Midlife is defined by how big or small your crisis is. Or is it?
According to statistics, the average human will live to be about 83 years of age. We reach adulthood at about 20 years. That puts midlife somewhere around the 50 year mark, give or take a few years.
What’s the scariest thing about approaching midlife? It’s the fear you’ve reached a point of no return. You’ve done a lot. But not near enough. There’s so many things you have left to do, and your own mortality is suddenly knocking on the door.
We view midlife as a turning point, not necessarily for the better. Here we are and it’s all down hill from here. So we turn to doing things out of character. We try new things. We work to determine who we are.
Men approach midlife in a certain way. (There’s a lot more studies on men than women, by the way.) Men typically will bring their fears of growing old into action by going on a spending spree:
Yep, that little red sports car starts looking pretty good. And a young new lover to sit beside him in the passenger seat? Why not?
But what about women? We do things a bit differently.
We suddenly have new-found freedom. The kids are grown and away at college or finally on their own. We finally have time to explore things we’ve left far behind. Like hobbies. And new relationships. And new career choices. New parts of the world.
It’s midlife baby, and we’re ready to explore.
But along with this sudden revelation also comes fear. What if you get there and you know something is wrong, but you have no idea what it is? What do you want? What’s next?
Especially in these difficult times, that can bring on an overwhelming sense of fear.
Few would argue that we’re all in the midst of challenging times, no matter what your age. But being in your 40s and 50s changes things just a bit. Not only are you facing a world filled with turmoil, but you’re also questioning what the future holds for you.
You can face midlife in two ways. If you look for a midlife crisis as an expected part of life, you’ll find it. On the same token, if you look beyond it and use this time as a reinvention process instead, I would argue that midlife can see you through tremendous transition in a very positive way.
There can be a great future on the other side.
What if we changed the way we think? Could there be 10 signs we’re heading for a midlife reinvention instead? (It’s what I’m doing right now at 52.)
1. You’re asking yourself some deep, probing questions
There was a time when we could go to college, get a great job, and coast for the rest of our lives. A 30 or 40 year career would turn into just the right amount of retirement income to live out the rest of your life comfortably.
Not anymore. We may have gone to school with those expectations, but those same ideas were tested all through your 20s as you watched your parents and other loved ones navigate the ever-changing job horizon.
It’s no longer about what an employer will do for you. It’s about how you will change your career. And how you will create the lifestyle that gives you everything you want as you continue to age into your 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 100s. Are you doing all you can today to make sure you have a successful future?
2. You’re making calculated decisions
Let’s face it, none of us knows what our futures entail. But existing clues can lead you in the right direction.
I watched my father die of a heart attack at 54. My mother followed and had a stroke at 54. The cause: smoking and poor eating.
Those two events taught me I had to take care of myself if I didn’t want to follow down the same path. As a result, proper nutrition and exercise have become the base of my daily life. (And I’ve never smoked.) I’ve read a ton of books on nutrition and exercise. I’ve joined all kinds of groups on learning about vegetarian and plant-based diets.
There are always things in your life that point to a change in your future. Rarely does someone find themselves in a hospital after a heart attack or being escorted out of their place of employment after being issued a pink slip with no advanced warning. You can see the signs. You know the writing is on the wall. Are you paying attention to them?
3. You know your body and mind are changing and you do something about it
Several years ago, I began experiencing symptoms of perimenopause. Moodiness. Soreness. A state of confusion. It happens to every 40 something. But like everything in my life, I didn’t take it lying down. I turned to books and websites to learn all I can.
It turns out there’s a lot to learn. One of the first books I picked up was one by Suzanne Somers. (Someone referred me to her books when my sister was going through a cancer scare.) Honestly, I didn’t have the highest hopes. I figured it would have a lot of fluff. But within a few pages, I was hooked. And I spent quite a few weeks devouring all of her books.
That’s led me in all kinds of directions. Today, I consider bioidentical hormones and supplements equally as important as proper nutrition. I’m always seeking ways to improve every aspect of my life. And I can honestly say I’m in the best shape of my life.
4. You value sleep
You can’t function without sleep. In fact, sleep sets the stage for everything in your life. Read Arianna Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution. That’ll show you exactly how important sleep is in our lives.
And as you hit midlife, your sleeping patterns change. I know mine did. But it doesn’t have to be all pills and meds to try and get you to sleep better. Sometimes it’s placing a higher value on sleep that starts to improve the process.
By valuing my health instead waiting for problems to arise, I sought out holistic ways of living midlife. I had a variety of tests to understand better the patterns of my body. And when we found my progesterone was out of whack, we added it to my daily supplemental routine. Voila, a few months later and my normal sleep patterns returned.
I also put more value on what is located in my bedroom. A great bed, comfortable bedding, a dark room, and a bed routine I adhere to every day. I check all digital at the door – not allowed in my bedroom. And seven hours is a must.
5. You do new things instead of wallowing in the blahs
By midlife, you’ve done it all, seen it all, lived it all. Blah, blah, blah. It all seems so … routine.
Remember when you wanted to have fun in this life? Remember when you went out with friends every night? Remember when you tried new things? Remember when you weren’t afraid to say no? Or you said yes to something brand new?
Complacency is a part of midlife. It’s more comfortable to stay where you are because you won’t get yourself into trouble if you do.
Stop it. There are dozens of ways to shake away the blahs. You can take a class at your local rec center. You can try out a new hobby – dance, painting, gardening, cooking, writing.
That’s what put me on my current track, my discovery that I wanted to write. So I tweaked my approach and started writing romance novels for women over 40. I love romances but wanted something beyond the typical 20-something-looking-for-the-love-of-her-life-to-settle-down-and-make-babies kind of novel. I wanted something about women in midlife, looking at overcoming the same things I was facing – empty nest, job challenges, new interests, a desire to travel, caregiving issues, etc. I couldn’t find it, so I wrote them myself.
Put the TV remote down and do something! Because when you’re too busy trying new things, you won’t have time to wallow in the “crap” that surrounds you right now.
6. You use death and dying to catapult yourself forward
I was 28 years old when my father died of a heart attack at 54. It changed my world.
And every year as “54” sneaks up on me, I realize how young 54 truly is.
There is a spike at midlife for death and dying. It’s when our parents get sick. It’s when we start losing friends we’ve known since we were kids. And it shakes us to our very cores.
While we all face this change in different ways, it is possible to move forward by seeing how much you still have to live for.
(I’m not talking about depression, mental conditions, suicidal thoughts, etc. These stages need an entirely different path.)
We’re wiser at this stage of our lives. We have done so much, but there is much more to do. Now what? can be a very healthy question if you use it in the right way. Because at midlife, a lot of your life has changed for the better.
- Your kids are gone which means you have more freedom.
- You’re more settled in some relationships and can move on to find something new.
- You have clearcut likes and dislikes that can guide you into making changes.
Trust that wiser you to guide you to a new place to live and play.
7. You are aware of your appearance
Yes, those tiny lines and wrinkles are growing. And society tells us as a whole that’s a bad thing for women.
But the more you work at feeling good about yourself, the less these wrinkles will bother you. (You’ve earned them!) When you put everything from these first six items in place, it makes you more grateful for who you’ve become. (I practice this all the time.)
And the better you feel about yourself, the less impact society will have on you when it tries to tell you what you’re doing wrong. In fact, many things become so engrained, you wouldn’t change them if you could. For instance:
I’m my ideal weight because nutrition and exercise are a core part of my daily routine. I don’t own a scale; haven’t in quite a few years.
I haven’t eaten beef in 23 years. No, I don’t miss a burger, and I wouldn’t eat one no matter how much you paid me. Because I like the way I feel; that’s more important to me than going back to old eating patterns that left me feeling sick.
I choose what I wear because I like the way it looks. Not because it’s the latest style. Not because it has the brand name. But because I like how I feel when I wear it.
8. You have a healthy sexual appetite
It seems every article that refers to “midlife” talks about sex – or the lack thereof. It seems that every person entering midlife can expect to lose their sexual drive. Perimenopause and menopause slow the libido. You can’t even remember the last time you were “in the mood.”
Guess what? They’re wrong.
If you’re healthy and everything in your body is functioning correctly, there is no reason your sexual appetite has to die. In fact, it can get better. You don’t have small kids to run after. You can spend nights with your spouse, partner, or significant other instead.
And aging changes your approach. Sure, it might not be the same heated mad dashes to the bedroom. But the planning can be more fun.
We’re all more educated and know what we like and what we don’t. Be more comfortable asking for what you desire. Experiment. There’s been no other time when we can move forward in a bold way.
9. You never think you’re old
I never, ever say I’m too old.
Because inside I’m this ever-changing 29 year old that’s ready to live life to the fullest.
If you define what you do by your age, you’re less likely to reach for your dreams. Or try something new. Or find a higher level of satisfaction with your daily life.
Science even says this is true. Simply feeling older predicts how well you approach life psychologically. If you feel old, you’ll act older. You internalize it based on a script you’ve internalized and are living by subconsciously.
Women get better with age. It’s true. I believe it. Do you?
10. You’re ready to redefine what midlife means!
I’m 52 years old.
I’ve been married for 30 years.
My father passed away 23 years ago.
My daughter is 22 years old.
I’ve worked in multiple fields, had success in many different niches, started up several businesses, learned a ton about many different things.
I’ve had ups, and I’ve had downs.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
~Hunter S Thompson
I saw this quote on the wall of my massage therapist many years ago. (Thank you, Robin!) And it’s always stuck with me as the best way to live life.
Because the worst thing we can do is die well before I time. To get stuck in everything around us, without working hard to pull ourselves back up and into life.
Sure, you can share the videos on Facebook of 96 year olds teaching yoga, or 100 year olds dancing in a competition. But if you aren’t trying your darndest to become one of them, are you really living life as it’s meant to be lived?
That’s what motivates me every single day.
How about you?