For many women who have been caring for and putting others first, midlife is the time when there’s finally space to start thinking about you. You may feel compelled to make room for you, to live with greater purpose, or to answer the call to do something big in the world. It’s during this time that we can begin to define what legacy we want to leave.
If you’ve lost sight of who you are and what you want, it’s time to explore and experiment and define your own new milestones. Up until this point, there have been socially defined milestones like college, first job, maybe marriage, maybe kids, maybe grad school, maybe the first house, and then if there are kids, the kids’ milestones. The lack of milestones can make midlife feel like uncharted territory.
It is, and it’s ready to be explored and conquered. -Terri Hanson Mead
I was sort of hoping my mid-life crisis would be an event. If you’ll indulge me, a one and done would have been a fantastic and convenient moment. The mid-life event happens, followed by the epiphany, a small but special pivot, and then a return to feeling somewhat satisfied and/or complete. In true me “neat” dreaming form, that would be a precise package with a minor bump but no permanent damage.
Side note, I’ve been dreaming incorrectly, or at least insufficiently, for a good portion of my adult life. I need to dream messier. For me, a “neat” dream is almost more fantasy constructed than reality driven. This road leads nowhere. It’s an endless circle of chaos.
I am not having a mid-life crisis event. Rather, it’s an outbreak of overwhelming emotions occurring in epic proportions at a speed that is offensive and physically and emotionally exhausting. One day I think I’ve pinpointed my purpose, the next I’m floundering like a fish who has been dropped mid-tank cleaning. Sincerely, there’s a million thoughts happening and they almost never surface conveniently or expectedly. This is okay.
Lean in. The secret to surviving and succeeding the mid-life crisis is leaning in and owning the vulnerable moments of our lives that are awkward and uncomfortable but fundamental to our existence. Far too many people deny themselves the opportunity to flounder. Lean into flopping around aimlessly, wandering and wondering, and know you’ll be better for the times outside the comfortable circle. Lean into asking questions that render no answers but are meaningful and memorable regardless. Lean into saying no to the things or people who don’t inspire or add joy. Lean into saying yes to yourself consistently and kindly.
The mid-life crisis is only a crisis when we don’t answer the call. So there it is, the basic reality of a big thing is that it’s a million small things. There doesn’t have to be an event to mark the occasion, and often the emotions are yielded by the mundane humdrum rather than a major moment. Lean in. P.S. Just breathe.