Midlife Realignment…

Instead of ‘mid-life crisis’ maybe we should call it ‘mid-life realignment’.   Most people don’t go off the deep end during this period and divorce their spouse to marry someone younger than their own children.  The majority of us just step back and look at the path we are on and start wondering, do I really want to travel in this direction?  This is a time to pause, reevaluate and well, realign.  You start sensing what isn’t working as your life may be changing dramatically from being a full-time parent or a caretaker for your own parent.  This is such a time of dynamic changes that it is hard to keep your head on straight.

Mid-life is so frowned upon, joked about and dreaded.  I am not quite sure why.  This is a time when I am quite comfortable in my own skin and don’t feel the need to impress people as I once did.  Actually outside of my daughters and my husband along with a few of my closest friends, I could give a rat’s ass less about what people think of me or about me.  That in itself is very freeing.  When you stop the craziness of trying to be ‘somebody’ for no other reason than you want to feel like you’ve ‘made it’ for the next class reunion or to finally make your parents proud of you.

Empowering.  This time in my life feels exactly that.  My children are adults and need me a little here and there so essentially I’ve completed my task of raising them.  I read on social media almost daily where my friends are dreading their kids growing up.  Once I was in their position and truthfully, when they do grow up, it’s a very big adjustment. You will most likely grieve their childhood and your active role as a parent.  Depending on the person this may be a month or a few years.  Eventually though, this period stops feeling like the end of the world and you find you have the opportunity to return to yourself and your goals or in my case, discovering what those goals or dreams really are now at this point in my life.  Of course, this is also the time for some people, you start becoming the caretaker of your own parent(s) which in and of itself if probably much more difficult than raising your own children.

One of the things I have spent most of my life being in my mind and what I have bragged to others is that I am “an aspiring writer who has been published on the small-scale.”  This was a source of pride and identity for me.  It made me ‘somebody’ at least in my eyes as I am not sure it really impressed anyone.  For the longest time, I imagined my name printed in bold letters on a beautifully illustrated hard back book as the celebrated author of a wonderful best seller that reached many people and touched their lives.  Except my dream was more based on becoming ‘somebody’ and being ‘someone important’ to soothe my inner delinquencies from growing up in a dysfunctional family where I never felt like I was worth much of anything.  I was trying to prove to them, myself and the world that I mattered.

The beauty of therapy and all the self-work I’ve done as well as reaching mid-life, I have resolved my need to impress anyone other than myself.  Now when I find myself participating in this behavior, I find my whole psyche and self fight the attempt and I end up stalled in whatever I was trying to do.  In other words, I was stopping myself from fruitless behavior that has never worked for me anyway.   For the last few weeks, I have been trying to write the next chapter of a novel that is about 50% finished as far as word count that I need.  It is in rough draft, I have rewritten it 5-6 times over the past few years .  Initially, I started writing it as a way to deal with something painful from my deep past.  The beauty of writing is you can make the story turn out any way you want and you can make the characters into whomever you want.  Mostly it was a good avenue for me to safely express and explore long suppressed feelings about some difficult past events in my youth.

The manuscript is a decent story, with some cleaning up, I could probably sell it to someone.  It’s not best-seller material but I believe it’s good enough for publishing.  Actually the fact I believe this and it’s not a piece of crappy garbage is a big step for my self-critical nature.  I used to read my own writing and destroy everything I wrote because I believed it to be inferior and deserved to die.  So there is that at least, the fact I do not wish to delete the file and never look at it again.  But like I mentioned, I have not made any progress on it either lately.

So I decided maybe I am burned out on the story.  I’ve been working on it so long maybe I am just weary of it.  So I started brainstorming ideas for a new story or novel.  I came up with a bunch of ideas but nothing spoke to my heart or sparked my desire.  After spending a restless night sleeping, I woke up this morning with the very definite question coming to my mind:

“What if I don’t really want to write?”

Hmmm.  Not what I expected when I woke up this morning.  Most of my life since mid-teens has been with the identity of ‘aspiring writer who has published on a small scale’.  Am I really an aspiring writer.  Maybe I’m just a writer who has the wrong goal.  Maybe I don’t care about being ‘a best selling novelist’.  I’ve worked through my self-critical stage that crippled my writing.  I no longer need to impress anyone.  Even though it seems like I should have some lofty writing goal, my heart and soul really isn’t in that outcome.  If my heart was in it, I would have achieved it by now.  Or at the very least put way more effort into trying and submitted manuscripts multiple times and places.  I don’t ever get past the writing part of the equation.  I finished a novel once, rough draft, just to say I wrote a complete book.  I figured I would go back and then edit it except I didn’t.  It’s been sitting there for years collecting figurative dust sitting in the cloud where I store my files.

Here is an example of mid-life realignment.  Deciding if what you thought you wanted is really what you truly want now.  I like writing.  I love writing my blog even if only 2 people read it.  Sometimes, when I write about something particularly difficult, I will get multiple comments from people happy that I have written something that they too are experiencing.  I think people are more transparent today than they were 10 years ago thanks to social media outlets and just a new attitude that no one is perfect.  Think of the outcry to stop photo-shopping models in magazines so that young girls and well, grown women, don’t kill themselves trying to reach for an impossible state of perfection.  I think the general population has grown weary of trying to live up to something no one can really be and are wanting to relate on a ‘real’ level.  Hence maybe all the ‘reality’ shows.  You know, the ones that are made up to look real.

Mid-life realignment is also a chance to be ‘real’ and find your authentic self.  Or just to be authentic.  I am way more happy when I am just myself.  Trying to pretend I am something I am not is just miserable.  Be real people.  If someone doesn’t like the real you, then screw them.  You didn’t need them anyway.  Don’t dread or feel bad about being mid-life.  This is actually an exciting time to take the wisdom you have gained the hard way and put it to use.  This is the time to look at your life and think, nah, I really hate being a banker, I think I want to own a pottery shop in an artsy town.  Maybe you hate all the trappings of being successful you have acquired like a big house and expensive car.  If you peel back the layers of impressing people and being ‘successful’, you just might find you want to live in a cozy log cabin in the mountains and raise sheep.  Who knows what you may discover about yourself and even if it sounds crazy, if your heart soars when you imagine this new life, maybe it is worth exploring the possibilities.

Granted, we can’t all just up and quit our jobs to move to the mountains but maybe you can transition over a few year’s time.  Just because it doesn’t seem immediately feasible, doesn’t mean you should give up.  You may find a way to make your dream a reality or maybe it will require a few adjustments to be similar but not the same in the end.  If you are happy with the result, then that is what matters.  Of course, you may have a spouse who isn’t on board so there may have to be some compromise and in the end you find an even happier result.  Maybe your spouse ends up loving the mountains and sheep or you end up raising Shih Zu instead.

I have no idea what my life has in store for me.  The only thing I know for certain is that I need to rethink my path and considering the question my subconscious brought forth today ‘What if I don’t really want to be a writer?’, it is a sign to really look at what I do want to do.  Explore different options, explore things I never considered and really listen to what my heart and my soul are telling me.  I’m good for ignoring them and plodding along the wrong path until I hit a concrete wall.  I’m not much for the delicacy of small cues.  Well I’m a bit clueless really unless you hit me over the head with a ball bat but I’m working on that as well.

Maybe for you the path is very clear.  You want to go back to college to be a doctor or you want to open a curiosity shop.  I envy the fact that you know in your heart the path you should take.  Me, I have some thinking and exploring yet to do.  I imagine when my path does become clear, I will smack my own head because it was right there all along and I kept looking the other direction.  I do that sometimes.  Okay a lot of times.  I ignore the elephant in the room and walk right around it because I am stubborn and only see what I want or think I should see.

You don’t have to be mid-life either to reach this point.  My oldest daughter has reached a point in her life where she is asking many of the same questions.  I think it is a bit disconcerting to her after having a clear path for the first twenty-five years.  School then more school and then maybe more school, but maybe not that last bit of school.  Okay, so now what if there isn’t more school?  She is searching as well.  Asking what do I want to be when I grow up?  But maybe it shouldn’t be ‘be’ but ‘do’.  What should I do when I grow up?  I think we are probably fine just the way we are.  Do we need to change and ‘be’ something or someone else.  We link our identity to a job or profession or like with me, I linked it to a dream I thought was right for me, being a best-selling author, only to find out that isn’t who I am after all.

I should just be Laura.  My identity doesn’t rest on my work or my job or publishing a book.  I am fine just as I am today.  I should think of it more in the lines of what do I want to try or do?  What would make me happy?  Rather than hanging who I am as a person on a profession or achieving a goal.  We are multi-faceted just by being alive.  I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, a friend, an employee, a neighbor, a woman, and the list goes on and on just by existing.  Labels are a bit over rated anyway.  That is probably where I am getting hung up anyway.  I want to recreate myself for the purpose of?  I don’t know.  I used to feel I needed to compete with other people but for what?  I don’t know.  Now I find I just compete with myself.  To ride a little longer or faster, to hike further and to be a kinderr person in general.  I have no one to impress.  I just want to live my life and be happy.  For the most part, I am very happy.

I’ve always strived to be ‘better’.  Better at what, you may ask.  I don’t know again.  I thought I did but now none of it really makes sense or matters.  Sure, the work I put into myself to be more accepting of who I am, to love myself and like myself was time well spent.  Maybe that sounds egotistical but really it is not.  It is about saying “I am okay just as I am.  I am right where I am supposed to be.”  Striving for things that don’t matter like a number on a scale or to impress someone else with your education or station in life is fruitless.  Sure for a moment you feel superior or accomplished but that feeling is usually fleeting.  Then you are striving again for something else to impress whomever or feel good about yourself.  If you can just stop the motion and stand still then realize hey, I’m okay just like I am, you give yourself freedom.  The freedom to live your life and enjoy your life as well as the people who matter most to you.

The question my subconscious posed this morning, “What if I don’t really want to be a writer?” could have scared me and shook me to the core but really it was just further confirmation that I need to step back and realign that part of my life.  It’s the universe telling me, hey, um, yeah, this really isn’t what you want so why do you keep banging your head on the wall when you aren’t able to write that best-selling novel?

Message heard, universe.  Laura, over and out.

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.

Recreating Yourself aka Midlife Crisis

Do you ever have a moment where you think, wow, I’d like to halt time, recreate who I am and then start a different life?  Even if your life is good but there’s something just nagging at you, maybe you are not following a dream or trapped in a bad relationship or something your entire self is trying to tell you?  I think everyone has these moments and for me it seems to hit more now that I’m in my mid-40’s and my life is really good.  I believe the magazine writers call it “second act” or “second-half” or well, “midlife crisis”.

But is it really a crisis?  Or is it just a time you pause after being on the same track for many years.  The track of getting through your education, finding a job, forwarding your career or whatever direction you took.  Finding a mate, maybe having a few kids or a houseful of kids, acquiring the typical material possessions such as a home, vehicles, a trip to Disney or whatever it was that you wanted.  Then you reach a certain age and SCREECH.  Everything comes to a halt.

You’re standing there thinking what the hell?  Suddenly you aren’t running kids everywhere, attending twenty-three events in a week for them.  They’re off to college or maybe the older ones out of college.  You aren’t needed every moment of the day.  Then you realize you’re at a good place in your job or whatever career path you chose, maybe you own a successful business.  You’re in a groove, you got it down pat, it’s really not that challenging anymore but you’re in a comfortable place and you make a comfortable living, maybe even more than comfortable.  Your house is stuffed full of things you’ve acquired over the years, your closets are crammed full of clothing where maybe in college, you barely had enough to get by a week.  You’ve arrived.

Okay, so you’ve reached that pinnacle but the thing is, no one told you – “what next?”  or you never really thought about it.  Oh you’ve been saving hard for retirement, you’ll go fishing, travel, watch Wheel of Fortune because you know that show will still be on as Pat and Vanna come out with a wheelchair and walker, that show is never going off the air.  But in a way, you’re a bit in retirement already or it feels that way.  You have a lot more free time and you’re not quite sure what to do with it all.  I’m sure this isn’t everyone, but I’m not one that likes to commit myself to a lot of organizational activities.

You start daydreaming, what do I want to be when I grow up?  Honestly, it is much like when you were in school and you had to start thinking about this question in earnest.  When college recruiters and guidance counselors and teachers were breathing down your neck?  What are you going to do after school?  As if you were supposed to have your entire life figured out by age 17.  I laugh about that now.  Some people know exactly what they want to be by the time they are 10.  “I’m going to be a neurosurgeon.”  I always looked at these people as if they were an alien, that they were so definite in their plans.

Me, I have so many interests and likes that it was more like: “I’m going to own my own business, a florist shop but then I want to have a nursery with it and then a coffee shop where people can enjoy good drinks and pastries but then I will offer art classes and display different artists for sale but then I want o have an animal rescue on part of the property and then…”   By the time I was done, the name of my business would have had to be so long to encompass what I wanted, that no one would really understand what it was.  Actually I envied those people who were so sure of their calling because my calling felt like a career advisor on crack was trying to help me.   My biggest fear was that I would pick the wrong “calling”.

Maybe there is no one certain calling for me.  Which is why I am back to trying on hats, mentally of course, doing research, weighing the pros and cons of different avenues that I could take in my life right now.  Mostly, it’s a creative avenue that doesn’t require me to quit my job and move into another.  I am more likely to tell you what I don’t want to do rather than what I want.  Except writing.  Maybe that is my calling, to finally publish a novel.  Maybe to be a mixed media type of artist and sell my stuff (that I have in my mind and have not created) in different markets.  Or maybe I really am the crazy cat lady and will start a cat rescue where I have hundreds of cats and will then soon be divorced – ha…

In many ways, the ‘crisis’ is not that at all but a valley where you take a few moments out of your life to explore new avenues and try on new identities.  Not that you literally go to some shady guy in the city (or small town probably now) to get a fake ID and passport then disappear leaving your family to believe you are dead.  It doesn’t have to be that drastic.  Now is the time when you start thinking about the things you really enjoy and love, your passions.  There may be ways to not upheave your entire life and still try on the new “you” as you use your new free time that once was monopolized by your children or whatever it was, to focus on the things you enjoy the most.  Or maybe it is time to consider going back to school for that career you really wanted but for whatever reason you chose a different path (usually parental pressure or something just the income potential was higher).

There is so much stigma with this part of your life.  Mid-life but while it can be very challenging especially if you are dealing with sick or aging parents, layoffs, your own health issues, etc., but it can also be very exciting as you take that second breath and start looking at your new future with the wisdom of many years under your belt.  All that “I wish I had known this in my 20’s” can be applied to your 40’s and 50’s instead.  You can’t go back anyway, only be in today and look toward your future.

So don’t be afraid to recreate yourself, even if it’s just a small part of your life.  You don’t have to go hog wild crazy and disrupt everything and everyone around you like the stereotype of “mid-life crisis” demands.  Sure, there are people who do that.  Leave their long time spouse for someone younger than their kids, buy a wildly expensive sports car and start dressing ridiculous.  That is the extreme case.  I was thinking more along the lines as starting that small business on the side you always wanted, crafting jewelry or painting, traveling to those places you dreamt about, volunteering for a cause close to your heart or changing careers.

The bottom line is, life is short and you should take the time to really search your heart and follow your dreams you may have missed.  It’s never to late to recreate (okay, I have no aspirations to be a poet, you can breathe easy!).