your emotions. You’ll find that they respond to stimuli, your thoughts, the environment, a situation.
Back to Einstein’s wisdom: To change an emotional response you can’t keep doing or thinking the same things. When caught in a barrage of feelings, take a walk, a shower, call a friend, read a book, or play upbeat music.
Shift what you’re doing to a different activity and that will often dissipate the emotional cloud. When the funk was so entrenched that nothing else seemed to work for me, my last resort was poetry. If I could use words to describe the blackness, rage, hopelessness, or helplessness of the way I felt, spewing it onto the page and out of my psyche brought relief. Most of us can exercise more control over our emotional well-being than we realize.
How to Change Your Soul
Spirituality is personal and one size does not fit all. But if beliefs are fear-based, or if they’re founded on a system that does not honor the feminine, it leaves a void that sucks the color out of everything. The spiritual journey can be a transforming adventure. But it means kicking dogmas out of the box and allowing fresh energy in.
It means poking around outside the comfort zone. Yoga, qigong, and meditation help clear the mind and open the heart to mysteries. The Universe holds vastly more than can be contained within the pages of any book.
And then, if you really want to be catapulted into a different reality, immerse yourself in another culture. If I thought I had changed before, the move to Bali was like comparing a match to a blow-torch. My perspectives on just about everything were held up to a different standard.
In March, Jessa Walters, my daughter, is offering a Women’s Retreat in Bali that promises unique opportunities to open and expand the self while immersing participants in a radically different culture. It’s a jump-start to change, and perhaps you’ll discover that it isn’t so much re-inventing as it is remembering who you already are. If you come, you’ll join the group for an evening in my home. I’d love to meet you.
Have you navigated the choppy waves of midlife change and landed joyfully on the other side? Are you in the process of reinventing yourself? Where are you in the process, moving forward or stuck in old patterns? What do you perceive is your biggest hurdle to living a fulfilling life? Please add to the conversation in the comments.