Mid-Life: Where Empowerment Meets Confusion

The Universe has been sending me a few signals lately that I need to return to the original theme of my blog, namely the journey through middle age. OK, Universe, I hear you and as always I am your humble servant.

Firstly, the ladies at Lipstick Rhetoric wrote two wonderful blog posts about middle life. In one they ask whether a mid-life crisis is tied to paid employment and whether as a result it is only a recent phenomenon in women  and in the other they write about a mid-life career crisis and whether this is attributable to the general midlife crisis phenomenon. Both of these posts resonated and I believe that the more people talk about this topic the better. All of us may be pioneers in our own lives and journeys, but none of us are pioneers in the wider sense. Ask enough questions, read and hang out long enough and you will come across those experiencing the same feelings, asking the same questions. Let’s use this wonderful technology to laugh, communicate and support each other and I don’t just mean the women. Men, your input into this issue is important, valuable and extremely necessary. I know it’s difficult for men to overcome the notion that they must remain strong, but men, let me tell you, there is no weakness in talking about this. Rather there is an honesty and level of self awareness that should be applauded. After all, that is the first step to change.

Furthermore, the only certainty in life besides death and taxes is that nothing is actually certain. Anything can change in a blink of an eye. To me, middle age, more than any other stage, teaches you how to deal with uncertainty to prepare you for the trials and tribulations you are bound to encounter in old age. It teaches you to question more deeply and that good planning will only get you so far. It gives you the confidence necessary to deal with the consequences of your decisions and to shed those parts of your skin that no longer work for you. Those that use middle age wisely can be reborn. Those that don’t will continue to struggle. Wisdom will usually require some tough decision and facing of fears.

There are some days when I feel like this

The second sign came from an article in our popular press over the weekend on how some Australian high-profile women are positively facing middle age. The article focused on women aged between their early forties to their early fifties, which of itself was an eye opener for me. I always wrongly held the notion that mid-life crisis point was only reached from the age of forty five but I suspect that soon we will be dropping the word “mid” from “mid-life crisis” and that more and more people will start their questioning and catharsis at an earlier age.  The impetus for this comes from several areas  – there are many more life style options that are available today and society in general has a more tolerant view on people embracing lifestyles and workstyles that are not considered to be conventional, if not totally alternate.  In that sense, these are exciting times.

I agree with the article that there are a lot of positives about middle age. I admit to a degree of trepidation at turning forty after I was too exhausted preparing for children when I turned thirty. But as my forties have worn on in terms of physicality, self-confidence and energy, I am embracing this decade like none before. After decades of trying, I finally have my weight under control and am embracing everything I can about finally being in proportion, including self confidence. What joy to have finally arrived at this point!!

I have concluded that middle age is that stage when empowerment meets confusion, rather than a number. There is no doubt the search of answers can be disconcerting, particularly if you had absolute direction to this point. The difficulty lies in realigning your life’s compass, after all you know so much more now than when you initially set it. True north, though, is still true north!

The hard part for me is finding the time and space to strategize about my own life whilst still being there for my family.  These are the absolute truths I have discoved about  middle age:

    • rebirth is not easy
    • strategizing takes time
    • you can’t strategize effectively with other noise in your head
    • you can’t turn the Titanic around on a dime
    • you can’t turn the Titanic around without affecting the position of other nearby boats
    • a mid-life crisis is harder on the partner not going through it.

The reference to “Titanic” here is as a symbol for a large ship, not a sinking one!

Like I said at the start of my blog, I am not a self-help guru and I have no wish to preach at anyone. I hope by outlining my thoughts and feelings about my own journey others may feel less alone, less disconcerted. There is much strength to be gained from solidarity and discussion. And if a friendship or two develops along the way, so much the better.

Have you discovered any truths or insights about mid-life? I would love to hear from you.

M is for Mask: Desperately Seeking Authenticity (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
duncan's photstream

If you have ever been to Venice, you would have seen the amazing Venetian masks on display. The masks originated in Medieval times in Italy due to the religious oppression that then existed. Behind their masks people in Venice used to feel free to indulge in certain activities frowned upon by the religious authorities. They were made of paper- mâché and decorated in gold, feathers, gems, ribbons and fur. Today they are used in street carnivals. They look ornate and distinctive, but pick them up and they feel fragile. You will find them everywhere in Venice.

Many people wear masks, even when it is not carnival time. These masks are not decorated or colourful like the Venetian masks, in fact they are almost invisible. However, the principle behind them is the same, namely they make the wearer feel free to indulge in certain activities or engage in certain ways.

When I was in my early thirties, a highly ambitious thing and knee-deep in my career, I would put on my career woman’s mask. Back then I felt uncomfortable talking about motherhood, parenting, really any out of office life at all for fear of being judged not committed or dedicated in what was a male dominated environment. I would wait until either a male colleague or client would raise the subject of family or children first and then I would be comfortable in contributing. Talk about golf, rugby union and beer was highly accepted, sadly I was not into any of those.

I am happy to say that times appear to have moved on, both in the industry and in society in general. The other facet to this of course is that I have reached middle age, am comfortable with my skills and ability to deal with professional issues and have less need to hide my authentic personal self from my professional self. My intuition and bull sh*t detector also seem to have been honed over the years to the point where I am happy to rely on them in real life. I am going to leave the digital world out of this discussion as that world is a whole other ball of wax.

Apart from my professional mask, I’ve never really felt the need to have any others. However, I have known people who are not this way, some have more masks than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have children. Just when you think you’ve managed to peel one off, another one is revealed. It must take an astronomical amount of energy to maintain these masks and then do they show different masks to different people, or have a different order in which they are removed for each person?

The vibe of an interaction between two authentic selves is totally different to one where one of the protagonists is wearing a mask. There is usually a real energy to such an interaction, which may not always be positive if you are disagreeing and I’m ok with that. I’d rather have an authentic interaction than one muted by a mask. It’s why I seek out people who are themselves authentic.

I am done with masks, masks represent fear. The next one I don will be at carnival time hopefully either in Rio, Venice or New Orleans and be covered in jewels, feathers and a whole lot of colour.

What’s your experience with mask wearers?

[Photo credit: picture of taking off the mask by frostmaster on deviantart.com]