Every man is allowed a midlife crisis. It’s expected and tolerated. There is even a wink-wink, nudge-nudge quality to the red Mustang convertible and hair transplant that many men gravitate towards.
What about us? Do we pass through our 40s, 50s and 60s without a shred of trauma? Right now, you’re probably either laughing or crying at the absurdity of this idea.
Think about it. Youthful beauty, especially in women, is esteemed. Years of service to your family is expected, even if you are a corporate executive in a multi-million dollar company.
Let’s not even get started with the challenges of maintaining a sex-kitten allure so that your husband doesn’t wander into greener pastures! When wrinkles encroach, boobs sag and your waistline thickens, can you say pressure? Trainers, cleanses, fasts, hot yoga, Botox and therapy, here we come!
My three daughters were old enough to allow me a moment to myself now and then. Dangerous!
I’d been trotting along, too busy to think, for years. Now, all at once, there was time to stop and wonder who I’d be when they were gone. Actually, I realized, the question was more: “Who am I now?” This question terrified me, because I knew I couldn’t answer it.
Asking this question opened a serious can of worms. It was a Pandora’s Box, filled with ghouls that would haunt me for years.
Since I had no answer, I came to the conclusion that I was an empty shell; I was a façade without substance, going through life on autopilot with no destination in sight. If the question was terrifying, the answer was repulsive. All the same, I believed it was true.
It’s not that I had no identity. Actually, I had several. I was the mother self, the wife self and the worker self. But, I knew that none of these represented the essence that would carry me through to retirement and, eventually, old age.
Journaling was once a sporadic activity. Now, I began to write in earnest, exploring new feelings and fears that had materialized out of nowhere.
After spinning for weeks without landing on anything solid, I decided to leave the identity crisis alone for the time being and move in another direction: the realm of desire.
All my life, I’d been the glue, foundation and support system that kept everything running. I’d been a caregiver, provider and nurturer. For 20 years, I paid no attention whatsoever to my own needs.
Gazing into the future, seeing a house empty, except for my husband and me, I encountered several questions. What do you want next? Okay, okay, back up… What do you want right now?
Bringing this question back into the present became my mantra. What do you want right now? What do you want more than this?
My quest for self-knowledge kicked in. A different genre of books littered my nightstand with titles like: Awakening at Midlife, The Dance of Intimacy and The Dance of Anger. Later, these were joined by The Feminine Face of God, Women Who Run with the Wolves and countless Chopra works, including a mind-bender entitled, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire.
I enrolled in a course that taught grounding meditation. A small group of us met weekly for fourteen months. Our leader, a middle-aged woman with eyes that read hearts as easily as most of us read words, formed a cocoon of safety around us and wrapped us in her deep wisdom.
“I get to think about me,” was the sentence that scrolled across my mind as I drove home after the first class and I burst into tears. From that point, my focus shifted. It’s difficult to describe the elation that suffused me as I learned to practice the art of giving to myself. It was a kindness I hadn’t known before.
When I say, “over time,” I mean a long time! Often, I felt like I was taking three steps forward and five steps back.
There were ingrained behavior patterns that had to be discovered and changed. Some were buried deep in my subconscious and wanted to stay there. When I realized that “who I am” could be whatever I wanted, it was revelation.
Eventually, I began to understand myself. Far from being the empty shell I’d feared, I was a person with many layers. Now, two-and-a-half decades later, I’m still discovering the woman inside me.
With each year, I’m less concerned about pleasing others. I’m also more willing to take risks.
I’ve simplified my life to the point of sacred idleness. This allows for hours of introspection. I call it cloud watching.
The passions of my youth, lost in the responsibilities of adulthood, have been resurrected.
Some things had to fall away – people who wanted me to remain as I was, a marriage, the career that once seemed so important. Change changes things. But, the person who emerged is someone I’d like to know better. She is unapologetically authentic. She loves herself, warts and all.
I can summarize the joy I feel in one word: Freedom!
Who are you really? What do you want? What do you love? Have you had a midlife awakening and where did it take you? Please join the conversation.
Tags Reinventing Yourself