Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Mid-Life Transition

Questions and more questions - where I am going? what do I love? what do I want to be when I grow up?

The mid-forties until mid-fifties is a time of questing and transition.  Lots of my friends are in this age-group, and are finding themselves dealing with questions and uncertainty.  Menopause is not all about the hot flashes, ladies.  The greatest longing women have at mid-life is to get to know themselves, their desires, their passions, and what the heck to do with the rest of their lives now that their families are demanding less of them, or the job they've devoted their life to developing expertise in loses its appeal.

It's a weird time - I remember grieving the lack of affection and connection with my teen-agers, especially my daughter who was so closely bonded to me up to age 13.  I certainly wanted them to be more independent and grown up so I could have more time for my interests, but when they showed signs of needing me less, it made me feel anxious and at a loss. Going through menopause while they went through puberty was not easy either - lots of flashing hormones and moodiness galore. It's difficult to keep calm, not follow their mood swings, in the midst of your own peaks and valleys.

Sometimes it feels like everything conspires against us - our bodies no longer feel under our control - weight gains or losses, shifts of body fat and shape, night sweats and the rest of it.  Digestion changes, and food intolerances surface. It feels like work-life balance is harder to achieve - more is being asked of us, and managing our time becomes a challenge.  It's difficult to even put ourselves on the agenda, get to the basic self-care and rest that we need to feel sane.

Women at mid-life often feel the need to get away, to be alone with themselves, to reflect and become more aware of their own center.  Where am I in my life? What do I want to do next? are frequent questions.  I find that journalling about this, and doing exercises designed to help me discover what I love, has been the greatest help.  Plus talking with the women in my women's circle - having someone just listen while I speak my own truth, however confused I may seem to be, just by speaking it, I come closer to knowing what I want, who I am at the core of me.

I remember around age 48 to 51 (when I hit menopause officially) being the toughest years.  I had been at home full time with my kids, volunteering at their school, trying to get published, doing readings and teaching a few classes.  I was searching around to find out where next to invest my time and energy - which project was calling me. It took a few years of taking courses, going on retreats, and lots of journalling, to finally come up with an answer that felt comfortable - I didn't want to go back to school yet again (having done that in my 30's).  I just wanted to find a focus that would merge my heart's desire and a way to work with my talents and skills. Teaching journal writing for women and leading retreats is what I discovered, and it has been such a pleasure - I get to explore my own interests and share them with other women.  The feedback I get is that it's eye-opening and life changing, and that's gratifying for me.

My feeling is that, although it's hard to stay with the questions and uncertainty, one has to develop patience to ride it out - to just be there in the turbulent waters - trying to ground and center - but not pushing the questions away.  Try to love the questions, as Rilke puts it:

“Be patient with all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” 
- Rainer Maria Rilke

In the questing, in the search for center, slowly slowly come the answers.  Know that this is a temporary time, the transition time, The Change, helps.  You will recover your sense of balance.  You will come through the hormonal storm feeling more whole, more yourself.  Piece by piece, bits of you will become clear - as the extraneous things that don't matter peel away, the real depths of your personality and psyche will show through.  You will discover what you want, what you've always wanted.  You will know yourself, and be true to yourself above all things.

Give yourself the time needed to drift a little while, to be in the hallway between two doors - one hand on the future door handle, one hand on the past - not knowing what the next step is, but trusting that the universe will unfold as it should, and above all, be gentle with yourself in the unfolding -

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


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