Why is it that there are so many posts, articles, books and movies about “reinventing” yourself in your fifties? I don’t get it. What’s wrong with the way I am now? I’ve spent my entire life building to this moment when I’m happy with who I am and how I live my life. Sure, midlife has its challenges but so does every other age. I wouldn’t want to relive the constant anxiety of my twenties or the need for perfection in my thirties. I am comfortable with myself and the place I’ve carved out in this crazy world. Why the hell would I want to change? Frankly, I don’t and you don’t have to either. Find perspective and happiness in midlife.
Being a quinquagenarian is an eye-opening experience but you don’t wake one morning and suddenly find perspective. It’s more like a slow dawn. You sit back and watch as the sun’s rays reach up from beneath the horizon. You know the sun is there even though you can’t yet see it. Then it breaks through the night and lights the morning sky as if the darkness had never been there at all.
This is what it’s like to gain perspective.
You begin to understand things that have hovered just out of reach, on the edges of blackness. And when you see clearly, you find beauty in places you never could have imagined.
Stop worrying about the little things
For me, this clarity came in not worry about little things. I no longer expend precious effort on what others think about me, the things I wear or say, who my friends are and what I chose to do with my time or money. I’ve learned to grasp the clumsy moments in life and laugh at myself instead of cowering beneath embarrassment. Heck, these things are funny! I care about my impact on the people I love and those who love me back. It is freeing. It allows me to focus on what truly matters in life and eliminate the excess baggage that weighs us all down. I, quite literally, feel as if I stand taller.
Let go of guilt
One of the best things you can do to find perspective in midlife is to learn to say no without guilt. You all know what I’m talking about. How many times in life have you said no to someone only to spend the next days or weeks burdened by guilt, even sleepless nights? If you’re like me, the number is far too large to consider. It didn’t matter if the no was justified or not, it came with an enormous weight. Would my friend/family member think less of me? Will they call me next time? Am I missing out?
Saying no can be tough. I recently read an interesting article in Entrepreneur Magazine about how to say no. It was written for business use but is full of good tips and ideas that apply to everyday life as well. I recommend a read if this is something that you struggle with.
Shedding this burden is one of the jewels of midlife. You are free to make decisions that are best for you and your family without unnecessary personal reproach. Besides the emotional well being this adds to life, it also frees space in your mind for things that bring you joy. Identifying what brings me joy is easy – family, friends, my dogs, my home, writing, cooking, playing in my garden, boating, sleeping late, good food & wine, and the list goes on. I am blessed with happiness and love.
Learn to spend your time with who and what you love. You can always clean the house later!
Time with family
Time with adult children is a new experience to embrace. I’ve watched my daughter grow into an amazing person with her own independent life completely separate from mine. She is a smart, unique, amazing and powerful woman and I enjoy my time with her and her wonderful husband. Maturity has helped me to let go and let her live her life – at least most of the time. In doing so, I’ve entered a new phase in life that I am sure is my absolute favorite.
Then there is my grandson. Does it get any better than grandchildren? I am sure it does not! They may be the most direct route to finding perspective and happiness in midlife and at any age!
This little guy surpasses all my wildest dreams. He is joy in the purest sense of the word. Grandchildren teach you to live in the moment in ways nothing else can. I can’t get enough time with him. It is killing his Papa and I to not be able to see him while we all practice social distancing. But we take our moments and visit him through the glass screen door on my daughter’s porch. And we love every minute of it. We try not to fixate on what we’re missing by not being able to hold him or hug our daughter. We love what have.
Maturity has also given me perspective on relationships and the richness they weave into the fabric of life. My husband is my rock. He is the one person in life that I know I can throw anything at and he’ll catch it. I’ve learned, or perhaps this is just part of gaining perspective, to rely on him to help navigate the obstacles in life. I know that with him by my side, I don’t have to do it all myself. This is perhaps the most important lesson the years have taught me. In the interest of full disclosure, he’s also taught me to “go with the flow” , “play it by ear”, and “just let it go”. Someday I’ll dedicate a full post to these gems of advice.
Take a look at your relationships and make sure you are leaning in to them as deeply as possible. If someone resists, ask yourself why and either fix it or prioritize it appropriately. Life is too short to burn energy on people who don’t welcome you in with open arms and support you. To judge a relationship, ask yourself if it improves the quality of your life – not does it keep it the same, but does it make it better? If it doesn’t, it isn’t worthy of your attention.
See the good in people
The last point I’ll make about finding happiness in midlife is that age has not only changed my perspective on my own life, it has changed my perspective about others. I’ve realized that the world is full of nice people. I’ve always said that there are two types of people in the world; those who trust until you give them a reason not to and those who are guarded until you give them a reason to trust. I have spent most of my life in the second camp. That is beginning to change.
It’s funny, I don’t know when it happened but at some point I let my guard down. I wish you this grace. At a time when the world has been turned upside down and there’s conflict around every corner, I find myself trusting people more, rather than less. Where I may have in the past thought suspiciously of someone, I am now inclined to assume their intentions are good, even when things don’t go as I would have liked. I try to consider the other person’s perspective on a situation and often find that this changes the way I see it myself.
Could this be my sun rising?
For more ideas to stay social and connected in midlife, please enjoy the following posts.