How Your Mid-Life Crisis Might Actually be a Mid-Life Awakening
When children go through developmental growth, their routines (and sometimes their personalities) are often disrupted. My husband and I saw this over and over again with our two children. We’d get settled into a simple routine, naps and bedtimes were predictable and didn’t involve too much fussing, the kids would be mostly convivial and we knew how to negotiate their moods and preferences.
Then everything would explode!
There would be waking in the middle of the night, tantrums for completely inexplicable reasons, foods that had been favorites were no longer interesting, toys were thrown instead of played with, and normal soothing techniques were no longer effective. After a while we started to notice a pattern, we noticed that these upsets typically preceded a developmental leap. Not only did this realization make it easier to deal with the bumps, it was fun to guess at what would show up next. New words? New motor skills? New reasoning abilities?
Because of their rapid growth, it’s easy to notice that children change, and give them the space to do so. But as the years pass by, as we grow into our adult selves, we develop ideas about who we are. And those ideas become less and less flexible. We label ourselves as “shy”, “strong”, “fun”, “outgoing”, “reserved”, “lazy”, etc. We've even come up with personality tests so we can label large groups of people all at once. We love labeling and classifying, it can sometimes help us make sense of the world.
But we fail to notice that, like children, we continually change and grow, and the labels we carry around are not accurate representations of ourselves. We fail to notice that sometimes we’re “extroverted” and other times we’d like to stay in our pajamas at home with a good book.
Then one day, or maybe over months...everything explodes!
And we start to wonder where the joy went. We think that the joy left because we’re older, we have more experience, more responsibility, more stress, fewer options, or less flexibility.
So we try to do things to recapture the feelings of our youth. We join gyms, or get makeovers in an effort to look younger; we buy sports cars, so we don’t have to feel like suburban sell-outs in minivans; we plan big travel adventures, or sign up for exotic dance or martial arts classes. We disrupt our routines.
This is common enough behavior that it’s been given a name, a rather derogatory name, the “mid-life crisis”. Some people joke about having a mid-life crisis, others feel that they really are in a crisis. Wouldn’t it be more helpful if we could just see this as a developmental stage? A stage of inner growth.
It's the stage at which a quiet voice begins to whisper that there must be more than schedules, bills, reports, alarm clocks, and TV. The quiet voice whispers that maybe, in your heart, you're not the person going through the motions to keep up the status quo. The quiet voice whispers that maybe more stuff, more adventures, more accomplishments, and more recognition is not the path to joy and contentment. And in the whisper, we hear truth.
And we pause.
And we reflect.
And we awaken.
In our awakening, we realize that we in fact are not our labels at all. We realize that labels are just ideas of who we are. Once we see that they’re just our own mental creations they lose their power. You can think you’re anything you want - “afraid”, "stuck", “smart”, “burned out”, “spontaneous” - but they are all simply thoughts, and they have no power until YOU breathe life into them.
In our awakening, we realize that maybe the freedom of youth we long for is not freedom from responsibilities, and stress… but rather the freedom of possibility. When we were young we had the freedom to be anything that came to us. We were ever changing; not constrained by old rusty labels and beliefs. We had freedom to discover, to have new experiences, to be fully present and aware. We could be Superman one moment and then crying in Daddy’s lap the next; we could fall off the monkey bars a hundred times and keep trying, or give up; we could be angry at a friend one day, then lying on the ground giggling with them the next. And it was all OK.
Once awake, it's clear that there is no requirement to keep any label or perception of who we are or should be. We can see that we are ever changing, ever evolving, and there's no need to go back to a previous time in an attempt to capture something that we once were, for each day we are creating anew.
Seldom will you find an eight year old wishing to be a four year old. Eight year olds value their progress and the experiences that have brought them to their more knowledgeable and capable selves. They are also still living in the possibility of what lies ahead and in touch with what’s happening now.
If you're willing to wake up, just like that eight year old, you will see that you are free. Regardless of age, responsibility, status, education, or any other circumstance, you are free to just be you -- right now, and always. You are free to detach any labels or beliefs you, or anyone else has given you.
You're free to live in the joy of possibility.
Free to live in the wonder of the unknown.
Free to live in the power of creation.