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Hello friends and welcome to The Midlife. I have some bad news for you. Midlife is not actually halfway.
Are you still there?
Sorry to smack you in the face with that little truth nugget but I hear from so many of you how stuck you feel but ya aren’t even sticking a board under the tires to stop spinning in the mud so I thought we should have a heart to heart today.
Look at it this way, god willing you live to be a hundred. Wonderful. I hope you feel amazing with unlimited energy and physical strength, full mental capacity and ambition until the day you die. But really, how realistic does that seem? Do you expect to have the full tank to make wide sweeping changes or even just minor tweaks at 95? How about 85? 80? Not so much. Can you see that unless you’re under 40, which if you are, why are you here, you are really past Mid, take-life-by-the-horns, life?
That’s why it’s imperative that you use all these feelings in Midlife, the uncertainty, the sadness, and yes even the anger and resentment. Oooo, and hopefully that confidence and optimism that’s been growing since we’ve been hanging out, to motivate you to reset the chessboard.
I just learned to play chess during COVID. We binged through The Queen’s Gambit, thinking it was going to be age-appropriate fare to watch with the 9 year old. It was not. You’re welcome to call social services however we all, him included, loved it. And since he was motivated to learn how to play, and didn’t seem tempted to start an amphetamine habit, I took it as an opportunity to learn to as well.
Here’s the thing about chess, at least for me as a beginner. When you start the game, a plan seems very clear. You even have the false sense that you can anticipate your opponent’s next move and even influence what it’s going to be. But it doesn’t go according to plan, and soon you have a messy board and you’ve lost all anchor of any plan. At that point, I feel tremendous anxiety at every move, unable to see the eventual outcomes anymore, and I pray for the dog to bump the table so that I can graciously leave this torturous game without a) actually losing or b) looking like a coward and a quitter. Hmmm… metaphor much for Midlife?
Yes shit is messy right now. Yes a plan is unclear. But you don’t have to wait for the dog bump. You can reset the pieces right here, right now. In fact, now is the easiest time to do it because there is so much in flux.
You are in a period of hyper change, both physically and emotionally. Your body and brain are practically begging you to try just about the opposite of every way you’ve lived your life thus far. Don’t be afraid of it. Lean into it. Make the changes. And then make some more. And for goodness sake, do it before it’s too late. There is going to be a too late. But I assure you, it’s not now.
I just saw a quote attributed to Victor Hugo, “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” Pretty optimistic for a dude who lived in 19th century disease ridden France, don’t you think?
But doesn’t that really focus it up for you? This, right now, is the sweet spot for 3 reasons.
First, you have a lifetime of experience, most of which has taught you nothing is as serious as it seems in the moment.
Second, you have acquired skills that you probably don’t realize not everyone has. They may be work related or you may have refined really important talents not in a corporate environment. I know it’s hard for you to identify them. You’ve always been told it’s conceited to say nice things about yourself. Well maybe out loud, a lot, to many people but ya know you can say nice things to yourself and a lot of them and like all the time and the only thing that’s going to happen is that you’re going to feel real inspired and real confident.
Three, you’ve already skinned a knee, or seven, and gotten right back up. If you haven’t had at least one major fuck up, at least one situation make you scratch your head and say well THAT didn’t go like I expected, I don’t see how we can be friends. The mistakes, in the end, are gifts; chances for do-overs or better yet, do-differently’s. And you’re still here. Channel some of your dumb kid energy and say well that wasn’t so bad, let’s go bigger.
When I envision my later years, I’m seeing a lot of awesome stuff on auto-pilotish. I’m laying all the groundwork today. Are you?
If you’re spending a lot of time in la-la dream land, that’s great. I totally support that. But at some point, I want you to pull the damn trigger and start making some version of those dreams reality.
Oh I hear it all the time, “I would BUT”. Yes I know the list of but’s. Shall we play a drinking game? You drink every time I hit one of your but’s. Wow, that doesn’t sound right. Anyway, here we go:
I would but I have the kids
I would but I’m too old
I would but I’d have to go back to school
I would but there’s already someone doing it
I would but I don’t know how
I would but I’m probably not smart enough
I would but it will cost too much
I would but what would people think
I would but my husband wouldn’t think it’s a good idea
I would but it seems silly to to start over now
I would but how much longer would I realistically do it
I would but it’s a risk
I would but I’m probably not that good
Are ya drunk yet?
Let me finish that sentence for you one more way. “I would, but I’m dead.”
As far as I know, we only get one shot at this. That’s what we’re really talking about here. How much do you want to squeeze out of this single gift of life that you have? If you’re ready to just coast in to the dirt finish line, fine. But I’m pretty sure you don’t or you wouldn’t be here.
Do you feel a little like life is passing you by? It may be. You want to know an amazing secret? The way to slow time is to be very busy doing things. When you do the same thing day after day, there’s no delineation and the days bleed into one another. When you are working on a goal or a project or learning something new, no matter the size, you can more easily reflect back on segments that hold accomplishment and meaning.
Here’s a little test, ask yourself what you did last year. Yes, even in that crummy upside down world of a year, what did you do? Are you satisfied with your answer? If you answered yes. Great. Raise the bar for yourself and reach higher. I have complete faith in you. Not in that you’ll reach that goal. Who knows? But that you will become better for having set the goal and worked towards it.
If you aren’t satisfied with your answer, what are you doing to change it for this year? Will you be able to give yourself a more satisfying assessment 365 days from now?
To be clear, I’m not just talking about changing careers or starting a business although truthfully those are my favorite midlife crisis cures. I’m talking about following a lifelong passion, becoming an expert in a subject you’re interested in, improving your relationship with your kids, improving your relationship with your spouse.
I know, change is scary. But where you’re languishing right now is no bed of roses either. Is it? What seems worse? Making a change, or running out of time to make a change? I don’t know about you, but running out of time sends shivers down my spine.
So what the hell are you waiting for?
I know, it’s the but’s again isn’t it?
There’s an exercise I run through with the women in my program Midlife Re•Imagined, Design Your Next Best Chapter. You get to write down all those obstacles but then we brainstorm lots of workarounds. And you know what? Where there’s a will, there is absolutely a way. Together we build that tunnel or bridge or we grab a bulldozer and clear the way.
Now I don’t want to really freak the fuck out of you. Well yes I do, kinda. What if you get sick or incapacitated? What if you are one of the unlucky victims of dementia or Alzheimer’s? Yeah, we’re actually getting that old. Your window for making this a life well lived is potentially even more limited.
There was a time in my life where I wanted to know how the book ends. That somehow then it would be easier to live the middle if I knew if it works out ok. Super chickenshit, but that aside, what if the book has fewer chapters than you think? Would that kick you into gear? I think it would be prudent for all of us to consider that possibility.
And then once in motion, let’s put that aside because after all, it’s mostly out of control.
I know there’s a lot of pressure to have it all figured out. Whatever IT is. We are planners and prudent and we color in the lines like good girls. But midlife is the time to free ourselves from traditional constraints.
You may start doing something and decide it doesn’t please you in the way you thought it would. You are allowed to change your mind. There are no follow-through police and it doesn’t make you a flake if you decide to go in a different direction. Those are rigid tenets that have been beaten into our heads. Learn to be flexible and compassionate with yourself. But certainly be diligent in anything you pursue. Unless you give it your all, you really won’t know if it’s the right path.
The phrase “fuck it” must have been coined by a woman living her best Midlife. I use it often and have what I call “fuck it ideas”. Do they always work out? Absolutely not. But it’s always a learning experience and I look at any misstep as a gateway to a better fuck it idea.
I do love big ideas. And I think you should write every single one of them down. And then I think you should pick one and start writing out the steps you need to follow to reach that goal. And then you should break those steps down again and again until you have tiny manageable tasks in a simple achievable order. And then get cracking! One task at a time, one after the other.
My husband’s family had a house in Lake Arrowhead when he was growing up. It’s a steep, windy road to get up the San Bernardino mountains just outside of Los Angeles. There was one specific turn that turns back on itself and every single time his dad would yell out as they came out of the bend, “look how high we are already”. Sadly for me and my children, my husband continued this tired tradition every single time we made that drive. But I do think there’s a valuable lesson. Start driving up your mountain and before you know it, you won’t believe how high you’ve gotten.
If you would describe your current state of mind as paralyzed or your day to day as Groundhog’s Day, I hope you hear me sounding the alarm. You are 100% able to change your thoughts, your circumstance, your present and your future. And if that’s an overwhelming proposition to go it alone, you should be hanging out with me and the gals in Midlife Re•Imagined. I’m throwing a special link up in the show notes and in my IG bio for a discount for you.
Time is not waiting for you. What are you waiting for?
Wife of one. Mother of three. Writer, podcaster, entrepreneur, adviser. Don’t make me choose. Co-founder, The Midlife.