The Next Act – Midlife Wonderings…

By the time you have hit your mid-40’s or so, life has probably kicked you around a bit.  Your youth is slipping away or has slipped away, you are most likely into some career or job with a mortgage, car payment(s), a few kids (or maybe no kids), aging parents or in my case – no parents, you have seen great things and suffered through at least one tragedy.  People call this a time of midlife crisis, but really, I disagree.

Certainly there are people who just go off the deep end as they watch their younger years slip away and they move into being ‘older’.  They dump their spouses, buy something ridiculously impractical, and get a much younger partner which they may or may not marry.  Eventually, many of them come to their senses and realize, holy crap, I just made a mess of my life.  Or maybe they never come to their senses.  They try to be something they are not.  They will never be twenty-five again.

Actually, other than more aches and pains, I don’t really mind older.  My great-grandmother, Sadie, always said something to the tune of you are only as old as you think.  She was in her nineties when she would say this.  My grandmother, her daughter, would go to church in her eighties in high heels and skirts just above the knee then come home and talk about “all the old people at church.”  In her mind, she was never old.  Age is a reality creeping up on our bodies.  We don’t recover as fast, we get hurt easier, we have more health issues in general usually but not always, but mostly you are only as old as you think.

I walk around most days and think I’m in my late 20’s.  My mind is stuck there, my body however is mid-40’s.  There are wrinkles, those weird lines you get in your chest skin, my skin is starting to do that crepe-like thing no matter how much I moisturize.  But my heart is young.  I’m a goofball, I don’t shy away from things because of my age.  I do not; however, wear clothes made for teenagers but I do not prescribe to old notions of you cut your hair short when you reach a certain age or you have to start wearing polyester pastel-colored pants with elastic waistbands either.  There are ways to age gracefully and appear timeless.  Trust me, if I wear anything deemed ‘old lady’, I hear it from my youngest daughter.   Not that I am any fashion trendsetter.  I tend to stick with the basics that I like.   In reality, I would live in t-shirts and yoga pants because they are comfy.

The other side of midlife is that many times you have reached a pinnacle, then a valley.  My therapist said this is normal around this time of our life.  She says you gather your bearings, rest a bit and then tackle the next part of your life with usually a completely different attitude and outlook than in your 20’s.  Makes sense.  You want to learn from your previous years and definitely not repeat your past mistakes.  Also, you realize you don’t have all the time in the world left on this earth and you want to start making more of a difference.  Usually, not always.  Everyone is different.  Everyone’s journey is unique to them.

I’m in that valley point.  I’m tired, not particularly motivated to run out and conquer the world.  I don’t even know what I would want to do to conquer the world anyway.  I still want to publish a novel and I still want to become physically fitter.  There are some places I want to travel to but nothing that extravagant.  Anything that involves long hours in an airplane just does not appeal right now.  I am not feeling very adventurous.  Ten years ago, I would want to fly all over the world.  Now I just want a nap.  The valley.  When you regroup and refresh.

With my personality, one which always feels like it must be accomplishing something, this is a weird point for me.  I’m not great at relaxing but yet now that is all I want to do.  Curl up with a book in my hammock.  Sleep.  Ride my bike.  Read some more.  Maybe write a little.  I haven’t even really put much time and effort into my blog lately.  I simply do not have anything much to share or write about.  I don’t have anything tersely emotional to pick apart or dwell on.  Not that is a bad thing, it’s actually positive.  A place of contentment.  Which is odd for me, but I am not going to complain at my good fortune.

This ‘valley’ is a place to regroup, rest, re-energize and evaluate what it is I want out of life.  Sometimes though now, I suspect that my goals may not be as lofty as they once were.  When you are younger, you feel like you can take on the world.  And maybe once I get through this valley point, I will feel that again or not.  If not, I am fine with that.  The one thing I am going to focus on is what I truly want out of life.  Not what everyone else tells me I should want or do.  I have spent so much of my life living up to other people’s expectations.  I can look back on my life and see where I have let too many external things influence my decisions.  Follow your heart.  Follow your gut.  My new mantra.

One thing I do want to do is have more fun.  Enjoy my life more.  I tend to think I have to be working or accomplishing something every moment of every day whether it’s my job, taking care of the house, some project or whatever.  But tragedy in life tells me that love is the most important thing in life.  Giving love, receiving love and doing things, big or small, for others to show them that they are loved.  To spend time with the people who are most important to you.  They won’t always be there, you won’t always be here.  You don’t take much with you when you leave this earth, but I believe the love you have in your life transcends life itself.  You take love with you.

Midlife isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.  You stop caring what people think so much.  You start really focusing on what’s important to you.  You have a bit of wisdom under your belt and it really hits you that those things people have told you over the years, the ones you rolled your eyes at, are really true.  I actually like this point of my life.  I would trade for my 25-year old body but I would not go back in time and actually be 25 again.  Financially I am in a good place and can do many more things than if I was 25.  My daughters seem happy and healthy which is really all I can ask.  Especially when you see on social media every day a child fighting cancer or a terminal illness.  What more could I ask for?  Nothing.  Simply nothing.  I am the luckiest woman on the planet at this very moment.

Sometimes I wonder what I will think when I am in my 60’s.  What would I want to tell my 40-something self?  What would I wish I had done?  Get into shape and do all those things I haven’t but want to?  Instead of carrying around essentially an extra small person on my frame?  Or does that even matter so much?  If only I had a crystal ball right?  But we don’t.  We just muddle through the best that we can.

For me, I am going to listen to my heart, my gut, and my body.  I am going to be swayed by less winds and people’s opinions.  I am going to let me just be me even if it doesn’t fit into how other people think you should be.  I no longer have to prove myself to anyone.  I just have to live my life to the best of my ability, to pursue my own happiness and spend time with those people who really matter.  Life is too short to waste it doing things you don’t want to do.  Granted there are several things you have to do in order to survive and take care of yourself (mammograms – ugh).  There are a lot we do that we don’t have to do.  We can say no, I do not want this in my life, I do not want to do this.

So be brave.  Follow your heart and gut in life.  Don’t be afraid to live differently.  Don’t be afraid to reach for what really makes you happy and what you really love.