What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “celebrate midlife”?
That’s the question I’ve been asking all the Second Breaks guests this year. At the start of this project, I was curious if I’d be able to see a pattern. What themes would emerge, if any?
One strong theme that’s emerging is one about enjoying this phase in our lives.
It’s a counter position to the old notion of life going downhill and the best years being behind us once we reach a certain age.
Sure, we may have reached the top of a hill. But the over-the-hill part of the journey is equally exciting and joyful and challenging and surprising.
Besides, who’s to say we’re not up to hopping on another hill, altogether? For sure, many do.
“Who’s to say what’s impossible and can’t be found?” — Jack Johnson, Upside Down
What’s to celebrate?
The idea of celebrating midlife — while sounding like the kind of thing we’d all want to get behind — isn’t a foregone conclusion. I personally know people who would say, “What’s to celebrate?!”
Who’d want to celebrate menopause, gravity taking over everything, aches in places that never ached before, needing the phone’s flashlight to read the restaurant menu, expanding belly, hair where you don’t want them and not where you do?!
To say that not everything is rosy in midlife is an understatement. 🙄
But then again, when has EVERYTHING really been rosy? Not in our teens. Not in our 20s or 30s. Not ever!
Each phase of life offers its set of gifts and challenges, opportunities and hurdles.
It’s just that in midlife, the challenges are magnified in part because our middle years awaken our dormant fears about getting old.
Funnily enough, we’ve always been getting older — like from the time we were born! But in our middle years, we become acutely aware of this fact, along with all the things that happen as we age.
It’s not a given. It’s a privilege.
If our middle years are simply part of the journey, just like all the other phases in our life, why even celebrate then?
I say because aging is a privilege. Getting here isn’t a given. All of us who have made it to our middle years in any shape or form — Hooray!
If you think about making it to 85 and you’re 45 right now? That’s 40 years more to go. Forty more years of LIVING to do. I don’t know about you, but that’s cause for celebration for me.
As Sara Smeaton, certified coach and creator of Power Profiles, pointed out, “Nothing is promised and we only get to our age once. We’re lucky to be alive at any age and we should celebrate it all.”
Sara celebrates by remembering to be present. “I am deeply appreciative for what I have, for who I am, for who’s around me, for who I love. I don’t take it for granted. I don’t feel entitled to it. I want to be present for it.”
It’s our time to shine.
My father died at 69. Often, I feel robbed of the opportunity to sit down with him and get his take on things, listen to his point of view, ask for his advice. I didn’t do this as much as I should have when he was still alive.
Sarah Baker Andrus (career coach and founder of Avarah Careers) hit it on the nail. By the time we get to midlife, “we’ve managed to gain mastery over some things, and we’ve got some wisdom to share. We have a lot to share and we shouldn’t be silent.”
Amen to that.
We can parlay that expertise into new ventures and new careers. Or we can choose to step into the role of mentor to the younger generation.
Actively participate in life.
“So, I’m 66,” says age-management physician Dr. Mickey Barber. “People ask me all the time when I’m going to retire. And I say when I’m not having fun anymore.”
For Dr. Barber, celebrating midlife means enjoying every day — actively participating and engaging in her life. With both her siblings having died of cancer and heart disease in their 40s, Dr. Barber had to make some conscious decisions to get to her age and she couldn’t be more grateful for the changes she’s made in her life.
“I feel good. I’m having fun. I think that’s what life is all about.”
Celebrate midlife is the mantra I’ve chosen for myself and my small publishing company. It’s my new North Star. It’s a gentle reminder of the kind of person I want to be in my middle years and the actions I want to take to make these years the best phase of my life.
MIDLIFE CUES: A newsletter about intentional living and personal growth in our middle years. Subscribe for weekly dose of nudges and curated resources to feel better, do better, and be better in midlife.
Some Suggested Readings
- Maintaining relationships is a key component of a long and healthy life. Retirement can put the kibosh on that. What used to be so simple — connecting with others — becomes a challenge and needs deliberate actions. How to Avoid Loneliness When You Retire
- “We prefer things to be logical and neat, black and white. But life is often “clear as mud” and refuses to play by the rules. […] We don’t live in an “either/or” world, but a “both/and.” 7 Paradoxical Truths to Embrace for a Meaningful Life
Mull It Over
“Living in the present and finding what’s good about it is how I want to be alive.” — Ali MacGraw