I’m not sure if what I’m experiencing is a midlife crisis. It’s not what I usually think of as one. I don’t want to buy a sports car or date a 20 year-old or neglect my adult duties of parenting and working.
But, something is shifting in me. There’s an underlying discontent; a need for something more. I’m feeling this, despite having a very happy life. Maybe it’s because I’m in my 50s and single. Maybe it’s simply because I’m in my 50s. (I mean, really, how did that happen??) It could be the regret I feel for staying in a bad marriage for years too long. Or the regret for not doing better at marriage. Maybe it’s because my life isn’t how I envisioned it would be at this point. Being the only parent to a teenager and living in Wisconsin was certainly not the scenario I pictured 30 years ago. But, I do honestly love my life, so why this feeling?
Then, there’s the realization of mortality. I lost my father and my ex-husband within nine months. My best friend lost both her in-laws in a very short period of time. Another best friend lost her best friend to a stroke – in her late 40s. I could go on. Am I just at the age when people are going to start dying more often?
Wikipedia defines Existential Crisis as, “a moment at which an individual questions if their life has meaning, purpose, or value. It may be commonly, but not necessarily, tied to depression or inevitably negative speculations on purpose in life…”
That’s not quite how I’m feeling either. I’m not despairing or even depressed. I’m more curious. For me, the questions are, “How can my life have more meaning? What is my purpose? What am I here to do? How can I make a difference?” When I look at it that way, it’s more of an opportunity than a crisis.
Apparently, what I am experiencing is not uncommon for women my age. And it is not a negative experience. It is an invitation to step into the next phase of life, the wisdom years.
Dr. Christiane Northrup, in her book, The Wisdom of Menopause, describes this time as “the Renaissance of your life.” She goes on to say,
“It’s as simple as this: our brains are changing. A woman’s thoughts, her ability to focus, and the amount of fuel going to the intuitive centers in the temporal lobes of her brain all are plugged into, and affected by, the circuits being rewired.”
We may be considering a career change (check), or leaving an unfulfilling marriage (check), or be done raising children (I came late to the parenting party, so I’m still in the thick of it, and happy to be there!)
These changes find many of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s looking for our next purpose. Our next dharma. We’re asking ourselves, “What now?”
For many, it’s an outward movement. It’s getting involved in community, doing volunteer work, politics, activism. Many women much older than me participated in Women’s Marches in the past couple of years, for the first time, taking an active role in shaping our future. And many brought along their daughters and granddaughters, thereby helping to create a much more aware and active younger generation.
For some, it is a more inward turning. As so many educated Generation X women have long identified with being agnostic or atheist, many find themselves searching for a deeper spiritual connection.
As I am re-vamping and re-creating my coaching course, I’m seeing that dharma, or life purpose, has to be part of it. It can’t not be. Physical health and easeful living are the necessary first step. As I’ve said to many clients, you can’t change the world, if you feel like crap. And, for me, there has to be more. That’s part of my dharma. To help my clients to find theirs.
So, I’d love to do a little crowd-sourcing. How does this resonate with you? Would you like to be coached towards finding your greater purpose in life? Do you have an inkling what it is, but don’t know how to make it a reality? Or is the crisis for you, that you don’t have any idea what it is? Or, is the whole idea of life-purpose a brand new concept for you? Please comment below and let me know.
Summer is winding down. September is here. To me, September has always been kind of like a new year. I know most people with school aged kids can relate, but even when I didn’t have a kid, I felt this. Summer is full of outward, hot, high-energy activities. In Ayurvedic terms, it’s Pitta time of year. Strong, fun energy. Lots going on. We’re often out of our regular routines, but we handle it well with Pitta’s fiery energy behind it.
Then fall comes along. School starts, vacationing winds down, we naturally feel a pull to get back to our routines. This is because fall is Vata season, the time of year we need grounding and routine the most. Vata energy can be very scattered. (think of fall leaves being blown around in the street). We need to pull our scattered energies in, in the fall. And, like the new year, it’s a good time to make a plan, set a goal, think about what might need tweaking, or full-on revamping in our lives. It’s a good time to look at areas of our life that are stuck and get them unstuck.
While stuckness and scatteredness may seem like opposites (and in many ways they are), they can be like two sides of the same coin. When we are scattered in our thinking or our routine, we lack the focus needed to make changes or reach goals. So, staying un-scattered can help us get un-stuck.
Why do we get stuck in the first place? And why do so many of us choose to stay stuck? I don’t have an answer to that, but there’s evidence of it all around us. So many people stay in jobs or relationships that, at best, don’t inspire them and at worst, suck the life out of them. People berate themselves for their bad habits – overeating, drinking too much, spending too much, self-medicating in myriad ways. Yet, they keep doing what they’ve been doing. Why? Why do so many people choose to stay in a situation or cycle that is familiar, knowing that they are passing up the possible job, experience, relationship, (fill in the blank) of a lifetime?
My best guess is that they do it because it’s easier. It’s less scary. It’s less risky.
We all know someone who doesn’t stay stuck. That person who finds herself in a mediocre to shitty situation and says, “Fuck this. I’m out.” And makes the change. And we all say, “Wow. What a badass.” We’re all impressed as hell. But, do we do then go out and do the same? Often, the answer is no. I have been both. I’ve been the badass and the stay-stucker. And let me tell, you, the badass is way better. Even if the change you make, turns out to be a less than stellar choice, it’s way better than wondering what life might had brought, had we taken that chance on the scary, but tempting opportunity.
I am not advocating doing all sorts of crazy things without thinking anything through. I’m talking about making conscious choices to step out of our comfort zones and do things that are uncomfortable and maybe a little bit scary. As one of my favorite yoga teachers always says, “if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not evolving.” As Brian Whetten says in the book Yes, Yes, Hell No, (I’m paraphrasing), if your intuition says yes and your voice of reason says yes, but your fear says “run away screaming,” that’s your sign that you should go for it.
So, as we get back into our fall routines, I invite you to think about where you may be stuck. And where might you take a small (or big) chance and get unstuck? You probably already know if you are a natural risk-taker. I am; I score very high on the risk-taking scale on all the personality tests. I got divorced when I was not in a financial position to do so. I left a secure career to do contract work for an online start up. I packed up my kid and my cat and moved across the country six weeks after the thought first entered my head. But, I’ve also been stuck. I stayed in a bad marriage and a soul-sucking career for years longer than I should have. Why? Because the thought of making change was overwhelming. And while it was tough and scary when I finally made the changes, it was worth it. Has everything been roses since I made those changes? Not at all. I struggled financially for a long time. I took on all responsibility for raising my daughter on my own. The job with the online company didn’t turn out to be as great as I thought. But, I have never wished that I didn’t make the changes or take the chances. They’ve made me who I am today.
If you’re not a natural risk-taker, I don’t recommend you get divorced, quit your job and move across country all at once. Start smaller. Maybe it’s time to commit to getting healthier, make an exit strategy from the job that doesn’t fulfill you. Go on that date you’ve been avoiding.
Make September the month to get unstuck. Make a goal to unstick one area of your life by the time the holidays roll around. Let me know how it goes.