Look Outside of the Box—Endless Possibilities Await
After my 28-year marriage dissolved in 2020, my life became a series of endless possibilities. No longer tied to the script I followed for 30 plus years, I realized I was free to do whatever I wanted.
I had hours-long conversations with friends about podcasts and nationwide networks of women. I came up with names for businesses. I bought URLs. I started this blog. I wrote 50,000 words of memoir.
But after a while, especially after others started suggesting to me I “should” do, I became overwhelmed at the choices. Nothing felt right. I knew I could probably write a book on midlife dating and give advice on TikTok, but did I want to? No, not really.
Brene’ Brown defines overwhelm as “Extreme level of stress and emotional and or cognitive intensity to the point of feeling unable to function.”
I was starting to feel the overwhelm when I wrote my last Brash Midlife column exactly a year ago, but I still kept pushing myself to do something more. I felt time was passing me by, and I would miss my big chance. FOMO is real—especially when your life is more than half over.
Earlier this year, the overwhelm hit hard. I was frozen, unable to decide what to do.
So, I put all of my ideas in a box, and put that box in a corner of my mind. Instead of pursuing my creative ideas, I decided to funnel all my energy into the job that paid the bills. I work with an amazing team of journalists at Floodlight doing a job I never imagined I would have. I had plenty of opportunities to use my creative juices. I could make a difference there.
I felt relief at the decision to step away from all of the possibilities. I relaxed into my job … for about a day.
And then I proceeded to have 10 of the worst days of my life.
In the moment, I didn’t know why I was feeling sad, morose, stuck. I was just unhappy, gloomy and every other synonym you can find for miserable. I created a negative vortex around me. I was tripping over cat toys on the floor, burning the rice, forgetting appointments.
Around day 10, I realized why I was so despondent. I had given up hope. I had willingly crawled back into the box I lived in for most of my life, and started to follow yet another script.
Being Work Pam and Mom Pam was not enough. I needed to think my life was limitless and anything was possible. I had to believe I could write a book, host a podcast, create a worldwide network of amazing women.
The moment I gave myself permission to dream again—it was as quick as flipping a light switch— my life became bright and hopeful. I had something to look forward to outside of the things I had to do.
To be clear, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t take any action. I just changed my thoughts.
I simply began looking again at all of the bright, shiny things I could do. That was all it took.
I’ve been thinking about this brief period recently as I repetitively toggle on and off online dating apps. At times, most times, it seems pointless.
Yet, each time I turn off the apps, I feel like I’m giving up even the slim chance —the possibility — of meeting someone special and it makes me a little sad.
So I decide, again, that pursuing a slim chance at a new friendship, or a book or a podcast is infinitely better than having no chance, no hope that anything will ever change.
I've seen people my age and younger already stuck in the mindset that their best years are behind them. But that's a lie that hurts only those who believe it.
All it takes to change, to see a brighter future, is to open your mind to the endless possibilities that await you.