I was probably two years into my midlife crisis when someone I was speaking to identified it as such. It was a counselor friend and the "diagnosis" caught me off guard.
I guess naïvely, I had always thought of a midlife crisis as a cliché or stereotype, something that happened to older balding aging men, buying convertibles and cheating on their wives and drinking too much and, basically acting the fool by trying to act younger then whatever age they were.
Surely, I cannot be going through a midlife crisis! I was young (45 at the time). Still had youngish features, felt healthy and vibrant, and married to a saint of a guy, had a thriving career, good friends, a churchgoing woman, a house bigger than what I needed. How offensive to imply a midlife crisis! More thoughts on the age thing later.
Five years, four therapists, three new job locations, two convertibles, and one new house later, I’ve learned a lot. Sure there are all kinds of stories there, but a few things I’ve come to understand have shifted my whole perspective on the matter. And those insights end up being the freeing and empowering things I take with me moving forward. And they are the insights I share in hopes of helping others navigate their own similar strained season.
The Term "Midlife Crisis"
The term as a whole implies a meltdown of sorts, or at least a life implosion or explosion. Someone who’s let the train go off the rails, or seems to be acting so far “out of their normal“ that surely something must be WRONG. Oh, but it might not be what you think.
The person who’s having the midlife crisis (as example, me and others like me), suffers and struggles with symptoms of feeling lost, discontent, bored, frustrated, angry, trapped, aimless, or purposeless. Life just feels drab, monotonous and colorless. I was even questioning who am I.
Gah, YUCK LIFE! Surely, this is not all there is to it?! The list could go on. Oh the list goes on, and stop calling me Shirley.
Understand that there might not be anything wrong with your life, but you may want to feel differently in it. That is ok. There is NO shame in wanting change.
This may seem a little bit obvious but it isn’t always. Probably more often than not, we’re so focused on how our situation or spouse or job sucks, how these people and situations make us feel, that it gives the impression that something is wrong with them. If they changed somehow, that we would feel much better.
Keeping the focus on those external creates a missed opportunity. We rarely put the time in for self reflection. Things might actually look pretty perfect on the outside, or at least good, but you still may want to feel differently on the inside.
So identifying how you feel, and then how you want to feel differently will help make it easier to identify steps to make that change happen.
And there it is. There is the magic word. CHANGE. And I'll say it again:
There is no shame in wanting change!
And suddenly my midlife crisis turned into my midlife "reconstruction". I will always thank my friend Melissa D’Aunoy for this perspective.
Now, suddenly, I wasn’t a cliché. I was EMPOWERED.
Then every challenge or struggle I was facing became an opportunity. I starting looking differently at all the areas where I felt discontent. I realized they weren't all bad. Some things just weren't good for me as they were anymore.
Then I was able to identify what feelings I WANTED to feel about myself, my age, my relationships, my job, and then identified the steps to create that. The ABCs.... actions, boundaries, and choices. Just made that up ;-)
And I continue to learn new ways of understanding this experience that can reframe my brain, so it can continue to be one of insight and not dread. And make the change I want.
How do you want to feel differently? What change can you make in you to move in that direction?
Next up: Why it's called a "Midlife Crisis"