thoughts on the midlife moment and all its promise
YES! The Introductions post last week was truly inspiring, with the opportunity that Courtney gave us to share thoughts and feelings with this exhilarating group of our Examined Family.
I'm proud and gratified to know Courtney Martin, who is clearly performing an indispensable service with this column. Let's give her a huge Shout Out as we think of admirable people making the most of middle age.
Yet, it's impossible for me to imagine Courtney as middle aged because when we met at Barnard around 2000, she was such a young vibrant voice, stunning us all with her Slam Poetry. Now, look at her, personifying the title of her wonderful book, "Do It Anyway"! Be sure to read this!
When I was a kid, there was a TV program, long defunct now, called "Life Begins at 80". Those ancient panelists seemed like dinosaurs from a distant era.
Now, at age 85, I recall the opening lines from the moderator of that show: "Never complain about growing old because so many people are denied that privilege."
As we recall today the tragedy of Uvalde, think of how those children who were senselessly murdered were denied growing up into adulthood.
So from my perspective, I want to urge our Family to appreciate your (relative) youth, making the most of every moment. DD
I recently had the opportunity to interview 118 midlife women (for my recently published book about midlife). One of the things those women and I talked about at length was "the view from midlife" (how broad and expansive that view is). I love the fact that you touched upon this very same theme in your post. To me, it's one of the most exciting things about being at midlife -- being able to connect the dots between past, present, and future in a whole new way. It's cracked open so much possibility for me, both as a writer and a human. (I'm currently in the process of trying to teach myself how to write my first novel -- something that's both incredibly daunting and incredibly thrilling. Current mood: creative joy!)
When I think about midlife I think of the u curve of happiness (if you haven’t heard of it, here’s an article: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/may/05/happiness-curve-life-gets-better-after-50-jonathan-rauch)
I found it very reassuring to know that feeling more down and depressed in age 45-55 is normal, and that most people get happier as they get beyond those years. My theory is that in midlife people have some version of “is this as good as it’s going to get?!” Whether that’s with their marriage, their kids (who are becoming adults and maybe not who/what they envisioned), or their work. It’s a time of taking an assessment, often coming up short, and then moving on and being ok with that. Good times!
Crisis also came up for me. But then the balance of wisdom and age. I know that's not everyone's experience, but I like the level of wisdom I have now, that I didn't have at 30. And yesterday I ran my fastest 5 miles ever, while holding a phone that bothers the little bit of arthritis in my finger.
The best post EVER and I have to say: that Wendy Mac is the Brandi Carlile of the artset....because like Brandi, she ably assists in helping out, giving one ideas, inspirations, puts people together who you would never have thought of as being of like minds!
Kris Kristofferson, Elton, Joni Mitchell, Tanya Tucker, Marcus Mumford, the list is endless of who Brandi knows....and connects with. This is the way the world should be operating--no exclusion, no warring in Russia, the Sudan starving? Are some of these so-called leaders nutz or what? Women are the best when it comes to pulling it together---Women UNITE! Change this bedeviled world!
In my experience if you have spent your twenties and thirties experimenting and learning, both personally and vocationally, midlife is the time of really coming into your strengths. Challenges do start piling on for many of us, but we have the maturity and resourcefulness to meet them.
I think the old idea of an age-connected crisis might be more relevant for people who have not taken the opportunity, or had the opportunity, to explore much in their twenties and thirties, somehow waited instead for something to happen, and reach their forties not knowing what interests them and saddled with financial burdens that make experimentation harder.
In so many respects 40 is so young. I had my son when I was forty three, then launched a new chunk of my career, saw my older daughters through middle school and high school and into university, and finally, finally got a dog...
Of course the losses start moving in as well, with parents aging gracefully or not, needing care, and eventually dying, and the loss of others as well, alongside maybe some aches of ones own to accommodate. It is a big, rich time of life.
Another Capricorn here. I spent my younger adulthood toying with the idea of "en-small-ing" -- looking for the words and ways to talk about and live a life that was smaller, but not less than, not shrunken. (I am so grateful to the writers who didn't give up on this just because our language is so dreadful about it.)
Now, at 58 and in another country, loss is what feels true and important to befriend. And perhaps there's time to find the words and ways. Heaven knows plenty of practice is coming.
Love this article and all the ways in which we are reimagining what it means to be middle aged and aging in general - in the spirit of such expansiveness, just wanted to shout out to all the folks who aren’t women who are experiencing the peri/menopause journey - and to the women who don’t!
Yes! All of this. I wrote about this too recently -- about how becoming a parent in the pandemic era has brought on this perspective rather quickly for many of us Millennial mothers, and about how it’s redefined what our midlife shifts might look like. (Less red convertibles, probably?)
Loved this and especially the idea of expanding our capabilities in each new phase of life! Also, when I think middle aged, I think about the involuntary groans I've started to make when bending over to pick something up. Michael Estrin wrote a very funny essay about that. https://michaelestrin.substack.com/p/ask-your-friends-if-middle-age-is
I turn 50 this year. I am an "older" mom and still have young kids. I have lost one parent in the last 2 years, and the other isn't in great health either. Periomenopause is killing me. And I still prob have a long ways to go! I accutely feel everything about midlife (frankly older than midlife). That being said - I so recommend the Wiser Than Me Podcast by Julia Lousie Dreyfuss - she interviews women older than her (62). I hope to not make the same mistake as I did in my 20s - and actually listen and learn from the women older than I.
One episode has stuck with me - JLD talking with Fran Leibowitz and both saying how their 50s was the most amazing decade. Body still works, you still look good (even if you think you don't!), you are wise enough - not too much incremental knowlege, and you don't care as much about what people think. JLD was like - I got diagnosed with breast cancer in my 50s - and still the best decade ever. For some reason - that changed my persepctive. Yeah - I'm going to make my 50s pretty f'ing awesome. :).
Thanks as always for your writing - I love it.
A good, new perspective we all need because 'mid life' has been culturally co-opted by that white male demographic image (like they only deserve it). My husband and I have been recently talking about this – we are older Millennials (just turned 40 // born in 1983) and we feel like we are just getting 'started'. Which means we have JUST hoarded enough money to make some decisions not based on making ends meet. We are JUST now having our second child. We JUST now got out of the city to get fresh country air. We JUST started owning farm animals, working for clients we want other than need, saying YES when we authentically mean 'yes', forging meaningful relationships with people that get us, JUST now defining our values instead of going along with what everyone else does. Really, I am happy to be of an age where I am asking myself WHAT I WANT and WHO I AM. Age be damned, let your renaissance come to you and overtake you.
Frances Mcdormand!! And yes to all of this!
I'm so low tech--I don't know how to 'add these to chat'. So here you go!
Iris Apfel at 101----going for it!
Rita Morena, 91 dancing in West Side Story on Broadway.
Jamie Lee Curtis---OMG so fully owning it all!
And the woman I encountered this morn. Entered a bodybuilding contest in category 18 and up---and won---at 67. Sorry no name, nor pic---just a wave of inspiration. (Not that we need to build our bodies---but that SHE did a thing, did what she loved and didn't let age stop her. That!)
My new book, Red Hot Living:Becoming a JOYful Badass Sager---is about exactly this! Life is a gift. No age is better or worse. Change is real---but needn't be "bad"---just juicy new playground! What you love (always have) can juice this next season---unleash it. Come out to play. All ages, all stages---with reckless abandon!
Loveya---and your way with words---slays me. Serious grit shit. LOVE! Carry on, beautiful warrior/sister/slayer/singer of the good fresh land of life!
p.s. I love what Chip Conley and the Modern Elder Academy are up to in the Baja.