Midlife is the sometimes treacherous journey from childbearing to birthing ourselves. Specifically, the goal of midlife is the birth of our Soul – the uniquely creative way in which we were gifted to find fulfillment, meaning and purpose and to contribute to the betterment of the world. For women, midlife is associated with menopause and perimenopause and for men, the journey is not so affectionately (and not necessarily accurately) referred to as a “midlife crisis.” What can we expect to happen as the midlife journey unfolds? Today’s blog is part two of an attempt at beginning to answer that question. (For Part One of this blog, click HERE.)
In yesterday’s blog, we began the exploration of midlife and identified the following as points on the map along the journey of midlife:
Awakening, Birthing, Grieving ungrieved losses, shattering of illusions and attachments, and learning to hear the voice of our truth. Today, we cover items 6-11.
During the midlife journey, we quickly learn that we cannot, nor should we, attempt this journey alone. We find support in the company of professionals (therapists, counselors, spiritual directors), dear friends, family and the world of the unseens. Midlife is also a time of sorting – finding out who our true friends are and releasing relationships that are not supportive of who we are or who we are called to be. We might leave old friends behind, we might discover new friends, we might deepen long-standing relationships. At midlife, we may find our circle of support grows smaller, but it will be more intimate, healthier and more loving. We also find in midlife a new relationship with the unseens. Whether we call it “God” or form relationships with angels, saints or spirit guides, we learn that invisible help is there if we look for it and we find value in seeking support from the world beyond.
7) Relationship Issues
This is a BIGGIE! Our committed, intimate relationships cannot maintain status quo as we are going through the changes of midlife….and this is equally true for men as it is for women. It is not a coincidence that it is often in midlife that couples go through the dark night of the relationship. At the dark night, we realize that the relationship we entered into in our youth is no longer life-giving and is in need of healing, growth and transformation. If the relationship hopes to continue with any sense of fulfillment and happiness, both parties must be willing to grow in self-awareness, independence and self-sufficiency and they must be willing to renegotiate a new relationship post-midlife. This is of course assuming both parties are even interested in staying together. Some will discover through midlife that the people they are birthing are no longer compatible. Midlife is a treacherous time for relationships.
8) Redefining Love
Hand-in-hand with relationship issues is an evolving definition of love. What is love? What does love look like? How do we show love and how do we need to be shown love (What is our love language)? What do we want in a relationship? These are all questions that we are invited to ask during the midlife journey and answers we are invited to bring to the table in renegotiating our intimate relationships. We also learn in midlife (if we are doing our work), how to love more freely and more generously and above all….we learn how to forgive.
9) Befriending Self – Childhood Dreams
A huge part of midlife (if not the primary goal) is to befriend ourselves. During midlife, we are invited to let go of the “shoulds” and set aside the person we made ourselves to be so that we could gain other people’s approval. Instead, we are challenged to get to know who we really are, the person God made us to be. We are compelled to seek out our true self and to find ways to embrace him/her and live it. No longer will we apologize for who we are or change who we are to make someone else happy. Part of discovering who we are is rediscovering our childhood dreams. Hidden within our childhood passions, hopes and dreams are the clues to our truest self. If we can remember who we were at age 7, we have a pretty good start at knowing who we were really made to be.
10) Befriending Self – making peace with our bodies
During midlife, our bodies are changing…..and are doing so in spite of our efforts to make it behave and act like it did when we were 20. The physical changes of midlife, I think, are God’s reminder that we are not in charge! Yes, we need to tend to our health, exercise and eat healthy foods, but our body will continue to do what it wants within those parameters. Our job is to make peace with these changes and to surrender to that over which we have no control. Wisdom in midlife comes when we make peace with our bodies and stop apologizing for it or for trying to make it behave. Peace comes in midlife when we embrace the juicy, sensuous curves (PS Susun Weed says that women who carry an extra 10 pounds during midlife have fewer “side effects” from menopause….hmmmm) that midlife throws us and enjoy the passion that wants to be made known through our freer bodies and even freer minds.
11) Befriending Self – the shadow
Finally, befriending self means making peace with all the parts of ourselves that we might be tempted to reject, condemn or ignore. During midlife, wisdom and peace comes when we learn to be ok with our perceived imperfections and can acknowledge and even embrace our humanness. We are meant to love ourselves….warts and all….and midlife is the perfect time to learn how to do this. When we make peace with our demons, they no longer have power over us. So…befriend your anger, resentment, vengeful nature, self-doubt, insecurities, webbed feet and crows feet…..it is all part of who you are and it is magnificent!
The good news is that all these tasks of midlife, as difficult as many of them are, are not in vain. The journey of midlife has a purpose and a destination – a return to yourself, your gifts and your passion. The midlife journey, when actively engaged, leads you to a life of purpose in service to yourself and to the world and one in which you find fulfillment, peace and joy! Who wouldn’t want that?