Midlife. Years of running fast around the wheel like a hamster in a cage trying to make it big in the city then full 180. Drop off everything. Take on yoga teaching. Get wellies and an allotment. And now what? That sneaky little existential crisis that creeps up on you.
If you’re there (I’m there), you’ll know the signs.
Mind racing, low-level anxiety peaking in the middle of a perfectly sensible conversation about the practicalities of motherhood, rummaging lists over lists, life envy, music blasting off out loud in the car as you drive off the school run, maybe a little sob at Coldplay.
Now to be helpful if one can in the circumstances, what would you do?
BRING THE FUN BACK INTO THE SCHEDULE
Snatch it wherever you can, make it happen. Prioritise enjoyment and gratification at least once a day until you recover your spark. You can’t be fun if you’re not having fun so your being miserable is no good to anyone. It’s important to wangle some light-hearted pleasure into your day. If money and time are scarce you’ll need to be more resourceful. Imagination and creativity are the most playful tools you have. Put music on, think up a victory dance and get wild at it or check the internet for some inspiration. Tell yourself stories, eat what takes your fancy and make a moment that is not normally fun into a fun time for you.
For the right attitude Mama Gena’s School Of Womanly Arts has been dug out from under the bed where it had been gathering dust for the best part of 10 years (Oh the naughtiness). She describes pleasure, call it joy/fun whatever speaks best to you, as a self-discipline. It is so easy to be miserable day after day and wallow in self-pity. It is a lot harder and much more work to decide over and over again to focus on the good. You must put efforts into creating amusement and joy but the more you do the brighter you’ll feel and the quicker your life will actually start looking the way you want it to.
If you’re a mum follow @JetSetMama on instagram for a daily dose of laugh-out-loud sarcasm and self-deprecation.
And humour, humour, humour. If you’re a little light on the subject as I am then surround yourself with people who have it to share. Which brings me straight to my next point.
In my case sisterhood. Thanks to all my girlfriends for keeping me (half) sane, you know who you are ladies! Here is where I bow to all my girls near and far. Thanks for afternoon (and evening) vino in the garden whilst the 4-year-olds fight for themselves Lord-Of-The-Flies-style and thanks for endless Skype calls to Hawaii (hello Ella!). Big thanks for indulging me and listening at length whilst I fret about all the things I still want to do, the ones I’m freaking out about missing out on and mostly thanks to all those still keeping gracious whilst I ramble yet again about how much I miss London and “the life we had”. And no, nothing else will do, not even the pristine local dunes of Sandbanks. Cry me a river, life’s a beach. And by the way, the grass is greener on the other side.
Anyway… Very grateful for my ladies holding the space and allowing my quirks to pass but on a serious note: it takes a village.
It takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to raise a mother if you ask me. It takes a village to achieve anything of value that brims integration and happiness. So don’t isolate yourself. Make that phone call, accept that offer for help, pencil a date for coffee. Go out of your way to talk to people, and really listen. The greatest gift you can give anyone is to make them feel truly seen and heard, exactly what you’re after. Give it, get it. What goes around, comes around.
CHOSE HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL
The core of midlife crisis is that list of things you want to do that you haven’t yet and worry you never will. Perhaps that might be true, perhaps not. The quickest and most efficient way to achieve ticking all items on the list, or come as close to do so as possible, is identifying how you would feel if you did tick the items off. And basically the idea is that perhaps the exact form of what you want is not really that important but the feeling you want to obtain is – which can be created through a different mean, another kind of experience.
What is the emotion, sensation, desire that would be fulfilled by doing the deed? Zoom in on the essence of how you want to feel. Once you are clear and have a “new list” of feelings then go out and do every little thing you can do to feel that way as often as possible. This could be as simple as choosing to feel that way despite the circumstances (which is a sure magnetic force to allow actual situations to bring you that feeling with outside material objects/events) or introduce smaller/different ways to feel how you want to feel. You’ll be instantly better for it whatever the outcome.
So having a midlife crisis does have its perks. Self-proclaim having one and you’ve got your ticket to a little bad behaviour on the side (aka get away with murder) and way more fun.
These are my two-cents on the subject, now for a bit more meat look up Miranda Sawyer’s latest book Out Of Time. Highly entertaining and oh so spot on. She has chapters such as “Is this it?” which will resonate or the very fitting “Never mind the 90s”. Hell yeah I’m showing my age though I do have to admit to remembering the 90s somewhat differently, perhaps I had far too tame a time! And I should probably read more than 2 chapters before recommending but who has time?
One last call on friendship and community, perhaps a bit out of tone here but I do really love this quote by Starhawk: “We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been – a place, half-remembered, and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom you can speak with passion without having the words catch in your throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Some place where we can be free.”
Now that seems like a good answer to my current nausea.
(P.s. Girlies, anyone wants to go see the latest Bridget Jones please P. M. me?)