Lately I have been observing how generational our belief systems can be. For example, as a middle boomer, born in 1955, most of my life I have taken a narrow view of what a good work ethic looks like. Most of us were raised to believe that being busy each day and having something to show for your efforts, especially MONEY, is a job well-done.
That is exactly how I approached my new writing career back in 2005, when I began freelancing. How much I made each year was my measure of success, and I fought very hard to make some bucks. But in the long run, this way of thinking wore me out. As I learned more about the history and importance of this marvelous time called “midlife,” I wanted to teach others how life changing it can be. What I was learning was more important than money, it was life saving for some who struggle with self-respect and self-doubt as they age.
This is what I learned from changing my perspective on the ways we choose to spend our time as we age:
Midlife and especially retirement is your time to learn something just because you have always wanted to. It’s time to follow your fantasies and dreams for once in your life, while releasing expectations and, of course, guilt.
Be grateful each day that you now have the time and money to do something completely different! How many individuals in the history of mankind have had this privilege? Very few. Most previous generations didn’t live past 60!
After taking my writer fantasy for a spin for ten years, we decided it was time for my husband Mike to experiment with one of his childhood fantasies. He had always wanted to construct a passive solar home positioned just right for fantastic views of the mountains. In the process of planning this new adventure, I found a great cartoon in New Yorker Magazine that shows a man visiting a guru at the top of the Himalayas.
The guru’s punch line? “The meaning of life is having a spectacular view.”
After we created our new passive solar home, I was then able to construct another lifetime fantasy of mine, a foothills garden full of xeric plants that love this high, dry landscape as much as we do. As I wrote this, we got our first snow fall! Yippee!
Because of what I have learned about midlife and the amazing experiences we have had in the past 15 years, I can highly recommend that you ask yourself today:
What perhaps irresponsible, but joyful dream or activity have you been fantasizing about forever? Time’s a wasting! Do it TODAY!
Life is too short to wait!
What does following what may seem to some like one crazy dream feel like?
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:
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.
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:
I had an interesting exchange this week with The HerStory Project, a website requesting pitches from women who are experiencing “the realities of getting older” and offering support to Gen X women in midlife. They also requested informational pieces so I offered to write a piece about what midlife is, why it is particularly important to us today, and its psychological impact and implications. I thought they would benefit from the older perspective, a scholar and therapist who has done extensive research on this topic. They weren’t interested… What could this older woman know about midlife mayhem and personal change? My response: Learn from those who have gone before you!
Here’s a piece I wrote four years ago on this topic, in the midst of remodeling our suburban home in preparation for our move south to build passive solar.
I have had three conversations in the past three days with midlife women who are remodeling their homes, and that includes me! What is it about menopause and remodeling? I, of course, have my own theories on this…
Midlife means time to change, and what better place to begin than changing something in your immediate surroundings?
My divorce at age 49 stimulated all sorts of major changes for me, mostly because I had to move into a much smaller and older home. OK, let’s just call it dumpy. My saving grace after my divorce was slowly fixing up my home bit by bit as I could afford it. I started with small improvements like a new native plants garden, a solar tube for more natural lighting and carpeting…
and ended up turning a nasty old south-facing screened-in porch…
into a lovely new sun room. I added square footage to my home while also bringing down my heating bills… Such a deal!
More importantly, my new sun room was just the thing for improving my mental health. The whole experience made me feel happy, productive and creative, plus it showed me I had the power to build a much more positive future for myself. My new sun room made me say: “Look how you took an ugly space and turned it into a thing of beauty!”
BEAUTY IS THE GARDEN WHERE HOPE GROWS!
You could find me there every morning surrounded by my many blooming succulents with my sheltie dogs by my side, journaling and reading fun and empowering books about creativity and midlife change as I considered what was next for me.
That beautiful, quiet space became a source of great courage and creativity. It became the perfect place to plan my new life! I felt so safe and secure ensconced in that solid new room created especially for me, by me.
Ten years later I can see how important that physical change was to my overall perspective. I see now how the choices I made back then increased my confidence, while enhancing my power to change everything else in my life.
When was the last time you put some serious energy into contemplating your life goals? Not what needs to happen in the next year or two, but what needs to happen for you to feel satisfied in the long run.
After I lost my job and 25 year career back in 2004, I spent months contemplating my life up until then. After decades of work as an academic librarian, I was suddenly set free to consider every option. This was a wonderful gift, well disguised as misfortune.
My first book Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside is a summary of the feelings I went through at that time. Here I share my own story of transformation from divorced, unemployed and miserable, to my best life ever, explaining how midlife change, changes everything.
Yesterday I went through a list I made back then, a list of my new priorities after I stopped and considered my life at age 49. Here are a few things I wanted more of before I died: love, acceptance, appreciation, access to pure silence, to be surrounded with solar warmth, natural beauty, music, wildflowers, peace, contentment, relief from guilt and shame, and respect for my own integrity.
Such a wonderful feeling to know that I have somehow brought so many of these blessings into my life through my own stubbornness and courage. The way I describe this transition now, on the “About The Author” page of my new book:
“Her midlife crisis began with a divorce and then progressed to the loss of her library career, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful in her present life flowed from these difficult experiences.”
One thing I have learned from having more time to think and consider, is a far deeper awareness of my own levels of self-love and confidence.
The other day I was saying to Mike how surprised I am to find how mercurial my self-confidence can be. One moment I may feel so sure that I am on the right path, certain that I have everything working as I wish it to, and the next I fear I have become too arrogant and self-absorbed.
Going back and forth is exhausting. Feeling good about myself and my accomplishments is a healthy way to feel… I think. It certainly beats the way I used to feel, doubting almost everything about my Self and my life.
So why can’t I settle on that good feeling and accept it? Because of my fears of appearing arrogant, like I have all the answers. I don’t have “all the answers,” only the ones I need to have a great life for now.
I know everyone has challenging times, when the answers are not clear at all. I was in the midst of one such time two years ago when we first moved here. I wasn’t sure at all we had made the right decision. I did my best to accept our new place and believe in our future, but it wasn’t easy. I’m so glad I did.
Sometimes I think we keep busy partially because we don’t want to have too much time to consider how we feel about ourselves, our place in the world, or even the state of the world itself.
One thing is for sure. Unless I take the time to accept my life and feel good about myself, I will have nothing to give to others. None of us were sent here to save the world, but we can do what we can to make it a better place for everyone we meet.
Working to feel good about myself is my first step towards making those around me feel good about themselves.
I was singing along with that old Paul Simon song, “Can’t get used to something so right…” this morning, and realized sometimes I have that problem myself.
After over two years in the brand new world (for me) of rural southern Colorado, I would say I’m just beginning to settle in.
This adventure started back in mid-June of 2014, and I can assure you I wasn’t sure at all about this place. It all seemed so backward, slow and poor to me after living in Loveland and Fort Collins for years. People kept asking me why we moved here, and I wasn’t so sure myself. Luckily my husband is an “eyes-on-the prize” kind of man. He knew exactly why he was here!
My first year here was not good. Between feeling like a fish out of water myself, and the extremely challenging feat of building a custom solar home out in the foothills, my best description is STRESS CITY!
But once we moved out of Walsenburg and settled into our new home, life improved dramatically. After so much stress and our second move in a year, we spent weeks doing very little but enjoying our marvelous new environment…
OK, we spent most of our first winter here doing that!
One thing you need to know about this part of the country, things really do slow down here in the winter. I can remember days last winter when I went into La Veta, and it looked like a deserted ghost town.
In the spring things liven up quite a bit. The tourists start coming down here and clogging up Main Street in Walsenburg. This past spring I started taking a yoga class and walking around La Veta in the mornings. I also started making a few friends and feeling more like I belong here.
Just yesterday I realized how right this place feels to me now. I love living in the country, I have a wonderful husband and home, I have new friends who care, and I rarely have to deal with all the things I hated in the city.
Life is good and getting better. Mission accomplished!
Want to learn more about the experience of moving from the city to the country to live a quiet, relaxed life? Check it out here!
For ten years now, the tiny town of Gardner has hosted “Hippie Days.” What’s that? A two day meeting of the minds, or as the organizers like to call it: “A NO BAD VIBES Music Festival.”
For the past two years we haven’t been able to attend. Last year we were moving the end of July, but this year we finally made it!
Here’s the first, and one of the coolest things we saw! This 1961 VW van was on the way to the junk yard when these folks picked it up for $113. It was stripped down, but they now tow it around with a water bed in the back. How cool is that?
We saw lots of booths selling hippie things like tie-dye clothes, jewelry, glassware…
… and a FREE concert all day and all night! The whole thing is free,
even the camping in the back of the venue.
This, of course, made me start thinking, my own personal addiction. How come I’ve never related to hippies? First of all I was born a little late for the whole hippie movement, and second I’ve always been too serious and scholarly for that lifestyle.
But I did LOVE that purple van with its COOL shiny crystal balls!
How did I end up here, feeling so fortunate?
I’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado. After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:
Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books! Cheers, Laura Lee (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)
Postscript, June 2018: There was no Hippie Days last summer. New word: Hippie Days will be held on July 27th and 28th in Gardner this summer!