The milestone ages of midlife - trials and tribulations
Turning 40 was a great moment for me. I felt good about my life, my work and myself. My family and I were heading off for a new life adventure in a different part of the country (the Northwest!). I felt like a pioneer on the Oregon Trail. I was very fortunate in many other ways too. I had good health, a great marriage and two healthy daughters.
But turning 50 was sobering. Up until then, I was in perfect health. All of sudden I started having health problems—high cholesterol, high blood pressure and some problems with arthritis! I was too young for all of this! I had my first operation during this decade (major foot surgery) with a long recovery. What was happening to me?
Turning 60 was even more difficult. I realized that despite all of my energy, I had less energy than I had when I was 50! When I looked in the mirror I thought to myself, that guy looks just like me, but older! I also realized that if I wanted to do something, I better do it now. While the future has always been uncertain, I recognized that the clock was ticking. These were all very solemn thoughts.
The milestone ages of midlife can be challenging. Adults take stock of their energy level, health, appearance, relationships and future prospects. It can be painful to acknowledge some of the inevitable changes of age. Appearance is a big one. Lines emerge, the effects of gravity become obvious in our bodies and in men and many women, hair thins. In our youth-centered culture, all of these changes are at best, uncomfortable. At worst, they are painful. Many of us start to feel invisible.
During my 50’s I became aware of how fast time seemed to pass. The week would whiz by like a speeding train! Seasons would pass by so swiftly. I didn’t like this sense of flying time. I wanted time to slow down. When I was younger, anticipating a trip or a vacation, time moved at glacial speed. In midlife, my sense of anticipation changed. I knew that before I snapped my fingers, I would be leaving for the airport…
While many of these changes are expected, we don’t really feel prepared for them. And recently, many midlife adults have had to struggle with job loss which was definitely unanticipated. In this last recession, more adult males in midlife lost their jobs than in the 60 years before. And, it took them longer to find new jobs. This experience for many has been devastating.
So how can we cope more effectively with the march of time?
- Life is change. While we know this is true, we don’t always appreciate change when it occurs. Everything, including ourselves, is always changing, developing, evolving and moving. This is a central fact of life—one we have to accept wholeheartedly in order to be in harmony with life around us and within us.
- Focus on the positive—always. If we are fortunate, we have come into this era of our lives with more maturity, stability and awareness of ourselves and those around us. This is called wisdom. It can’t be learned from books, only from the University of Life Experience.
- Don’t compare today with yesterday. It is this mental act of comparing, contrasting, and evaluating this present moment that can make an experience more negative. Try adopting a more “neutral” attitude towards these changes that we perceive as negative. Simply accept them for what they are, without judging them, or wishing that they were not so. This helps you feel less encumbered by the inevitable effects of time. It helps you make peace with change.
- Count your blessings. I am in my 60s and I am still practicing Aikido (a non-violent martial art)! I am still on the mat, as a newly minted 2nd degree black belt! When you start to consider all of the blessings that you do have, the sun begins to peak out behind the clouds. When dark clouds gather, consider all that you feel thankful for. I guarantee that you will start to feel better!
What have been some of your milestones?