I received a phone call the other day from my daughter, who’s in her late-thirties. Perhaps it was her upcoming birthday that had prompted her mood, but as we chatted she expressed disquieting feelings about her “new phase of life,” and an increasing sense of “losing her youth.” While I replied with sympathy and comfort, my further-down-the-road perspective silently said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” These thoughts must have somehow come through in my words, because she asked me how on earth I deal with it.
Upon consideration of her question, I replied, “Well honey, I’ve just been doing it longer than you, and after doing it long enough, you get good at adaptation.”
This time we call “mid-life” presents us with a unique set of opportunities. Adaptation to our ever-changing circumstances, which seem to feel stranger with each passing year, is just one of those opportunities. During this period, we experience inner growth and self-discovery about who we really are and what we really want. I’ve been walking this journey of mid-life for a while now and have found it has jewels to offer.
This stage of our life has the power to transform us – but why? Let’s start by looking at what we’ve been through to get here. By the time we’ve arrived, we have lived through many changes. We’ve all had our share of saying goodbye to things we’ve held dear (our youthful physique, for example; our music – oh, the music!), and we’ve said hello to new things along the way (new relationships, new technology – now that requires constant adaptation!) Our parents grew old. We may now be helping to care for them, or we may have already had to tell them goodbye. With our own children grown, we have learned or are still learning to adapt to an empty house and maybe an empty-feeling life, striving to find our purpose again. Or maybe we are wishing we had an empty house. In either case, we are now in the world of adult children, where profound lessons on acceptance, and letting go, can be learned.
Sure, at this age we have challenges, but take heart; the challenges of this period are most certainly accompanied by the jewels of which I speak. Here, we can find an explosion of personal discovery. With reflection, we may understand more than we ever did about our past and what led us to be who we are and where we are. The many experiences we’ve been through and bumps we’ve hit along the way? Living through them has earned us an outpouring of wisdom that helps to light our current path.
In a nutshell, the best news about mid-life is that it puts us at the crossroads of two compelling facts:
We are old enough to really know our way around this life.
We are young enough to still influence the people and world around us.
If you think that mid-life is something you must merely ride out before entering the next phase, think again. There is so much to know and learn about this time of life; I hope you will join me as we explore this fascinating topic.
I thought I would tell you a bit about myself. I am a mother, grandmother and employee of Marin County’s Health and Human Services Department, where I do employment counseling and training. I have been a Sonoma County resident for 28 years.