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…