The other day I had an “ah-ha” moment while catching up with an old friend. I texted her a picture of me stopping and enjoying a cup of coffee on my patio, something I always say I want to do but for some reason don’t. She replied by sending me a picture of her eating ice cream out of a mug for breakfast along with the words … “I am just so tired of the daily grind!” I jokingly thought to myself, “If that is not a picture symbolizing a midlife crisis, I am not sure what is?”
Then, our conversation got a bit more honest. “My kids are pretty much raising themselves now, which is a good thing,” I told her. “But, after so many years of putting them first, it just feels weird that they don’t need me. I guess I need to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.”
To which my friend replied, “Oh god, Sharon, I was having exactly the same thoughts last night! My mind is shifting from 110% mommy mode to a place that I no longer recognize. I have not thought about ME for so long that I don’t even know what that looks like. I know it’s not the 20/30 something-year-old ME, but this particular new creature that I currently have become, I don’t recognize her.”
The words she typed spoke directly to my heart because I felt the same way! “This must be why it’s called a midlife CRISIS,” I concluded.
But as I looked at the screen and at the words I HAD JUST WRITTEN, I suddenly had a moment of clarity. Why have we been programmed to think of this time of transition as a crisis? Crisis is negative – as in a time of great disagreement, confusion or suffering. Midlife crisis conjures up images of ending marriages, flashy red sports cars, and jumping out of airplanes. Are we all destined to wear clothes way too young for us and make rash decisions we may one day regret? If the answer is yes, forget the mug and just hand me the whole pint of ice cream!
But what if, instead, we considered this time of our lives as a MIDLIFE TRANSFORMATION – as in a time of resetting, rebalancing, and healing! A time of more gratitude for our past experiences (good ones and bad ones) and being open to learning and exploring different things. Sure, it still may mean eating Rocky Road ice cream while wearing a mini skirt that is way too short … but not because we are giving up, but rather because we really like Rocky Road ice cream and the miniskirt is HOT! I like the idea of allowing myself time to pause, and instead of chasing after this mythical person who I think I should be, allowing myself to become the person who I am truly meant to be.
If nothing else, I have learned that happiness doesn’t stop because you suddenly turn 35 or 40 or even 50. Midlife does not need to be synonymous with crisis mode. We are not over the hill or even going down the hill. Nope, we have finally reached the peak, and now is the time where we can allow ourselves to sit back and enjoy the view. And if we tire of the same view, then guess what? We have the power to transform it. Whether you choose to do this wearing a miniskirt and with a mug of Rocky Road in your hands is completely up to you!
Sharon Fuentes is an award-winning freelance writer, special needs parenting advisor and the author of the book, The Don’t Freak Out Guide to Parenting Kids with Asperger’s. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.