Watching the news these days fills me with sadness. I feel like the witness to the worst misfortunes that have befallen this country in my lifetime. Job loss, poverty, hunger, terrible health losses and death, not to mention the worst economy perhaps ever. This is truly a terrible crisis for everyone involved. I do feel badly for those who feel no hope as this year comes to a close. Those of us who now live on Social Security and Medicare are so fortune that we have survived our own crises and lived this long.
When I look back over my own life, I remember when I lost a job, then ran out of unemployment checks, my fears of losing my home and the depression that ensued. This was not so many years ago for me. This was my life in 2004. I remember crying with the counselor at the state employment office, my desperation was that great. Since then I have lost my health to an unidentified problem with my lungs. Mike also almost lost his home when Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) dominated his life in his mid-30s. He had to move out and rent his home so he would not lose it. I would not wish these kinds of crises on anybody. Mike and I do know that hopeless, sinking feeling personally. That is why we give to charities for the hungry and homeless.
What I did when disaster struck was sit down and consider how I would now find a way to land on my feet and avoid future misfortunes. Mike and I feel we both learned a lot from our own crises, things like how to protect our assets, ask for help and find strength inside that we did not know we had. We also learned not to be critical when bad things happen to others. In other words, we learned compassion in place of harsh judgment. We never could have imagined that these crises would happen to us, but they did, so the first goal is to not be too critical of ourselves. We now know that compassion must begin at home and then expand outward to those around us. Judging those who suffer does nothing to help them problem solve. Although it may seem harsh, the Chinese were correct when they combined the characters “danger” and “opportunity” in their word for crisis.
What is this difficult situation teaching me? What opportunities are presented right now for me to benefit from?
If you live through the crisis, you must then struggle to find the opportunity that may be well-hidden in your terrible misfortune. In every crisis there is a message. This is nature’s way of forcing change into our lives. What old structures or ways of thinking need to be reviewed? What bad habits can go so that we can try something different and better? Sometimes life crises require some serious soul searching and surgery to cut out the worst assumptions we have made about ourselves. This can lead to psychological reframing of our problems.
For me, my midlife crisis (divorce, job loss, career loss) led to a brutal analysis of what I needed most in my life to make it worth living. I decided that love was my greatest need and highest priority, and I would need to make some major changes in my heart and mindset to make that happen. I would also need to learn to listen carefully to my intuition, the wisdom inside that had been accumulating for decades. Why had my culture taught me not to listen and believe in these messages? Once I started to listen to them, they came through even more clearly and I followed them. This process led me to a positive career change and love.
Eventually I would appreciate my crisis, because without it I would have never changed so much. Today I’m so glad I got divorced and lost my job. Only then was I ready to accept love and embrace a whole new way of living and loving. I heard the message of my crisis and saw the opportunity within it. Is it time for you to do the same?
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.
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?
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.
I just heard Jackie Speier, a Congresswoman from California, talk about surviving the horror of the Jonestown fact finding mission in November 1978, and how that formative moment changed her. She was an attorney on the staff of Congressman Leo Ryan at that time, investigating human rights abuses by Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple cult in Guyana, when she was shot five times by Jones’ followers. While she survived, over 900 members of the cult did not, victims of a mass murder-suicide. This caused me to explore further how my own crisis, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in May of 2008, helped me to crystallize what I needed to do with my own life going forward.
The first few months after my TBI I could barely think or write anything. Important connections had been broken in my brain. Only time would help repair them. I also had a severe rib injury which made it impossible for me to drive for months. Without any doubt this was a life-changing experience for me.
In 2006 I began a new career as a freelance writer, but my heart wasn’t in it. After my TBI I wrote up a story for the Seal Press, about my recent divorce, for their upcoming book: Ask Me About My Divorce. They said they would pay me for the piece, but it struck me for the first time, that all I really have are my own stories. Why sell them to someone else? I turned that story into a book full of humorous essays called: Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside!published in late 2008. Then I began doing some serious research into midlife change and the psychological history of this concept. I found that intensive research and writing helped to heal my brain.
That first book was the beginning of ten years of research to fully understand the importance of seizing onto midlife as a unique opportunity to catch up to who you are now. The result of this research was my 2011 book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife(2011). One interesting and unexpected outcome of my brain injury was that as my brain healed, it created a new decisiveness within me. I no longer doubted my strong feelings about what I believed in and who I would spend time with in my future. One result was the erasing of my ex-husband from my life. Ever since our divorce in 2001, I had allowed my ex-husband to continue to put me down verbally, because we shared custody of our dogs. In August of 2008 I told him to go away, permanently. I would take no more abuse from him ever again.
I also decided that I really wanted a new puppy to share my life with and got one for Christmas that year. All of these decisions came from a place of knowing that I would not be here forever, so I had better take matters into my own hands and get what I want NOW!
Now the only thing I feel strongly about as far as my writings go, is that more might benefit from what I have learned about the midlife change process. I would say to my older friends, please share with your children the wisdom I have gathered by suffering through so much midlife discovery and change. We don’t all need to re-invent the wheel over and over again. The wisdom is there. Why not read about it first, and then find your own wisdom within that process?
I would be happy to offer any of my books for $10 plus postage through Paypal, to you or to give as a gift to your midlife children.
To purchase copies please e-mail me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com