As life goes on over time, we change; everyone does. Sometimes we drift off course, caught up in a tide of circumstances that turn our world into something different than we anticipated. It happens, often, and the women I know are experiencing it with greater frequency in their 60s and 70s.
The effects of aging, career change, retirement, financial insecurity, empty nesting, illness, and a shift in attitude and expectations can alter one’s perspective, leaving us off kilter, until one morning, we wake up to a world that looks unfamiliar, surrounded by those who don’t seem to be who they were, and neither are we.
We realize we’ve been going along unaware of how our life was shifting while we were busy serving and supporting all those around us. There just wasn’t enough time or energy to focus on our own needs and fulfillment.
As external conditions change – and we become free from working full time, caring for a family, or playing whatever role we were cast – we find ourselves rather lost. We may also find ourselves somewhat alone.
Our long-term relationships are less engaging, foundered by the rough seas of other obligations. We may not even share the emotions we once did and find ourselves left in the empty shell of what used to be a happy life together.
We may be tempted to leave, set out to find ourselves and establish a whole new life. But dismantling a shared life is not as simple as it was decades ago when we were young, just starting out, with less responsibility and no hard-earned assets to protect.
At this stage in our mature lives, starting over may be far less attractive, or simply not an option for very real reasons. It’s not always feasible to pack up and move on.
So, what’s a woman to do? One answer is to bloom where you’re planted, like a dandelion sprouting up between two slabs of concrete, growing happily in the warm sun, despite its circumstance.
We’re far more complex than misplaced flowers, of course, but it’s possible for us to find happiness and contentment where we are. Here are a few steps to help you get started.
Inner peace may be a cliche, but it’s an important one. Whether this means meditation, yoga, prayer, or a solitary walk in the woods, however you find peace, letting go of frustrations and angst will clear a space for other emotions to inhabit your mind and heart. Dedicate time and practice to being calm and serene.
Talk to your friends, get into therapy, write in a journal, engage in whatever form of communication works best for you. You need to express your feelings. Keeping them bottled up will impede growth and transformation.
Regular physical exercise defuses cortisol, the stress hormone, and working out lifts the spirit. I chose hiking and found it brought me the release and sense of freedom I craved.
Spend time sorting out where you are and what’s at the source of your discontent. If it’s something you can discuss and perhaps rectify with honesty, then set the stage for that to happen.
If those efforts fail, look to yourself and determine what you can do, for you to be satisfied and fulfilled. Do what you can to improve your situation so you can be happy where you are.
I took up writing. I wrote as a way to sort through my circumstance. Amazingly, it grew into a passion and then into a professional endeavor.
Find what is right for you, be it art, music, volunteering, gardening, travel – whatever gives you pleasure and is possible within your circumstance. Start off small if you need to and see where it goes from there. Be open and say yes to opportunities whenever possible.
Treat yourself as you would someone you love. Be kind and gentle. Pamper yourself and treat yourself to whatever brings you joy. This might feel awkward at first, but it is essential. Allow yourself time and space to realize your potential, follow your passion where it leads and be open.
Watch for opportunities that will further your journey. Set goals and encourage yourself as you would a friend. Step out beyond your comfort zone and ask for help from those who support you. And always celebrate your success.
Examine your situation regularly, be honest with yourself and dig deep into what it is you truly desire, then set a course toward it.
Most of all, be true to yourself. You deserve happiness, and you don’t always have to make wholesale changes to find what makes you happy. Devoting time and energy to creating a fulfilled life can deliver huge rewards. Take your first step today.
Do you find yourself at a crossroads, wondering what to do with your life beyond 60? Have you considered blooming where you’re planted? What steps do you think you can take to give yourself a happy mature life? Please share your thoughts with our community!