Brene Brown says “midlife a is not a crisis. Midlife is an unraveling. By definition, you can’t control or manage an unraveling.”
At 40, I called it a midlife “clarification”, as if it was this peaceful time where you’d sit on a cushion and do some introspection about who you are, what has meaning for you, your values, etc.
Now I’m calling it “a midlife reckoning”.
It has never felt truer than this year, at age 44.
Straight Up. I ain’t pulling punches.
This “reckoning” or rather … A fucking wrecking ball that has just blown through my carefully constructed idea of who I am and what’s in my control.
This building is stable. False
The building is strong. False.
The building is reliable. False
This building is invincible. Absolutely False.
This year, a series of ailments has taken me down.
In March, running late to a meeting, I rushed down the stairs (phone in hand, bag in other), and proceeded to fall down the entire flight on my butt. And on my rotator cuff, apparently. You don’t realize how often you use a rotator cuff until you tear it. Grab a pillow from behind you while reading in bed – searing pain. Pulling a shift over my head – pure agony. Flapping my arm like a bird – an impossibility. (thankfully I don’t often flap my arms like bird, but it’s nice to have the option!)
After having a baby, and before my rotator cuff injury, I had decided I was still young enough to play indoor soccer, albeit with the “older than dirt” age group. And proceeded to break off a number of my big toe nails. Like every time one grew back. Gross. And painful. I learned I like walking better than soccer.
I broke out in a skin rash called Dermatitis which I learned mostly effects women between 25-45. Sorry millennials, you ain’t escaping it.
And then I ended up with a calcium deposit on the top of my right foot and a painful plantar wart on the ball of my left foot. I learned an obvious truth, we need our feet FOR EVERYTHING.
And this deterioration, this steep decline, wasn’t limited to my physical being.
This year, I watched as Friends’ healthy parents suddenly passed away. Parents younger and more vibrant than my own. And other friends’ marriages unexpectedly fell apart. Not the ones who SHOULD divorce (that happened in my 30s), but the ones I thought were steadfast and rock solid.
What I knew to be true about myself and the world was no longer so.
To continue the metaphor, when the wrecking ball was done, and the dust settled, I’ll tell you what’s left of that carefully constructed building. (is the wrecking ball of life ever done? I’m thinking it’s probably just on the upswing when you don’t notice it. Until it swings back through that next wall of ours).
NOT MUCH. This “reckoning” took me down to the studs. But here’s the good news.
On the other side of experiencing a loss of health, or loved ones… is a kind of bare bones Gratitude.
We need less to be whole.
Because we have seen what happens when we lose what matters.
It isn’t the fancy shoes or the expensive cars.
My gratitude list usually starts and often ends with:
- Health of Family
- Health of Self
- Reliable childcare
- Rewarding work
I think that’s what age gives us. A well-earned, battle-tested perspective. A knowing. Or even more so – a feeling. A felt sense of what is true.
Maybe it’s wisdom.
George Eliot calls it “keen vision”. Whatever you want to call it, I’m grateful for it.
Here’s George Eliot’s full quote, which I read in college, and was intrigued by it and certain there was some deep secret truth in it; but I knew then that I didn’t have access to it, yet. YET has now arrived. I think.
“If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heartbeat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.”
And we will die. But hopefully not before being gifted that keen vision of presence and gratitude.