I believe the age that one transitions to midlife varies, but for me it was at age 51. And there was no going back! The view is outstanding. Colors in a sunset or autumn leaves are more vibrant. Music and sounds of nature reach new depths of enjoyment in my soul. Smells of pumpkin bread baking or turkey in the oven brings me bliss. The taste of a well-made latte or fresh salmon from Alaska makes me swoon. And the feeling of holding hands with my new boyfriend makes me tingle! I enjoyed all these things before, but in midlife, I experience them at a deeper level.
Midlife nudges me to move forward with the now or never motto. “Letting go” is reaching profound levels, and sometimes it hurts just before the release. I went through a time of cleaning up and closing dangling relationships with men to open a new space for a new relationship. I had clarifying conversations with men who showed interest in me but I had decided I only wanted to be friends. This honest dialog took courage for me and in at least one man caused a broken heart. It was hard for me to unintentionally cause heartache in another, but I knew that to fully prepare to be in a relationship, I needed closure. Once I was very clear that I was ready for a relationship and was willing to close doors to open one that mattered, it happened.
Grief creeps in when I see my parents aging and my father approaching death. The vibrant man, World War II veteran, successful businessman and retired rancher is now struggling to get out of bed and control his life and his bodily functions. As I struggle to find a way to help him when it seems that nothing I do or suggest is wanted, I realize that the presence of my weekly visits is sometimes enough. As I sort and scan his photographs to create a memory book and slide show, I feel sad that his life is about to conclude but grateful that he was my dad. Even though he wasn’t a perfect dad, he was a remarkable man who shaped much of who I am today.
I also visit my mom and I see one of the most beautiful women I have ever known crippled with arthritis. Her deformed hands have trouble opening jars and bottles and picking up things. Her feet are so mangled that there are hardly any shoes she can wear now. She is occasionally confused or forgetful and I worry about her safety in driving. Between the two of them, my role as daughter has taken on new responsibilities. And that responsibility is sometimes heavy on my shoulders. I have to remember self-care and fun to offset it.
While my parents need me more, my kids need me less or at least in a different way. My daughters are juniors in college and call to say hi but also to ask for money. If I am lucky, we have a pure conversation of sharing deeply about the meaning or direction of their lives, their latest love or they ask for my advice and actually listen! They both still need my help financially, so I provide that but am now weaning them towards independence. They are both assets to the world and I am grateful and proud of them! Motherhood in midlife is also a process of letting go as they spread their wings and fly.
Friendships have always been important to me but in midlife, they are critical! The great thing about being over 50 is that I have some friends who have known me since I was in grade school. We have shared, laughed, cried and cared about each other through puberty, first loves, marriages, births, divorces, dating challenges of middle age, and menopause. Even newer friendships quickly deepen to feel like old friendships as we just get down and deep because we need each other! I discard friendships that bring me down. What is left are girl friends and even a few select guy friends that I can take out my heart and lay it on the table and they will love on it and at the end of the evening, I am full of gratitude and my challenges seem less troublesome.
Career ladder climbing, driving ambition, competition, selling, and forever setting goals for position or income seem to fade and are replaced with thoughts of how can I do something that matters and makes the world a better place. Some friends are finding their stride in their careers and reaching that magical place where they find professional fulfillment, and I cheer them on. But for me, I got off the traditional work treadmill and have no desire to get back on. Instead, I read and write more. I found a title I can sink my teeth into…I am a writer and author! I write for the pure joy of it and to create a legacy. And I am content.
Oh the body changes! Menopause can be trying or a relief. For me, it had its moments of despair, but overall, I feel good. I noticed my body shape change with more weight on my belly, hips and thighs. For a while I fought it. Then I discovered through a gynecological health scare that a change in diet could cause a change for the better in my body shape. It is still possible to be sexy in your 50’s! My boyfriend, bless his heart, tells me I am hot! My diet secret: drop the gluten and beef, chicken and pork. I am a pescatarian! I have dropped back down to my “perfect” weight and feel more energy and vitality than ever!
Since menopause and the waning of sex drive, I look at relationships differently. First I had to do some soul searching. Did I want to have a meaningful relationship again or was I okay with being single? The answer ended up to yes to both! At 51, I can take care of myself and am quite independent. However, I have love to give a man and room to receive his love. And darn it, I still like to hold hands and snuggle and kiss! So I am now happily in a relationship but still enjoy some single life perks. And sex, well I don’t engage in it lightly anymore. Like everything in midlife, it is more meaningful, sensual and deeper. The desire to connect through intimacy is a gift and I treat it with respect. And with every midlife person, releasing baggage of past relationships is a worthy pursuit. I like how A Course in Miracles sums it up, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
As I traverse midlife, I embrace the quote by M. Chadbourne, “Maturity is a process of subtraction, not addition.” Downsizing, decluttering and simplifying are absolutely key to my sanity. Less is more! The book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston has had more impact on my midlife than almost any other book! I have read it twice now and each time I gain more value from it. Gone are the days of accumulating more stuff. I only keep what I absolutely love and use! I find clutter everywhere, but I systematically thin it out or remove it. It hides in closets, boxes, and computer files. Most of it no longer serves me. Keeping what really matters and discarding the rest is exhilarating. I feel more peaceful and calm anytime I clear clutter. This simple clutter clearing practice or a glass of wine with a girl friend is the best and most cost effective therapy for me.
To wind to a close of the best views of midlife, I have reconnected with my bucket list. If you don’t have a bucket list or it is abstract in your mind, there is no time like the present to create one. What place do you want to see in the world? It may be a few states away or in another county, but actually making the decision to go there is a life changer. Maybe you want to learn to play a musical instrument or take an art or dance class. The excuses that postponed your actualizing this goal or dream are ready to dissolve. You have come to the time where it is now or never. Live a no regrets life.
I am thrilled with my new desire to become a really good county western dancer, and fortuitously, my boyfriend is happy to practice with me! I have several trips planned in the coming months. Embracing the now and living my dreams provides a great view. I can see more clearly where I have been and where I want to go. I am happy with midlife when I live it fully. I would not trade my age to be younger. The wisdom I have from living over a half century is priceless and makes each day rich. I am filled with gratitude to be a mid-lifer and my motto is that this year will be my best year yet! May you also enjoy the view with all your experience and your wisdom. Cheers to whatever midlife age and stage you find yourself. May you open the midlife treasure box and find unexpected delights!