Sometime in your mid-40's you may start to get a whiff of fall changes coming. You can smell those tomatoes ripening on the vine....it's not mid-summer anymore. You might not be looking forward to this kind of ripening, even though it may turn out to be the best time of your life.
Every season has it's challenges and discoveries, but somehow, for a lot of women turning fifty is a big one. It may be the fear of growing older, wrinkles, gray hairs and pudgy love handles. It may be fear of losing your shiny fertility, mourning (or celebrating) the closing of the baby factory. It may be facing a knee or hip replacement, or even your own mortality, or the grave illness of your parents.
But the joys of turning fifty, for me, far outweigh the slight inconvenience of any changed facial features and hair colour, or having to deal with new creams, hair dyes and oh yeah, more Zumba. The calm acceptance and internal joy didn't come right away though - at first it was all topsy turvy emotions, upside down confusion and a lot of questions.
Being a work at home mom, the big question was what to do now that the fledglings had pushed off out of the nest into university. They didn't need me hovering, there was no more school to volunteer at, and I felt distinctively un-useful, unneeded, but also free! After a few small pangs of grief at letting go, I realized the upside: no more cranky voices calling Mom! down the hallway when they couldn't find their cell phone or their favourite pair of socks. No more laundry baskets overflowing in the hallway. I could buy eggplant and cook my favourite spicey meals!
But what would I do with my new found time? and what did I want to do?
This is where my journal came in handy. I asked myself a lot of questions on my Quest. And, being a perpetual learner, I also took courses, went on weekends away on retreat or to workshops, sniffing out that ever elusive Purpose to my Life. I had already gone back to school in my 30's, and gotten two degrees over ten years, so that was not the object of my search. It took a few years of trial and error, but I ended up back where I had started - teaching writing classes to women,but with some new tools to add to my journaling classes, (SoulCollage(R) so that it morphed into a more Creative Circle. I also wrote a book on the mid-life transition and menopause and incorporated those learnings into my classes as well. (The Tao of Turning Fifty).
Above all, though, my biggest realization was how important self-care, down time and rest and napping were to keep me sane and balanced. And somehow, my own need of self-nurturing, self-kindness and compassion has lead me to help other women nurture themselves and put themselves on the list. Developing an inner coach and realizing how loud my inner critic were was a big part of that.
So the mid-life journey has been a circular one, not linear, not outer goal oriented, but more inner goal oriented. I asked myself, What do I need to make me happy? How can I use my skills and talents to give something back? What do I love to do? What will make me feel fulfilled and aligned with my purpose? With over half my life gone by, and many accomplishments (including two beautiful, healthy children, by some grace), turning fifty was a good time to re-evaluate, re-assess, look into my deepest heart's longing and allow it to surface. This involved getting some help to re-imagine myself as a retreat leader, doing what I love to do - with a focus on yoga, meditation, visualization and more time swimming in that centered core place that feels so nourishing.
Entering one's fifties is high time for becoming a little more mature - and the ripeness I'm feeling is that connection to my inner knowing. A little more confidence in following my intuition, a lot more of being sure of what I want, what I am willing to do, the kind of people I want to be around. Last night my husband was talking about his own future - at what age he would like to retire, how much of a nest egg we will need, and then he added, what I want is to be around people with Heart!
I had to laugh, because both of us are nearing age 60 now, and after 30 years of marriage, at least we can agree on this - no more wasting time on cocktails, business meetings, fundraisers, parties and events where there is no Heart. And that's what the ripeness of my own knowing has brought me. Knowing what I love to do, and who I love to be with.
Happy Mid-Life Journey to you,