Most of us have hopes and dreams which give us a sense of purpose and structure but as time goes by what once gave our life meaning shifts, our children grow up and our roles change or become redundant. Work which may have once fulfilled us may suddenly becomes a chore, relationships change or break down altogether. And for some of us our big dream never came to fruition, leaving us wondering, What now?
This time in life is often described as a midlife crisis, a better way to describe it is an unravelling, as it’s a time when we question everything about ourselves, our lives, who we are and what we believe. Of course, some people go through periods like this earlier in life but what typifies a midlife unravelling is the life stage, and it’s often associated with some change in our lives.
Midlife unravelling is an inside job. Those closest to you may have no idea what’s going on. You may feel apathetic, fearful, anxious, despairing, depressed, confused and out of control. Or, your might just feel lost. The intensity of this time varies for each one of us. It feels as if this is something we can’t control, manage or fix but, if we are open and willing to learn it can lead us to the best time in life.
Not everyone goes through a midlife unravelling. Midlife is generally classed as the time in life from mid to late 40s and 50s, although some people experience it as early as 35 and some in their 60s as it occurs because of a life stage.
I experienced a midlife unravelling in my late forties when I felt every one of the abovementioned emotions. What led me out of my crisis was my curiosity, I actively went looking for a better way to live and discovered that what made me happy had changed. Up until that time my life had been very goal focused. I became aware that achievement and success didn’t necessarily equate with being happy and so I chose to shift my focus onto being the ideal person I wanted to be. That discovery led me to find my passion and the work I do today.
Midlife unravelling is not something that is experienced by just women, having been a life coach for 20 years, I’ve worked with many men who have been through this transition as well.
It’s so easy to cling to our old lives, to the familiar even when that life doesn’t fulfil us any more usually because it’s not as scary as the unknown.
How we handle this period of discontent or disconnection, determines how difficult it will be. If we refuse to look at anything that makes us uncomfortable or try to be perfect by working harder and longer, while pushing our emotions down, this transition becomes tougher than it needs to be. Some people in fact never fully recover and live their lives accepting that the way they feel is all there is.
My books, and all the work I do resulted from questions I asked myself. Every time I don’t know what to do, feel lost, confused or just need guidance I ask questions. Some people say, Who are you asking? And the answer depends upon your belief system. Some people ask God, the Universe, themselves, life. As a coach I have seen first-hand the power that one question can have on a person’s life.
If you are going through a period of confusion in mid, or even late life, ask yourself these questions. Then listen for the answers which can come in many different ways.
- What’s missing from my life?
- What matters to me?
- Who could I be?
- Is it too late?
- If my life was rich and meaningful what would that look like?
- What’s standing in my way?
Unravelling provides us with an opportunity to awaken to what our hearts and souls are calling us to do. Our heart is our compass, it knows what makes us happy and our soul knows what makes our life matter. By being honest with ourselves and viewing life through different filters, we can recognise and share our unique gifts, and this is what adds meaning to our lives.
Midlife is a doorway that leads to the best time in life, if you are ready to step through it.
No tree tries to become a certain kind of tree. No flower tries to become a certain kind of flower. The tree and the flower open up to the sun and soak up water. Thus, they grow into themselves. No judgment. No expectations. No commentary. Your task is the same. If you can stop trying so hard to become who you think you should be, and instead commit to understanding and nourishing yourself, you will bloom into whatever kind of person you are.
―Vironika Tugaleva, The Art of Talking to Yourself