When I turned 50, I looked in the mirror one morning and saw my mother. I was shocked. Not because there’s anything wrong with my mother, but because I didn’t see me anymore.
I remember when I was young, looking at my mother sitting on the side of the bed. A divorced single mother struggling to take care of two children. She looked totally defeated. Her face was full of sadness and pain. I swore to myself then, that I would never look like that, that if that’s what growing up looked like I wasn’t going to grow up. But when I looked in the mirror and saw that face, it sent me into a tailspin. I went into a full-blown midlife crisis. It took months to come out of the depression, and the belief that my best days were over, and months more to start moving in a positive direction again. I came face to face with all the stereotypes I’d ever heard about growing older.
During midlife, everything is changing, our bodies, our families, our relationships, our world. We are in a transition. We have been wives, mothers, sisters, lovers our children leave, partners may die, our careers end and we are left struggling with questions; “Who Am I?” “What is my worth?” “How can I live an authentic and meaningful life?” “What do I do now?”
The question we are trying to answer is after all the roles we’ve had up until now. “What is my path in the second half of life?”
The problem is, there is no road map, everyone’s experience is unique and so we stumble through this process, feeling lost and unsure of ourselves. We think something is wrong. But, change is natural; sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard but as-long-as we live we will either be coming out of, in the middle of or headed to, the next life change.
In the book Changing Course, Navigating Life after 50, William Sadler, says “Historically, D words have defined becoming older: Difficulty, Disengagement, Decline, Degeneration, and Disease. But recent research has been showing how people can set new directions with R words:
Renewal, Reinvention, Regeneration, Rejuvenation, and Redirection.”
At each stage of life, we have been given the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and experience life differently.
Sadler suggests building a “Third Age Portfolio”.
(The First Age is growing up and going to school. The Second Age involved parenting and working. The Third Age is that time in our lives when our children no longer live in our homes and when we begin to plan for the next, phase of life. It is an opportunity to decide what we want to be when we grow up! )
Some of the questions you answer in this portfolio are,
· What’s next?
· Where do you want your life to go next?
· How can you change course?…
· What do I value most?
· What’s most important?
· What do I really want in life?
· What’s my next adventure?
· What should I let go of for now?
· What do I want to keep?
· How can I have more fun?
· What’s my passion?
· In my journey so far, what have I suppressed?
· What have I missed?
· How can I recover or add missing pieces to my life?
· How and where will I find meaning and purpose?
· What kind of person do I want to become?
· What will replace the everyday joys of raising children?
· What can I do to fill the void created when children move away?
· How can I find new ways to nurture both others and myself?
· What’s holding me back?
· How can I overcome these obstacles?
· How can I achieve integrity?
· How can I develop spiritually?
· What difference will my life make?
· What legacy do I want to leave?
Taking the time to answer these questions gives you a basis for building a plan and answering the question “What is my path in the second half of life? It gives you a framework for creating the life you want.
“Growing older in a healthy positive way requires creativity, resourcefulness, optimism, imagination, reflection, risk, commitment, persistence, patience and RESILIENCE” because Growing old ain’t for sissies (Bette Davis)