Guide to Midlife Enlightenment

I am slowly but surely approaching the big 50, I will definitely get there within the next 12 months. Am I bothered about this? Not particularly, although it is a huge milestone and I do not intend to let it pass unnoticed or uncelebrated.

Rise of the Midlife Bloggers

By 2020, the over-50’s will be more than 35% of the American population and no doubt of the European population too. These statistics are reflected in our blogging population. Midlife bloggers write about «midlife» and about «the midlife crisis»: how NOT to succumb to it, on the contrary, how to thrive during the transition. I really love the highly original and imaginative names of these blogs: 50feeling40, aBloomersLifeAfter50, EmptyHouseFullMind, Being50something, MidLIfeMummyDiary, DiaryOfAMidLifeCrisis, HellBentOnHappy, MidlifeMaze, MidlifeMatters and many, many more – if you are interested, go to Midlife Boulevard on Facebook or Twitter – many midlife bloggers hang out there.

What really strikes me is their upbeat tone and undeniably positive outlook on midlife: according to them, 50 is definitely THE place in life to be. So what happened to the midlife crisis?

I am starting to get the feeling that I am missing out on something here. So just for the sake of clarity – what exactly IS midlife? When is it supposed to start and to end? And what is a midlife crisis?

Define a Midlife Crisis

Experts seem to agree that the mid-life and potential crisis period stretches from our late thirties/early forties to our late fifties/early sixties. A psychologist, Elliot Jaques, in his article “Death and the Midlife Crisis” in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, coined the term “midlife crisis,” in 1965. He was referring to a time when adults become overly aware (and can even become obsessed) with their own mortality and how much time they may (or may not) have left.  Some people dive into the turbulent waters of a midlife crisis when they realise that they have reached midway. They feel dissatisfied with themselves because of unrealised goals or because physical changes cause limitations as a result of ageing.

A mid-life crisis can be a period of intense emotional turmoil. It may be accompanied by a strong desire for change, brought on by fears and anxiety about growing older.

In that case, I am definitely missing out. Although I fall in the right age group, I do not feel dissatisfied. Not a bit. I am thoroughly contented with myself and my life, even though both my life and I are far from perfect.

Midlife Enlightenment

It is clear to me, having done a bit of research online, that not everyone these days experiences midlife as a crisis. Have a look at these quotes:

Middle age is not the beginning of the decline, but a time to reach for the highest in ourselves. Middle age is a pause to re-examine what we have done and what we will do in the future. This is the time to give birth to our power.”  Frank Natale, The Wisdom of Midlife: Reclaim Your Passion, Power and Purpose

“The baby boom generation is getting older but its work is far from finished. Many people can anticipate and enjoy a second life if not a second career. Once you realise how much time you have left in this world, you will find it is profoundly worth it to invest energy in changing in major ways. A new career choice is not an unreasonable move, for example.” Prof Carlo Strenger

“In several cases, we have noticed [in others] a sudden urge to lose weight and get in shape, go clubbing and reconnect with high school and college friends following marriage trouble and divorce. My husband and I were married, without children, for 17 years when, at 38 and 42, we felt that midlife crisis and need for a change. So we went to Russia three times in two years and adopted our two amazing kids!! Best crisis we ever had. We are now 53 and 57, our son is 14 and our daughter is 12, and we are having the time of our lives!!!” Kimberly Minton Freeman.

“Large-scale studies show that as we pass through middle age, our satisfaction with life tends to follow a U-shaped curve. We may head toward our 40’s with anxiety, fear and frustration (hitting the most difficult point at age 41), but as we head toward our 50’s and 60’s, we tend to accept our aging process and eventually rebound. For some, it may be the result of making dramatic changes to our life course. For others, it’s gradual adjustments that seem to happen naturally over time. For most, it’s a shift in expectations and finding ways to enjoy the life we have.”  Vivian Diller

Midlife Transition

Today, what used to be called a midlife crisis yesterday, is more likely to be called a midlife transition and can be a period of tremendous enlightenment and dramatic personal growth. Even though I am content with who and where I am, that does not mean that I do not have any goals left. ON THE CONTRARY! I have bigger, brighter and more preposterous dreams now than ever before. So maybe this is the age of enlightenment, for those who are willing to make the effort to grow.

Mid-life sounds like a good time to take stock, plan for the next 50 years, decide what worked and what didn’t in the last 50 and make adjustments accordingly. I have learnt a lot from the midlife blogs I have been reading, and I have collected some very useful bits of information along the way. It seems that mid-life is the time to:

  • Stop complaining
  • Stop judging and criticising
  • Stop making excuses
  • Stop blaming others when things go wrong
  • Stop talking to yourself in a negative way
  • Stop labelling people
  • Stop making unverified assumptions
  • Stop trying to control everyone and everything around you
  • Stop resisting change
  • Stop your fear from limiting you
  • Stop dwelling on the past
  • Stop trying to live up to other people’s expectations
  • Stop trying to please everyone at the same time
  • Stop insisting that you are always right
  • Stop procrastinating

Well, that shouldn’t be too difficult or take up too much time…only the rest of my life, I suspect! Arrrgh !

Midlife Quotes

Midlife seems to be a good time to be grateful, to be generous, to be mindful, to let go and to forgive. A good time to take some of the following quotes on board:

  • Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe. – Mark Twain
  • Every moment is a fresh beginning. – T.S. Eliot
  • If there is no struggle, there is no progress. – Frederick Douglass
  • Be the person your dog thinks you are. – J.W. Stephens
  • A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for. – William Shedd
  • Do what you love and the money will follow. – Marsha Sinetar
  • Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated. – Russell Warren
  • Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. – Napoleon Hill
  • The dreamers are the saviours of the world. – James Allen
  • You must be the change you wish to see in the world. – Gandhi
  • Someday is not a day of the week. – Denise Brennan-Nelson
  • Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen
  • Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. – Doug Ivester
  • Action is the foundational key to all success. – Pablo Picasso
  • If you are depressed, you are living in the Past. If you are anxious, living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment. – Lao Tzu
  • The best way to predict the future is to invent it. – Alan Kay
  • Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford

Mindful Midlife

The first 40 years of my life I was not exceptionally mindful – then my husband bought me my first horse. She is an alpha mare (boss-lady) and responsible for not only her own but also her herd’s well-being. She gives the word mindfulness a whole new meaning. She is the most « aware » person I know, she even sleeps standing up. She is acutely aware of her surroundings at all times, as well as of every member of her herd, including her pet-stallion and including me. One would expect her to be stressed, or at the very least be very nervous, with all this responsibility. Nothing could be further from the reality, Belle de la Babinière is also the calmest person I know. It was Belle’s enigmatic approach to life in general and to any sort of crisis in particular, that first made me look into mindfulness as a stress management tool.

I am so glad I did. Mindfulness has helped so many of our guests. Together with meditation, it forms the foundation of our Mindful Meditation Midlife Renewal Retreats – women come here on retreat because they would like to change themselves and/or change their lives, before it is too late.

I intend to be most mindful of mid-life and I do not intend to miss out on any eventual learning and growing experiences. If there is any enlightenment to be had, I intend to be present to receive it. If I can use what I have learnt (and continue to learn) to make other people’s lives easier, then I have fulfilled my life’s purpose.

Margaretha Montagu – Mpowering midlife women to take stock, plan for the next 50 years, decide what worked and what didn’t in the last 50 and make adjustments accordingly.

bmDr. Margaretha Montegu is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience helping her patients manage stress so as to avoid physical disease and psychological distress. 8 years ago she left medical practice to concentrate on prevention rather than cure and now hosts Mindfulness Meditation Retreats, assisted by 6 super-smart horses, in the south of France. More about Dr. Montagu

If you are interested in attending a Mindfulness Meditation Retreat here at Les Sources Sacrées in the sun-blessed south of France, or if you would like to find out more about it, please e-mail us on welcome2gascony@gmail.com or leave us a message below. Goes without saying that you e-mail address is perfectly safe, we will never share it. You can find our everything you would like to know about the retreats by clicking on the “About the Retreat” buttons on the top menu bar.

 

  • I am also on Twitter (@EquineGuidedMD), this is where I publish details of any early-bird or last minute special offers,
  • Facebook (Meditation Workshops with Horses), here I publish articles about our work written by experts in the field, 
  • Pinterest, where we have a board that showcases everything this beautiful region (Gascony) has to offer, as well as a Midlife Blossoming board – a collection of articles about how to not only survive but thrive during midlife

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