Discover three unexpected treasures of midlife. Explore the transformative journey of finding gifts in the midst of change and growth.
I remember approaching my big 5-OH birthday with some trepidation. It felt like a halfway mark, although it likely was well past that. My grandmother used to say that things get less after reaching halfway, even though they’re getting less from day 1. I guess it’s because that’s about when you start paying attention to midlife.
And so I thought turning fifty meant I’ll change in some way. But no such thing happened really. I didn’t suddenly become wiser or start thinking differently.
When I was in my mid-thirties, a friend in her early forties had said the face takes a hit when you turn 40. I was well past that age, and thank you genes, I hadn’t noticed a thing. Had I passed the litmus test of lasting youth?
But then, things did begin to change. Initially I couldn’t quite tell what it was because it was so subtle. I couldn’t point to anything significant except in fleeting moments. What I did feel though was that the person looking back at me from the mirror wasn’t the person I knew myself to be.
We were still in the peak of Covid where Zoom interactions were in full force. I figured I was over-analyzing my face simply because I was looking at it so much, and invariably comparing it to all the other faces next to mine in little boxes smeared across the screen.
But then the subtle shift began to take shape. That ever so slight heaviness in my jaw turned into 2 lumps on either side of my face, and a Google search told me they were called jowls. Google also told me it was part of the ageing process. So was the widening of my forehead (and I’d thought it was because I hadn’t been to my hairdresser for almost a year), and the droopiness of my nose (which I assumed was because I was constantly smiling on Zoom).
It was official. I was ageing. The unfamiliar shifts that I thought will simply go away were here to stay.
I was starting to look like the people I has always classified as old. And honestly, that unsettled me more than I’d ever thought it will.
More than two decades ago, I had to do the work of accepting my body as I recovered from an eating disorder in my early adulthood. I was being called to go it again, albeit in a different way.
It wasn’t about detaching my self-worth from my appearance. Nor was it about feeling right about my body. It was about feeling me in my body. A fifty-year-old relationship with someone who looked a certain way had felt familiar. My life was built around it.
I now had to start a relationship with a new person. This meant experimenting, seeing what worked and what didn’t. Creating space in my life for new routines, and yes, Retinol-A was finally part of it. It was about slowing down and listening to my body, but also to my emotions because getting older does bring some grief. It’s the loss of life as we knew it.
These 3 things in particular have helped me in my midlife journey:
So important in a world that tells us we’re broken because we’re older. Self-compassion is the bedrock of courage, wisdom, empathy and every human value we aspire to. When we tune in with compassion, we can be reminded that midlife is actually an invitation to become whole again.
I don’t mean the laugh out loud kind of humor. It’s smiling at that inner voice that sees your sagging breasts or receding hairline and starts throwing a fit. It’s tossing your head when it says you need Botox for your frown lines or smile lines and showing up with energy anyway.
I believe that perspective and humor are the greatest gifts of midlife. They have the power to untie the apron strings of society’s demands. I had a glimpse of that the other day when I took my girls shopping. The mayhem in the stores, the thousands of energetic young adults rushing in and out of change rooms and hustling to grab the perfect find reminded me of my own earlier years.
But instead of longing for the rush and excitement I felt at the time in these pursuits, I felt strangely liberated. In that dazy hazy moment as the world scurried around me, I felt a lightness of being that was truly magical, reminding me of the unique beauty of midlife.