Birthdays have a funny way of sending us into a period of life-reflection. This just recently happened to me, as I am APPARENTLY at the end of the “midlife” spectrum by definition. (cue eye roll)
I must say, I bristled at this definition. I feel like I didn’t even have my life figured out until I was in my 40’s. Don’t they now say, “50 is the new 30?” Age is really a state of mind, in my opinion. I’ve seen plenty of 20-somethings who think and act like old people.
But there are seasons and cycles in life, generally coinciding with age. For example, in our 20’s we tend to be focused on self, establishing our independence and discovering who we truly are.
In our 30’s we tend to start families, settle down, and due to a bit more life experience, are able to roll with the punches of life a little easier. The 30’s are definitely a character-building season.
As we near our 40’s, we may start to think about our lifelong dreams and goals. The reality of potentially more time behind us than in front of us, becomes more REAL.
As women, we spend much of midlife caring for everyone else, while we are at our most tired.
Compound it with the fact that our midlife fears are well-founded. We may, in fact, die alone. Our marriages may never improve. Our prodigal children may never return home. We may never save enough money to make the retirement calculators stop screaming. We may never do a fraction of what we thought we would do in our career.
So much of what weighs on us is beyond our control. We may have the knowledge that God is in charge, but in our hearts we think He needs our help. I am confident this comes from a place of love. We want the best for those we love and when they exercise free will that doesn’t align with our perfect blueprint, we feel intense disappointment. Even to the level of grief, at times. The truth is, the only thing we can truly control is how we choose to react.
To survive the disappointment of midlife, you must reframe your perspective.
As we enter the “third season,” we tend to see change as a loss, and therefore perceive it as painful and bad. We recall the “ideal” life of our dreams and feel “loss.” The emotional experience of change, transition and the impermanence of life weighs on our menopausal mind. We wrestle with “holding on” to our relationships, children, and memories of the past, while faced with the fact that our life is not what we thought it would be.
It’s challenging to see the “upside” of this seasonal change. For example, we mourn the days of our kids being little, and we don’t see the new opportunity and blessing of having an adult relationship with them.
The key is to allow yourself to experience the reality of your current emotions without judgement, and at the same time, focus on the blessings and gratitude of what is now.
Here’s an exercise that can help you gain an empowering perspective of life in the “third season.”
Imagine your ideal life 10 years in the future. Everything in your life is 10 years older; you, your spouse, your children, everything is 10 years future.
- What is your 10 years future self like? What matters most to her?
- What does she LOVE
- Who is she surrounded by?
- How does she prioritize her energy and time?
- What decisions did she make 10 years ago (today) that led to her joy and fulfillment?
- What lifestyle changes did she commit to 10 years ago?
- What would she tell you to focus on if you were to sit down with her today?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
Don’t let the past expectations of life steal the joy of your tomorrow. What has He called you to? How can you honor Him right now?
As followers of Christ, we are not promised anything other than eternal life and the power of His Spirit. We are not guaranteed children who will not stray, spouses who will not fall ill, careers that will earn us independent wealth.
The only thing we truly have control of, is how we choose to react to all that life brings us. Release the past and reframe what is today. Keep your focus on the creator and author of life, and your heart will follow.