Guest Author - Kathie LoMonaco
Contrary to what a lot of people might think, going through the mixed bag of Midlife (defined as "a sense of urgency, along with intense emotion and perplexity") (lessons4living.com), is a very real issue for more people than you might think. There have been hundreds, if not thousands of books, written on the subject. Some authors have written that it is a 'natural process'. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung believed that 'Midlife Crisis' occurs between the ages of 35 and 40.
My personal feeling is that after you have crammed in forty or fifty years of living, something is bound to back up on you, so to speak. That is a lot of living - half a century!
Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?
When an organic reason for a Midlife Crisis could not be found in our parents' generation, more often than not they would have been told their symptoms had no basis in fact - or, in other words it's 'all in your mind'. So, when there is no physical or psychological evidence to be found, even though we are probably supposed to find relief in the fact that tests have confirmed there is nothing that shows illness - knowing that fact rarely alleviates the discomfort within us - maybe within our souls. So, therefore, I guess you could say it affects the spirit - or maybe, the spirit has awakened with a hunger that has never been satisfied.
All in Our Mind?
No, I'm not an expert on the subject; You or I may not have sheepskins with a Phd or an MD after our name, but the fact still remains that where there is smoke, there is usually fire; and, that fire may just be that Midlife has finally caught up with us - it could be hormonal; it could be baggage that has been festering with you for many years. Whatever it is, no one can tell you how you're feeling or that what you are feeling is not real - it's very real for you.
According to one study, "random events can drastically alter our lives and have effects that last varying lengths of time." "Midlife does seem to be a time when we take a long look at our lives....." (Penn State, College of Agricultural Sciencies research paper).
My personal point of view and what I feel it boils down to is that if someone gave up their dream earlier in life to say, have children or maybe help their husband through school, and they never fulfilled their own desires, this could pave the way for that particular person to re-evaluate their lives later on down the road - and, a 'random' event might be the catalyst that has them re-think their priorities at a certain point and may just be their turning point or 'wake up call' if you will, to take a different path in life.
It could be the 'empty nester' who finds they now have a lot more time on their hands with the children grown and out living their own lives. Opportunity knocks. Or, it could be a less than positive experience if the catalyst was say, a divorce, and you have been forced to re-prioritize your life due to sudden changes financially as well as emotionally. Change is inevitable - but it is also the unexpected or the not knowing - if and when - your life might suddenly get impacted - that gives rise to anxiety and fearfulness that contributes to our stress when trying to handle whatever we have been juggling on our individual plates.
A Catalyst for Change
To some degree we all have our own radar when we feel something is amiss. But, when there is a devastating scenario such as the death of a loved one - there is the sudden impact of unforeseen changes that happen in the blink of an eye that no one is really prepared for; you might be prepared financially if you are fortunate, but that doesn't allay the emotional and mental stress and strain that you will have to deal with as your life begins to change in a heartbeat.
Some individuals are equipped to tackle problems head on - others are more sensitive in nature and it will be an even tougher row for them. As well, if there is no partner to share problems with, there is, therefore, no buffer to shelter the individual from all the confusion, grief and stress simply because of having to weather major upheavals alone, with no one to bounce things off of - for a second opinion - or, just for the moral support that a person needs at such trying times in their life. If you've been a single parent for all or most of your life, you know what I'm talking about.
Knowledge is Power
I have found comfort in any and all books that I can get my hands on pertaining to whatever the particular subject is that I'm dealing with - reading as much as I can about it. My personal motto is - Knowledge is Power - and it is such a true statement. Think about it. When you have the knowledge, it can unlock your mind's door. It gives you fresh insight - it can clarify things for you.
I also have a couple of lifelong friends that pinch hit as my personal therapists. They certainly have been my towers of strength. I couldn't have survived with my sanity intact without them.
Reflection - Personal growth
Many times Midlife is a time of reflection - we pause and think about our lives - whether it is about missed opportunities or just the fact that we may start to realize our own mortality and the fact that we don't have another fifty years of life to live; the time for putting things off is over. The time is now. It's our final wake-up call - a reality check, if you will.
On the website, www.lessons4living.com -- under the topic, 'Midlife Metamorphosis', it asks the question: "which image is helpful for the Midlife Crisis?" images such as Midlife Quest, Midlife Metamorphosis, Midlife Rennaissance and Midlife Crisis are mentioned. The site states that this stage of life is called a 'Dangerous Opportunity'. The site also features maps as 'general orientation' to Midlife.
A New Beginning
Midlife can be a new beginning for us if we keep our minds and our hearts open to opportunities and change. You're familiar with the expression - 'no pain, no gain'? In other words, if you don't take a risk, a chance, you will never experience the joy that such a leap of faith might bring you - and the knowledge, satisfaction and self-fulfillment that goes along with it.
As Anthony Hopkins says to his birthday audience of well-wishers in the movie, 'Meet Joe Black', (my absolute favorite movie of all time) -- on the eve of the Angel of Death taking him, "...my one-candle wish for you is that you have a life as full as mine - where you wake up in the morning and say... 'I don't need anything more' ...65 Years!... don't they go by in a blink!?!"...