Authenticity: Confronting the hard work of being present in your own life

How refreshing to be surrounded by women at all stages of personal development like I was the other night! It reassured me once more that the soul surgery I have done on myself, which then led to the creation of my various books on midlife transformation, was truly not in vain.

Here’s an example of that writing from my book: Find Your Reason to be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife

pupa tp butterfly life changing

Often we need to feel our deepest pain before we are willing to risk the painful process of growing up. Breakdowns can empower us to grow into our highest self.    A few years ago I presented a talk to a group of unemployed people in their middle years. When I was finished, the first person to raise her hand asked me, “Do you believe we have to hit bottom in our lives before we truly begin to change?” My answer at the time was, “I did.” 

The fact is that most of us will not begin to change until we become uncomfortable enough to admit defeat. Most of us need to be absolutely convinced that the “plan” we’ve had for life is simply not working. The way this usually comes about is through major life changes that demand our complete attention. Divorce, serious illness, the death of a loved one, and long-term unemployment, especially in our 40s and 50s, seem to be the most common events that lead to the end of our naïve belief that we have control over everything that happens in our lives. And these events become ever more common as we age. These unforeseen and often unforeseeable occurrences can inform us in no uncertain terms that changes in our plan are now in order.

Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.

We may first try to defend against the onset of pain and confusion by denying or ignoring this sudden lack of certainty or security in our lives. We may seek to escape into bad relationships, drug addiction, religious faith, or even artificially extreme feelings of independence, as we defend against our need to include others in our lives.

Eventually we may discover that, even though it seems completely counter-intuitive at this tough spot in life, accepting and embracing the chaos and uncertainty we feel surrounded by is our first, best step towards peace. Stop, sit down quietly, and begin to feel the enormity of this apparent crisis, which may also be one of the most important opportunities of your adult life. Can you trust in the power of your own psyche to survive this crisis and in that way heal itself?

caterpillar butterfly quote

Know that this is the beginning of your own personal rite of passage into older adulthood. This is the natural, normal stage of human development studied by psychologists since Carl Jung, when he experienced it himself. Recognize that you are not the first to feel chaos and uncertainty in your middle years. You are in a well-documented transition period of personal change, growth, and human evolution. And the best way to move through this life stage smoothly is to embrace the new information and knowledge you will be given.

By allowing this in, you have the ability to access the unique instruction this moment has for you. Instead of attempting to run from it, embrace the uncertainty. Begin to believe this moment is giving you access to your own unique brand of power, one you may have never known or acknowledged before. Begin to see that you alone know, somewhere inside, what needs to happen next. Spend the time necessary to listen to the small, still voice within, the one you may have been ignoring for decades. Recognize this voice—perhaps for the first time—as your inner guide, brimming with accumulated information and wisdom. This source knows where you need to go next. It will instruct you in how you must change, grow, and evolve into your best self in this moment. The sooner you begin to believe in its power and trust this valuable inner resource, the sooner you will follow its instructions and find more structure, certainty, and peace in your life.

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Gratitude, Pure and Simple!

As I prepare to pen this final post of the year 2018, I would have to say my heart is filled with gratitude. My life has been blessed with a wonderful family who all still live. My Dad, at almost 90, is as healthy as I might hope for, and my Mom, although she struggles everyday for clarity, is as generous and loving as ever.

My brother who lives in the woods in a lean-to, loves his life at age 65. He knows exactly what it means to live “wild and free.” Talks with him always remind me of Henry David Thoreau. He shares his own version of genius with the rest of us.

My sister is an international star in the field of long-term care, who else to manage my parents’ many health concerns? Diane knows what she’s talking about when it comes to end-of-life issues. She teaches us all what she knows.

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

And finally, as I look out over our majestic fields of snow, I love where I live with my favorite people and pets. The sun struggles to come out and warm our passive solar home today, reminding me everyday how dependent we are on its power and warmth.

every day is the best day of the year

I am forced to ask everyday: How did I ever get so lucky? 

An abundance of LOVE is felt…

How writing can reveal your true Self to yourself

Late in 2007, I decided to start my first blog. This was an experiment for me, a way to see if I wrote about my true feelings as a 52 year-old female American, others might come and find ways to relate.    I admit. I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was doing, but I still love my byline:

midlife crisis queen original header

Looking back I would say this experiment worked. Within a year or so I had thousands of followers, and eventually well over 500,000 were following the Midlife Crisis Queen. A number of books followed.

The point of all of this was for the benefit of others. I hoped to encourage those who felt lost in the debilitating fear and doubt that midlife can create, and to show how normal these feelings were. I thought perhaps by showing how I had overcome enough confusion and doubt to move forward into a new writing career, I could give others hope. This was in the midst of alarming suicide rates among our 50+ population, which still continue. I wanted to show how my own difficulties eventually led to new enjoyment of life itself for me, after suffering a devastating midlife crisis in my late 40s.

This quote from RuPaul describes my feelings well at this life juncture:

“I was always looking for some way to fit onto this planet…To be open enough to hear the Universe’s stage directions.”

Finally, at age 63, I feel like I have “heard the Universe’s stage direction.” I am pleased to announce, for the first time in my life I see myself as a visible positive spirit in the lives of others, and in my own life. My writing career has played an integral role in this transformation.

There is something about writing, especially for an audience, that causes the writer to finally see and hear themselves in new ways. I kept a journal for decades before my midlife crisis caused me to begin sharing my thoughts and feelings with others, but it was only through writing and relating to others that I discovered my deeper Self, the Self that finally wanted to be seen and acknowledged.

Almost everyone gets into published writing to reach others, and yet the real rewards come from truly hearing yourself for the first time.

Sometimes when I read something I wrote years ago I see the person who always felt inadequate or like she might never fit into this world, one who did not want to be seen by others. For example, these days when I communicate with some I went to high school with, they invariable don’t remember me. That was my unconscious goal back then. I did not know how to appreciate my unique qualities, let alone share them with others. I literally did not feel comfortable being myself.

“The hardest battle you will face in life is to be no one but yourself, in a world which is trying its hardest to make you like everybody else.”  — From a high school graduation announcement

Today I regret that it has taken me this long to become my true Self and appreciate my best qualities. Why did this take me so long? But then I see that most of the human race historically had no chance of discovering their true Self or valuing this amazing resource. Most just did what they were told and then died.

transforming self

I so clearly see now that I am not the person my parents tried to make me, or all those rotten bosses I had through the years. I am uniquely myself today and that feels like an amazing accomplishment.

If this topic interests you, perhaps you might enjoy my exploration of what midlife means to human beings on this planet today:

Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife.

Please contact me at MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com to purchase copies of any of my books. E-book and some paperback versions are available through Amazon, but I would rather deal with my readers directly 🙂

 

Life without ready access to the Internet

Spring Fire evacuation June 30th 2018

How long has it been since you didn’t access the Internet everyday? Since we experienced a wildfire in the mountains west of us and were evacuated around the end of June, we have had no access at home. That’s about a month now!

At first, after the fire fear was over, it really bothered me that I couldn’t jump online at any time and check everything. Habits die hard. But now, a month later, I am missing it less and less.

garden scene outside my bedroom door

I have to drive into town to use my friend’s laptop a couple times a week, and the rest of the time I simply forget about it. Yes, it is possible in this day and age to space out the Internet. Instead I focus more on my garden, exercising and on my life in general. It has helped to bring me out of my post-fire slump and return to my daily goals.

So why don’t we have the Internet yet? Because the local company we prefer, lost a key pole up in the mountains west of us, and they can’t even get in there to fix it yet. The area was destroyed by fire, in some cases the soil was even sterilized and the roads impassable. Providers are limited out here and we don’t like our other options, so we’re going without.

It has been an interesting experiment for me and I’m beginning to see the benefits of never having the Net to turn to when bored or uncertain what to do next…

This seems to bring the focus back to me and what I need right now!

Wildfire and trauma

I have been a student of the psychological affects of trauma ever since I performed my counseling internship at a rehab hospital in 1994. There I had the opportunity to treat those who had lost limbs in accidents, suffered devastating strokes, and life-changing sepsis. But it is somehow quite different to experience your own life-changing emergency. How has this experience changed me?

Spring Fire evacuation June 30th 2018

Last picture taken before leaving our home behind on June 30th 2018

First of all, I will never forget that one last look at our brand new home as we drove away possibly for the last time. As smoke billowed above our home and ash started falling down on us, we left with two cars full of a crazy mix of things plus a cat and a dog, not even knowing where we were going.

We were so lucky that a dear friend in La Veta took us in and La Veta did not have to be evacuated. I now call our week in La Veta our emergency slumber party, because Cheryle made it as fun for us as she could.

By Tuesday I was totally stressed watching the mountains west of our home burn. I could only reassure myself that the firefighters would hold the line at County Road 520, which they ultimately did.

The next memorable moment was the evening of the 4th of July when it finally cooled down a little in La Veta and even rained a tiny bit. It felt so good out on the back porch doing our own version of a rain dance, as the TV rang out with patriotic music and fireworks.

But the real fire stopper was the gigantic rain we had up at Cuchara and here in La Veta on the evening of July 5th.  I have now learned from firefighters that that extra inch of rain saved both Pinehaven and Cuchara. Mother Nature comes through BIG TIME and saves the day!

In retrospect, I suffered some trauma. I will have dreams in the future about losing everything so soon after building it to perfection. There are many among us who have lost so much.

Please do not minimize or belittle the suffering of those in our community no matter what they have experienced. One thing I know about trauma, it so often brings up previous losses in extremely unpredictable ways. Respect the feelings of everyone you meet. If they are suffering, it is real for them.

Why are there so many midlife suicides?

As an well-informed boomer and specialist in midlife psychology, I have been trying to draw attention by writing about and publishing pieces on the ALARMING increase in depression and suicide among Boomers, especially among women going through menopause,  since 2008.

DEATH NEED NOT BE AN OUTCOME OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN OUR WORLD TODAY! WE CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS…

In 2013,  when my cousin killed himself and my brother John disappeared after descending into a profound, private despair, I dedicated my book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife, to themas I continued to seek a deeper understanding of the reasons why midlife suicides keep rising. Here’s an excerpt from one of those pieces from the Huffington Post, April 2013:

Why is Boomer Suicide on the Rise?

There have been a number of studies on boomer suicide that seek to explain why we continue to kill ourselves at an ever-increasing rate. Some say it is the period effect,” blaming the historical and cultural experiences we share as a generation. The “cohort effect“ theorizes that being born into the largest age cohort in American history created unbearable competition for limited resources, including jobs.

Then there are the facts: Boomers share higher depression and substance abuse rates than any previous American generation. Could it be that we did not face the kind of adversity growing up that creates successful coping skills? Were we raised to be too optimistic, and now find we cannot deal with how it all turned out?

Beyond all of the mythology around boomers, the fact is we now face extreme wage inequality, and the highest level of poverty since the generation born before World War I. We also face ever-increasing personal debt. In 1965, the ratio of household debt to income was 60%. In 2012, that ratio had risen to 163%.

We may have been born at the high point of American optimism, but that has vanished…

Some say Boomers have been witnesses to the death of the American dream. Most of us grew up with high expectations for our lives, but now, as we reassess where we’ve been and where we hope to go, we must admit, this is as good as it gets. We will never be richer or younger than we are right now.

I only know that I tire of so much misinformation about boomers and their lives. I have had enough personal experience with midlife depression to now feel determined to do what I can to alleviate some of the suffering, and this terrible waste of human potential.

Globally, about a million people kill themselves each year, the single largest cause of violent death. It remains mysterious and debilitating for those who surround every suicide and ask the question: What made him/her do it?

Laura small for blogThrough my research, I have learned just how normal and natural it is to feel depressed and disillusioned in our 40s and 50s as we discover that our lives may not turn out as previously planned. What is the best way to cope with these feelings of hopelessness? I share what I have learned in my ten years of research, and what has worked for me, in my books about boomer psychology, midlife despair and how to change your midlife for the better.

Please follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/midlifequeen
Laura Lee Carter, Midlife researcher, author, psychotherapist

Divorce: The Loss of the Dream

I received so many heart-felt responses to my recent post about the many reasons and ways that we grieve. One really hit home. Writer and member of Women of Midlife, Carla Birnberg, told how the grief from divorce “hits me in waves at odd times and often in public places.” This brought back memories of how I struggled with my own divorce in the early 2000s, so I decided to share this essay:

Divorce: The Loss of the Dream:

Sad to say, I find myself to be a bit of an expert on divorce.  It certainly wasn’t my intention to know so much about it, but there it is.  The first thing I learned from my own experience and talking with hundreds of others is that divorce is always traumatic. 

divorce1When my husband of six years and I decided to call it quits back in the year 2000, we went about it in the most civilized and ‘adult’ way.  We both agreed that we were making each other miserable, we had tried various counselors, and we were simply too different in our goals and interests to stay together.  In other words, it was a purely rational decision. Unfortunately, my emotions didn’t agree.  While it seemed easy for my soon-to-be-ex to cruise through this difficult time in our lives, I was crushed and temporarily emotionally disabled.  I felt like the biggest failure in the history of womankind and his apparent inability to feel anything, just made things worse.

I quickly launched into a mid-life crisis of astronomical proportions, asking myself all the tough questions.  Why can’t I ‘do’ marriage?  What is it about me that makes me unable to be with others emotionally?  Do I have to live alone forever?  Why doesn’t love last?

As luck would have it, I lost my job just two years after the separation and divorce, intensifying the depth and drama of my ongoing mid-life crisis. Then I began to ask myself even more difficult questions like: What am I doing here? Will I ever find meaning in my life? How do I want the rest of my life to be different? I felt a strong need to understand the first half of my life, so as to make the second half better.

I got so wrapped up in this quest, I decided to start my own dating service to explore the simple question, “Do I still believe in love?” while helping other recent divorcees with their own explorations. Although it wasn’t a conscious choice at the time, it turned out to be the best therapy for understanding my own feelings about love and rejection.

Lessons learned from divorce

love in ChineseFirst of all I learned that I most certainly was not alone in my disillusionment with love.  There are millions of us who don’t know how we feel about love and relationships.  Interviewing scores of disillusioned divorcees showed me that we all have a lot to learn. 

It became clear to me that we can learn a lot more about a person by divorcing them, than we could ever learn by staying married to them.  When we are married, we are always “playing nice” to some extent. We still have a lot invested in the relationship and its future. When divorce becomes real, and it takes varying amounts of time for each of us to register this disturbing reality, the gloves come off and we become more honest with our soon-to-be-ex.

There is no more relationship to protect so we naturally begin protecting ourselves and our own interests. In short, we say what we’ve been thinking all along!  

How to Believe in Love Again! blog sizeA singles workshop I offered to my dating clients provided a moment of awakening and clarity for me. We were involved in a discussion about the distance between the simple rational reality of divorce, the total ambivalence we may feel towards our ex, and yet the contradictory deep emotional emptiness that can ensue after it all sinks in. A short, elderly gentleman who looked a bit like Sigmund Freud and spoke with a heavy German accent stood up and said, “Divorce is not about the loss of a relationship, it’s about the loss of the dream.” Truer words were never spoken.  I had not only lost a significant human connection in my life, but, more importantly, I had lost all faith in love and the beauty it can bring to an otherwise difficult existence.

For what is life, if we fear that we will never feel true love again?

I knew then that I had to get busy and turn my heart around. I needed to find a way to believe in love again. In my case, this wasn’t an easy assignment, but I took all the necessary steps and love did return, so much better than I could ever have imagined!

This essay appears in my first book “Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside.” Please let me know if you would like to purchase this or any of my books direct from me for a great price!   MidlifeCrisisQueen@ gmail.com