No More Sugar Coating: Midlife Can Suck
I never intended to be the Pollyanna of middle age.
Yet with blog entries about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, feeling joy after feeling pain, and how rebuilding a life after 50 is like Japanese art — I feel that I have, at least on these pages— unintentionally turned into a Pollyanna.
I started this blog because I wanted to encourage others to embrace change and the opportunities that present themselves as we age. For me, opening up to new experiences has shown me how limiting my old beliefs and old life were.
I wanted to be vulnerable about these experiences so in turn, my readers would feel empowered to be vulnerable and share what they are going through. I wanted to nudge those who are stuck to jump into the uncertainty without fear.
But I’ve failed, because by turning every experience into a positive lesson, I’ve glossed over the real fundamental truth of life, and middle age, and growth and change.
It’s f*cking hard. It’s painful.
There is nothing easy about leaving a marriage of 28 years.
And there’s nothing easy about staying in that same marriage if you feel unloved and unseen.
It’s a pain in the ass to have to navigate all of your bills and house maintenance and daily chores by yourself.
It’s equally frustrating holding onto resentment if others aren’t doing what you need them to do without nagging.
There’s nothing easy about sending your child off to college.
But is that worse or better than having them stay at home?
Yes, having solitude after spending most of your life attached to someone is glorious.
It’s also occasionally excruciating to not have a “person” to share your life with.
And if you have female parts, it’s even harder because of the hormonal changes that come with midlife, leaving us often anxious, sad, angry, bored and unfulfilled.
But… when I wrote posts about this not-so-bright side of midlife, I got a lot of “hug” emojis or people offering advice about how to make things better.
That’s not the point of this. I don’t want to be “fixed” and I don’t need sympathy (empathy yes, but that’s another blog post, or, read Brene brown).
To avoid the uncomfortableness of having other people take pity on me, I started steering away from harder truths.
I began being less authentic — writing about the bright spots, even when what I saw was a lot of dark. Because, also, I was trying to convince myself that there has to be a point to all of this, right?
I was reminded why I write this blog after traveling earlier this month to Indiana where I grew up. I had a couple of wonderful conversations with people I have known most of my life — including one with my cousin Lisa.
We met on Mother’s Day eve at the mausoleum where both of our mothers are interred. I had gone with Kleenex, cold water and a change of clothes, intending to spend the time bawling my eyes out over my mom's death 17 years ago, but also, primarily, about the death of my marriage and the loss of a life I thought was mine for the rest of my days.
Lisa and I sat onto the top of a large a propane tank — feeling more 12 than mid-50s — and shared what was going on in our lives. Our specific experiences are different, but our fundamental feelings and emotions were the same.
In those moments we truly saw and heard each other. We looked at each other and said “yes, I understand.”
What better gift in life than this?
Over the last couple of years, the one thing I keep learning over and over again is that I am not the only person who is struggling with difficulties in some form or other. Sharing my struggles, and listening to others about their own hard stuff, makes me feel so much less alone.
At least for me the point of all of this —this life, what I do and who I am —is about connection.
It’s holding space and being present with other people, whether I’ve known them my entire life or just have met them online.
If you haven’t lately, I’d encourage you to reach out to a friend and have a good heart to heart about the things that matter most to you. And listen and be present for that friend, because they probably need to talk about the things that matter to them too.
Sharing our burdens and our difficulties with one other often allows for us to have compassion for each another — and importantly, for ourselves.
More connection, more compassion, more empathy and more love. These things could literally change the world.
And it can start with a single conversation.