I have always been called blunt. “She certainly isn’t afraid to say what she’s thinking” women would say in describing me. If they are friends with me, that means that’s why they love me. If they aren’t friends with me……that IS why. It can definitely err on the side of foot in mouth disease, but these days I do my best to keep it aimed in the right direction. I think my best work as a therapist comes when I’m at my most raw and honest with my clients. When I let them know how they are perceived or exactly why I believe, they are experiencing the difficulties they are struggling with, is when I see the most growth. Because, if we are able to stand on the outside of ourselves on a regular basis, we are allowed this wonderful window to watch our behavior.
It ain’t always pretty, of course.
We are either impressed by this behavior, and decide we are happy with our choices. Or……we pinpoint the things we don’t like, own them and only then can we move towards the person we are supposed to be right now.
I reject the idea that you are who you are for 90 years?!
I invite the idea that we have many chapters.
In the interest of raising our self-awareness, having empathy for ourselves and others, and looking through that all important window of behavior, let’s set some intentions for this place they call mid-life. While we’re at it, let talk about this word crisis! How about a mid-life chapter? Mid-life is but a chapter in our book! It doesn’t have to be a crisis! We are in charge of this and WE prefer to view it as a chapter that includes growth, introspection, self-care and awakening. We will show those who come after us how to do this thing called mid-life….in a way that supports mid-life issues, nurtures us as humans, and provides a light for what is to come in the future. What follows are 5 ways I believe we can provide that much needed window for ourselves. The window to see ourselves as others see us. The window that provides a launching pad for growth and change. The window that creates empathy for ourselves and others, in order to build a soft place for us all to fall. Here are my tips for a mid-life chapter we can be proud of.
1 – Believe you’re a badass.
Because without that, you’re not going to be able to complete the next 4 steps. You may not be where you hoped you’d be in life, accept that and move forward anyway. Your partner may not be what you hoped for…stop trying to change them. Change you. Don’t threaten to do it…..do it. Your body may not look how you wanted and the changes as you age can be tricky. Move forward anyway. Believe you’re a badass! Look what you’ve been through in your life….badass! Look how far you’ve come….badass! Look at what your body is capable of….badass! Complain less, enjoy more! Challenge yourself as often as you can, just to see how badass you actually are!
It’s gonna get hard, move forward anyway.
2 – Self-Care:
What do we enjoy doing the most (assuming it is both legal and safe) and how much time do we spend doing it each week? How about each month? Self- care changes us. Self-care is any intentional action you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health. I like to say, it should energize you and feed you spiritually as well. Try your hardest to do this daily for yourself, if that isn’t possible, then weekly. Self-care provides an opening for growth. It helps us to get to know ourselves again, in a deep way. Did we stop growing?? Did we stop learning? Do we like ourselves? Would we be friends with us?
3 – We are not always right.
I know you don’t want to hear this…..but you aren’t ALWAYS right! Feels harsh huh? Become more self-aware of not just how you are reacting, but WHY you are reacting in that way. It sounds easy, and it’s not. We are so tied into the emotions of the issue in front of us, that we don’t allow ourselves to stop, take a breath and just think! Think about what you are thinking about. Mindfulness will help you do this by creating a level of self-awareness that fosters responding, not reacting. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. Sometimes as a “right fighter” we forget that no one wins a prize for being right, and forcing our opinions and thoughts down someone else’s throat just creates anxiety for ourselves and the other person in the conversation. Is this how we want the people in our lives to experience us? I want to leave people happier than before. I want them to feel more confident than when I walked in the room and I want to provide a light that they want to follow. Not because I’m right, but because I’m human.
4 – Stop “shoulding and musterbating”.
Start thinking of others as humans who are seeking like we are. Seeking love, seeking reassurance, seeking affection, seeking to be SEEN….not judged. They are seeking to be given the benefit of the doubt….in life… just like we are. Don’t spend so much time in the “should” zone. In therapy, we call this “shoulding and musterbating”. Awkward, I know! We should others and ourselves based on our beliefs about the world. We must others and ourselves into guilt and pressure. It’s so easy to look at other’s lives and say what they should be doing. It provides us a reprieve from looking at our own lives. We judge, it’s human and if left unattended, it takes over. We become this person who always has the answer and is always ready with what the other should be doing, when in reality, we haven’t walked in the other persons shoes, so let’s just stick to our own lives…and cultivating empathy for ourselves in this area. The more empathy we have for ourselves, the more we have to give away to other seekers.
5 – Cultivate the positive.
Speaking of giving away empathy. At the airport returning home from a quick vacation recently, I was seated waiting to board, across from, what appeared to be a lady in her late sixties. Think Betsey Johnson or Iris Apfel. Uber fashionista with gorgeous hues of blue through her hair and toenail polish to match. I couldn’t pass up the chance to let her know how gorgeous she was. Did I want to make her feel good? Yes. But more than that, I wanted the high as well! It is so much more than quotes on an FB page. It’s so much more than a share or a tag on something positive. No my friends, this is so much harder. It is genuinely wishing the best for others, genuinely wanting them to do what makes them happy, believing in the best motivation from people. Genuinely wanting others to feel good about themselves.
Yep, we’ve lost that haven’t we?
Somewhere along the way, we just care a little less for our fellow human. I’m just suggesting we bring that back and watch it work its magic! Let’s spend time everyday growing happiness in our heart for others. This can be in the form of a mantra during meditation, prayer, or just a mindful moment.
Let’s go easy on ourselves friends. Those that came before us may have handled mid-life in a way that scares us or is at the very least a caution sign for this time in our lives. Move forward anyway. Move forward with the knowledge that you have this under control. Move forward with the excitement of a new chapter unfolding before you. Move forward with confidence that you ARE a badass, and you will turn this mid-life chapter into one you can be proud of. In the meantime, be aware that if you accomplish a beautiful mid-life chapter, you just may be changing cycles in your family…and that is badass.