Jeanne Denney
basket weave

Midlife

Lives unfold and build in different ways between 25 and the forties. Between say 45 and 65, “the prime of life”(perhaps) we begin to sense the flattening of the arc of ascent. We may be at the top (or bottom) of something. We peer over the crest, sensing a reversal in energy, the introduction of physical decline (which has actually been going on since the mid 20’s). Perhaps plans for ourselves have not manifested as envisioned. We realize they won’t. We are forced to give up precious visions or cherished dreams. This, and all that comes with it, is commonly called the “midlife crisis”. Usually some contract seems broken, one surreptitiously given by the culture which suggested that we would have an eternal ascent if we only do something right like use the right toothpaste. Perhaps we feel abandoned by our body, by God or others. In midlife the songs of my youth bring tears to my eyes, yet we are often at the peak of our political and economic lives.

Whether you see it as our first or deeper glimpse of death (this too will happen to me), a reclamation of youth or look forward to reducing responsibilities in older age, there is sure to be dissolution and re-solution. Parents die, nests empty, bodies age, thicken, lose capacities, eyesight dwindles, hair color and sexuality change, lovers leave, marriage contracts change or dissolve, grief must be grieved, friendships stay or go and we wrestle with and if lucky claim, a more interior and transpersonal self. Or not. Perhaps instead we adopt a low level depression, gain weight, deny an inner calling, drink more or entertain addictions, wreck a car, lose a job or a business. In sum, we are put on notice. No judgment. Seen one way we are united with a kind of unavoidable failure in midlife. Seen another we are finally set free to invoke return to a source we may have forgotten.

All this most commonly is seen as a grand life tragedy when the transformation is myopically seen as physical only. Held in a larger and more encompassing light, we see the potential of a deep blossoming in these changes. As part of this process it is common and even necessary to revisit the origination of our physical life tasks in the early 20’s as we are completing many of the visions and tasks we started then. The natural mirroring between midlife (say the 50’s for arguments sake) and the 20’s is profound. Like any grieving process there is an aspect of closing here that requires life review in order that the new might come in. Loves or desires for our life left behind in our 20’s are reviewed and are longed for. We touch them again in music, relationships, places. Well lived, the paths that we did not take may be re-opened in a new form. Perhaps an engineer takes up his penchant for painting or the love of the electric guitar, the artist indulges a desire to learn a trade or start a business, those single might look for the challenges of extended relationship, those coming out of relationship might look for hermitage or new love. Those in relationships might reinvent them. You get the picture. In some sense, the 50’s are a second early adulthood, but one we parent ourselves through with wisdom gained from deepest struggle. Not to welcome and allow this emergence in self or in our partner can cause disruption to body and soul.