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.