Entering Midlife: A Personal Post

Dear Readers: In the early days of this blog, I would share more frequently about my personal life, specifically around raising my children. As the blog evolved and my audience grew, I felt more private about sharing my day-to-day experiences, and also felt a need to protect my sons’ privacy. But now, as I’m entering midlife, I feel called to share a bit about what’s happening in my inner world. This is my next transition, and it’s a big one and a long one. When I turned 43, I felt like I had walked through a portal, much like I felt when I got married and became a mother. Something inside me was turning upside down, and, as always, I needed to write about it in order to make sense of it. 

Everything I’ve learned over the past two decades about transitions is buoying me as I walk through this time. Every tool I teach – how to work with my thoughts and feel my feelings, how to connect with a source bigger than myself – anchors me daily.  It’s not easy, and there have been times in the past couple of years when I have been brought to my knees in fear, but underneath the fear I held the greater context for what’s happening: that I’m being birthed into the next stage of life and groomed to evolve into my next identity as Elder/Wise Woman. It’s the context that settles me and the tools that guide me through. 

The same is true for you: when you learn how to navigate the earlier transitions, the later ones will unfold more gracefully. The principles and practices I teach here on my blog and more deeply in my courses are the ones you will rely upon when you enter the next transitions. So when people who are struggling with relationship anxiety ask me, “Why me? Why don’t other people have to struggle in this way?” I answer, “You’re one of the lucky ones. What you learn now will serve you for the rest of your life and will likely prevent things like postpartum depression and midlife crisis from happening. When you face the challenges early in life with consciousness, you will develop a wisdom that will carry you through in the later decades.” 

People talk about midlife crisis, but I’m not in crisis; I am body-and-soul-deep in opportunity. What I’m sharing below is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote last fall and offers a window into what was happening in my psyche at that time. Because midlife extends over many years, perhaps even a decade, the times of soul-shaking earthquake are spread out, which means that the world is turned upside down for a day or week or month and then everything is righted again. If you’re in the midlife transition, perhaps what I’ve shared below will help you navigate this interesting terrain. And if you’re not, you can apply much of what I’m sharing to whatever transition you’re in: engagement, motherhood, and, most especially, the transition of life itself. 

***

I’m standing at the beginning of a portal, a long, dark portal that will unfold me into the second half of life. I’ve been standing here for a couple of years now, trembling in the realm of uncertainty, the ground beneath my feet loosening and opening with each step.

Being in transition means acclimating to the fluctuating weather of psyche where one minute I’m under a dark cloud and the next the sun breaks through. My mind wants to attach meaning and stories to the breakthroughs of light so that I can cling onto them and, thus, replicate them; if I understand what causes light I can recreate the light. I need to walk outside every day. I need to sit at the creek every day. I need to meditate every day. These may all be true statements that could, indeed, bring more clarity and light, but they may not, and what I’m noticing now is how desperately my mind wants to find answers so that I can feel okay and find ground.

Standing at the portal of midlife means not feeling okay at times and not knowing why. It means tumbling and shaking and earthquaking into groundlessness, where the foundations of well-being are called into question. I don’t know becomes the dominant phrase that punctuates my soul-searching during these times. What is that symptom about? I don’t know. Why am I awake at the witching hour… again? I don’t know. I can chalk some of it up to hormones, but that’s not all of it. My soul is tumbling through a portal and while it searches for answers along the tunnel walls, clues to help me find my way, it finds none.

Being in midlife with children around means it’s taken me hours to write these sentences. It means balancing the longing of my soul for solitude with the reality that my children are here, and, since I had them in my 30s, they’re still at home. I imagine that midlife in other eras coincided with children leaving the nest, which perhaps brought its own aches and challenges. But now, with the childbearing years extended into one’s 30s and 40s, women reach the portal of midlife exactly when their children hit adolescence. It’s a cocktail of hormones and a recipe for challenge.

If midlife – and eventually menopause – is adolescence in reverse, then instead of growing toward childbearing and fertility I’m descending toward death. On one level this is a literal death as I peer into the second half of life and see my own death at the end, but it’s more than that. It’s a death of what is no longer serving. It’s a death of habits and patterns that are ready to be released into ash and transformed into the next splendid bird of life. It’s the dissolving of relationship contracts that are ready to change form and intergenerational patterns that are ready to change course. If transitions are breaking and renewing points where we’re more vulnerable to change and, thus, to healing, midlife, because of its length and the cacophony of hormones and physical symptoms, must be the great cauldron of transformation. This is our opportunity to throw what no longer serves into the witch’s brew of midlife and wait while it transmutes into a new form.

***

I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back I can pinpoint the exact moment I entered midlife. It was October 4, 2014, a month before my 43rd birthday. It was the first night of a 10-day trip to the East coast with my family and, in a moment of haste in a too-small hotel room, I jammed my toe into my suitcase and broke it. I can still remember the sound of the bone cracking. I can remember holding back my tears because I didn’t want to scare my then 5 year old son. I cried when my husband returned, but it strikes me now that I didn’t cry at the time because of the need to protect my son. It strikes that I’ve held back and silenced and given away and sacrificed a thousand times over the past thirteen years of parenthood, and that the moment I broke my toe was the moment my soul said, “Me, now. It’s time for me.” Up until that point, my younger son was still sitting on my lap for all of our meals. I didn’t want him there anymore but I didn’t know how to push him away. But with a broken toe he understood that he could no longer sit on my lap, and when I sat in my own chair in my own space for our next meal I felt a profound sense of freedom.

Midlife is a reclaiming of Self, a slow gathering of all of the pieces that were lost or willingly given away over the last four decades. I think about the dreams I’ve had about being trapped in Australia and missing the flight home. Midlife is a call to return home. Big Home. Home as in the place of soul and God and meaning and deep purpose.

I don’t know what that exactly means yet, but I know it’s already happening.

Midlife is a call from the feminine to behold her and embrace her, to know her in the deepest way. It’s a call to heal the loose ends and grieve the unshed grief.

My soul craves wild places and wild animals.

My soul craves stillness and silence.

My soul craves poetry, prayer, and ritual.

My soul craves dreams.

My soul craves music and dance.

My soul craves candlelight and hot baths before bed.

My soul craves healthy food, homemade and made with love.

My soul craves time with family and friends in a meaningful way.

My soul craves night.

My soul craves the feminine in all of its manifestations, like one long Shabbat.

My soul demands honesty in all places, in all relationships, in all choices.

A bobcat just loped past, the first I’ve ever seen on this property (or in my entire life), and the dream of last year comes to mind: “Watch out for the bobcats!” I still don’t understand it, but I trust that I will one day. Or maybe I won’t. Every tight place inside of me dissolves when I’m in direct contact with nature. It’s one of the medicines of this time.

***

And there’s more. So much more. But I’ll leave it here for now. Thank you for allowing me to share a piece of my soul with you just as you’ve done with me over the many years of this blog. We may not meet in actual time (at least not yet) but through sharing our stories we meet in a virtual realm, that space that transcends time and place. Until we meet again… 

58 comments to Entering Midlife: A Personal Post

  • rochelle

    thank you for sharing Sheryl lots of love and light to you xx

  • agnes-pea

    “If midlife – and eventually menopause – is adolescence in reverse, then instead of growing toward childbearing and fertility I’m descending toward death. On one level this is a literal death as I peer into the second half of life and see my own death at the end, but it’s more than that.”

    This got me so much. I really felt the fear and was reminded of my own Mother (who is in her late 50s). I worry about her dying every day.

    Thank you for sharing with us, Sheryl. A very beautiful insight. X

    • With each transition we’re given opportunities to become more comfortable with death, and the older we get the closer actual death looms in the picture. As such, it’s easier to fall into fear’s clutches and believe that we’re actually dying when in fact, in most cases, we’re simply dying to this stage of life. Perhaps that insight will help ease your fear of your mother’s death, which is likely several decades away.

  • Searching

    That’s so beautiful Sheryl! How odd that just minutes before receiving your newsletter I was thinking about ageing and how it scares me. I always find your work when I need it most. I hope this next transition is kind to you.

    All the best

    Searching x

  • Clara

    Thank you so much for this post, Sheryl. It is beautiful to be let in on your personal inner journey, which you navigate with such sensitivity, and intelligence and grace. I am a week off my 39th birthday, and although mid-life is not quite upon me yet, I sense her around the corner, on the horizon. While I have not yet experienced the transition you are in, your words resonate like a future memory, helping me make sense of those experiences I have not yet had but I know are coming. Thank you!

    And – if you ever find yourself trapped in Australia, having missed your flight home, I hope you will get in touch! 😉

    • I started to hear the whispers of midlife at around 40, so I know exactly what you’re feeling. And I always think of you when I wake up from the Australia dreams!

  • Me myself and I

    Thank you for sharing this and having the courage to be so vulnerable and honest. You are so humble and inspiring.

  • Jen

    You could hardly be given a kitten for your animal totem! Life is certainly goodbye and hello,sometimes within a few breaths of each other.Thankfully,if we are wise and surrender in the present moments of hard experiences,they become bearable.Hopefully,I will always remember that I actually wrote that last sentence! 🙂

  • Sammy

    This is exactly where I am these days. I’m a 43-year-old woman living in Western culture. Standing at the door of midlife, terrified to step through it and leave the world I’ve known all my life behind me. Paralyzed with fear about physical changes (and how the world perceives my worth), worried about what is normal with health and hormonal issues, petrified about not being around to see my 5yo and 2yo grow up, sick with the thought that I haven’t discovered the gifts I’m meant to bring to this world, sad about not having “enough” to show for my life at this age, and seeing things with fresh eyes as I grow closer to death. But that door is open, calling me, and there is no going back. My feet are planted at the moment, not ready to step through, but I am looking forward to turning 44 this year, oddly enough. I am hoping to focus on these deep, unchartered waters over the next months and let the magic of conscious transitions unfold. I was really hoping to read that you were introducing a course on this subject…would have been an amazing gift to my soul. I am deeply grateful for what you’ve shared today; it has grounded me for the moment and strengthened my core as I stare into the unknown beyond this doorway. I am no longer imagining a snarling, difficult demon on the other side, but rather I’m catching a glimpse of the beauty of midlife and it’s beaming at me. Thank you, Sheryl.

    • When we approach this transition consciously, we will unfold into beautiful Queens and we will radiate with a light we have never known. I don’t have a course yet because I’m still in the beginning stages myself, but one day there will some roadmap that comes out of my journey, as always, and I’ll write posts along the way that will hopefully serve as signposts. Sending love.

  • Mary Jo

    Thank you. Your words bring a lot of thoughts and relief to my world. I appreciate you sharing this personal thoughts and world.

  • Sarah

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your process.

  • Ravenna

    Amazing, thank you for sharing your inner world with us. It’s so amazing how transitions can unite so many people as we all seem to go through it in similar ways. Peace and light to you in this transition into Wise Elderhood, in a way it has always felt like this place, this site is a campfire where we hear your truth and tell stories and reach out and feel at peace in the knowing that we are okay,normal and not alone, for this I am grateful.

    • Yes, transitions are the great equalizer is they affect everyone regardless of specifics. I LOVE the image of sitting around the campfire together, knowing through the sharing of stories that we’re not alone.

  • Jen

    Thank you, thank you. As I approach 43.5 with a 4 and 7 year old, i feel this brewing deep in my bones. What is next? Where did I go? Who am I anymore? Why don’t I know what to do on the rare day off instead of just sitting in my quiet house and napping. I yearn to find me again. I dont know who she is and need to let go of the guilt I feel when I spend time trying to find her. I’m spent. I need renewal and rebirth. Thank you

  • Kathleen

    Thank you Sheryl for sharing. I turn 60 this year- another transition. You have voiced so beautifully the essence of the mid life transition. Big hugs to you.

  • This is very special, Sheryl. Thanks for the peek inside your soul. 🙂

  • Emma

    Thank you Sheryl, it’s lovely to read a personal post from you. Your description of the groundlessness of transitions so wonderfully describes what I’ve been experiencing through my 20s. Thank you again.

    • The groundlessness always feels the same no matter how old we are and what the transition may be! The difference, I think, is that at 46 I have a lot more emotional and spiritual ground under my feet than I did at 26, so the groundlessness doesn’t feel quite so scary – and when it does feel scary, I can find my feet pretty quickly. I’m glad it was helpful.

  • The past few months I have been experiencing anxiety over health – my own and my loved ones. On rough days I have been terrified that I am going to die soon or that they are. I turned 40 recently and I have a 2 year old daughter. I had thought that I breezed into turning 40 but now I’m wondering if this is all related. I felt a lot of comfort from this post. Thanks for sharing, it helps us not feel so alone with big fears.

    • Every time the fear of death comes in say to yourself, “This is a metaphor. I wonder what part of me is dying.” Another cut-through question when dealing with health anxiety is, “What else could it be?” In other words, fear-mind wants to immediately attach worst-cast catastrophe to every new twinge or symptom. You feel strange and you think, “I must have cancer.” If the next question can be, “If it’s not cancer, what else could it be?” you’ll open your mind to the deeper layers of what’s being asked.

  • This one moves me deeply, as I move toward this powerful and unfamiliar realm of midlife. Your words give me courage and hope…always!
    Thank you 🙏
    Crystal

  • Katrina

    Dear Sheryl, Thank you so very much for sharing a piece of you here. I am so touched by this post that I burst into tears reading it. It really speaks to how I am feeling as I am turning 40 in September and still quake in fear most days, although deep unravelling is also happening! I so resonate with the deep desire to return home, big home. For the deep desire for nature and solitude and meaning. Oh and honesty – its so deeply uncomfortable not to live in honesty and yet so much of our culture and relationships do not understand this. All of the beauty, and paradoxes and challenges and healing. Thank you so much for your honesty and courage. Much love to you. Katrina x

  • Dee

    Sheryl, thanks for sharing such a personal post with us. Have you read the poem The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell berry? I think it would really resonate with you, as it did with me xx

  • Brooke

    I love love love this! So beautiful. Do you think you could ever do a post like this from the perspective of your 20s?

  • Dee

    Hi Sheryl,
    As many others have said, thank you for sharing you inner feelings about the transition through your mid-life.
    Upon reflection, I believe my RA was a manifestation from many areas of my life that needed attention. Though significantly was the serious Ill health of my Mother and then the key catalyst being her death; 4 years started her becoming ill. At the time of her death I’d reached 40 years and my anchor as me as a person had gone (my mental anchor that is). I was now and still am transitioning to find me, as a mother myself, as a wife, as just me; who I am.
    I reached 43 this year and for some strange reason, mentally I felt much older than at 42, maybe this was because I’m now focussing and learning more about myself and I have started to feel more settled. I think I’m picking up the pieces of my life to rearrange them into a new picture of what I want it to look like without the piece that was my Mother.
    This post has been bookmarked to review again and again to allow me to focus my attention when needed.

  • Dawn

    Hi Sheryl,

    I love reading your articles. Sharing such genuine and human experiences is a true inspiration. Your relationship anxiety workshop helped me immensely. I’ve read certain parts of it over and over again for solace and encouragement. Thank you for sharing all that you do!

    xx

  • Jennifer

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s something I needed right now.

    I recently got engaged, booked my wedding venue, and turned 30. When I turned 30, I took all of the pictures and quotes off my cubicle walls. It looks like I could quit any day – my cube is so unnaturally bare. I told my Significant Other that something changed when I turned 30 but I couldn’t describe it. I don’t think it’s exactly a mid-life crisis, but when you mentioned being in a portal I connected with that right away. I feel that something that has been buried within me is screaming to come out and that the old me won’t suffice anymore.

    Thank you for your post, it encourages me to continue writing about what I’m experiencing and gives me hope that the answer is sitting within.

  • Cheryl

    Thank you. I’m 58 (and a half) and just beginning to have these thoughts. They started to pop up after losing my mom and later my dad about two years ago. I’ve allowed myself plenty of solitude and I am discovering wonderful gifts I have within.

    • Like so many aspects of adulthood, reaching a lifestage like midlife has less to do with biological age than inner age. So glad you’re discovering the gifts that come from solitude.

  • worrier96

    Thank you again Sheryl.

    I’m moving out of my family home in less then two monthes, and moving four aways away to a city to live with my partner, which is propelling me into adulthood and away from my childhood/adolesence. (I’m 21).

    Thank you for reminding me that as HSPs life transitions are daunting. This change is bringing me more pain then I ever imagined, but I know that it’s important and i’m experiencing the death-rebirth process.

    It’s so scary though…and so hard.

  • Sara

    This is so beautiful. Thank you 🙏

  • KB

    I echo everyone else’s sentiments – what a beautiful post. It’s been a while since I felt open enough to come back to Conscious Transitions. I had a rough time the past few months and it was as though my heart closed all the way back up, after I did so much work to try and open it. Im trying to read more of your words this week – they are like a lighthouse guiding me home. Your portal imagery really resonated with me. I became a mother recently and felt as though my world was literally turned upside down – and I had done some work with the conscious motherhood course beforehand. I felt a firm divide between my childhood and the now. Like something had literally closed behind me and I would never get it back, in the first days and weeks of motherhood. It was extremely unsettling and I’m still working through it. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • katers

    Your feelings about you entering midlife was so beautifully written. I’m very moved by your story and I learned so much. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Laura

    This was so beautiful to read! I often have this thought or this horrible though that life will be still and beautiful once I reach a certain age and I will have a sense of peace and wholeness. Reading this made me realise and appreciate the transitions of all that is life.
    I’m about to turn 30 and I’ve been in a relationship for a year that has been filled with relationship anxiety (your blog has saved me!) But I think turning 30 is so interesting. You question so much. I feel like I’m letting go of my youth in a way, letting go of lack of responsibility, letting go of bad behaviour (sex, drugs, drinking) and wanting more balance, depth and love within myself. Funnily enough, this process kind feels like coming home… or coming to a part of myself that I know is there.
    Is it easy? No. There is so much pain and so much to work through.
    Thankyou for sharing your experience. It gives me hope and allows me to see beauty in the process. x

  • UnforcedRhythmsOfGrace

    Profound thank you, Sheryl! You’ve been a soft place to land for so many of us. Wishing you hundred-fold of the same as you face forward.

  • Kimberly

    sometimes the night wakes in the
    middle of me
    and I can do nothing
    but become the moon

    nayyriah waheed

  • Marlene

    Beautiful. Thank you

  • Nicky

    Australia is not THAT bad 😉

  • Eleonora

    Thank you, Sheryl.

  • Sammy

    Hi Sheryl,
    Today I read a blog post about transitioning into perimenopause by Carrie-Anne Moss of Annapurna Living and it made me feel some of the same “aha” moments as your post. Here is the link, I thought you might enjoy it: http://annapurnaliving.com/blog/move-into-the-heart

    I especially liked the note at the end where the author quotes her friend who is a natural doctor as saying, “Tell the women that during the childbearing and menstrual years, all the life force goes to the pelvis. During peri-menopause and menopause, that the energy moves into the heart. Now we can do our lives’ work. We can be clear and say what we need.” I had never thought about it like that before but I agree that I can feel a shift toward becoming more heart-centric beginning. The visual I got from those words is somehow very comforting.