I've been thinking alot about the idea of midlife as one of the more radical times of self-revelation. My birthday is coming up and I will be 59 - but it's more than that. I keep having dreams about knocks at my door and entering rooms from my past and throwing the windows wide open. I also happen to work with folks at midlife quite a bit. It's one of those laws of attraction things.
This is not new territory for me - but recently, I've been wanting to throw off all the theories about midlife and leap into new waters. It's like I want to dive deeper; down to the bone of what is actually happening at midlife and listen for something unexpected to break open into song and dance.
So, as usual, I begin by asking questions:
- What is the purpose of this time of life?
- What is calling to us in the experiences of restlessness, depression, anxiety, self-questioning, and dissatisfaction?
- What truly helps us navigate this time of our lives with the utmost passion, purpose, and meaning?
- Is it really our last chance to live a more authentic life, revisit unlived dreams, break out of self-restriction and fear, finally fall in love with ourselves and throw inhibition and self-judgment to the wind?
I used to be sure about the answers to these questions.
I've done massive research; wrote a thesis on this phase of life.
Yet now.... I'm just not sure what is going on at this time of life - in that deeper than deep zone I love to travel in.
One of the reasons I'm adopting a beginner's mind around midlife - is that I've recently starting working with elders. They are teaching me that it's never too late to blossom and kick butt in the authenticity, wholehearted, go for it zone.
So - why all this hype about midlife being the big invitation to do it now - or else?
I guess it has to do with mortality. Duh. You know - the older we get, the less energy we have to honor our passions and dreams. And yes, many of the elders I work with do tell me about all the regrets they have about not going for their dreams with more gusto when they were young. And they're not talking about being 21 again. They're talking about being 60, 70, and those who are in their 90's, even the decade of the 80's seems like a time of youthful exuberance. Some elders can move through regrets and reconnect with hope and passion. Those are the ones that inspire me and lead me to realize it is truly never too late and possibility is a state of mind. And then, there are many who can't. But maybe they couldn't at midlife either.
So, perhaps I've meandered back to my original idea: At midlife something self-revelatory does break open within us that is worth heeding.
It might not be the last time we get the call to live more courageously, confidently, joyfully (yes, you will read those words again and again in my musings!). But it might be the first major call since we were in our adolescent rite of passage. And since we probably have less time to live then we've already lived - it does feel like a strong wind blowing in - asking us to move through whatever it is we have to move through - in order to LEAP more fully into our lives.
Sometimes we can't NOT heed the call. For some of us it comes in the form of a major life crisis (divorce, illness, loss of a job, launching children, death of loved ones, etc.). But for those who are lucky enough to not get the uzi breaking down the door, heeding the whispers at the door might just be a good idea.
Speaking of whispers, I'm reminded of a David Whyte poem.
And of course that's my cue to share it with you:
All The True Vows
All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.
There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don't turn your face away.
Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.
Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen.
nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.
By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water
Whatever you hear from
the waters, remember,
it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.
in this place
no one can hear you
and out of that silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,
that way you'll find
what is real and what is not.
I know what I'm saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.
Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
for the first time
after all these years
in my own voice,
before it was too late
to turn my face again.
David Whyte (From The House of Belonging)
This whisper of truth comes to us through all the developmental passages of our lives. My 20-something clients are also passionately listening for the whisper of their secret vows.
For now, I no longer think that midlife has a monopoly on self-revelation. But - I do think that it is a time when we can open our arms to the invitation to name and honor our secret vows before we pile on more regrets.
If you're interested in reading my longer rap on midlife (pre beginner's mind), you can find it here.