The Midlife Unraveling Requires Chutzpah And Heaping Helpings Of It!
Fast cars and faster (younger, much younger) women. That’s the quintessential stereotype of a man’s “midlife crisis”. Complete that picture with a spray tan and hair plugs, and voila…transformation complete. And pretty much completely acceptable in our society as it stands.
Side note…society as we know it is smack dab in the midst of an unraveling of its own. Look around. Systems are crumbling left and right. That’s a topic for a different discussion and one I’ll circle back to in time.
Stereotype aside, this is not what typically happens to women.
Midlife hits us in another way…a very personal and guttural way. It demands of us a self-reckoning. A reckoning that should we choose to put it on the already overcrowded back-burner of life, will slow boil until it garners enough entropy to explode and cover every inch of our lives with muck.
At least this is what happened to me and every woman so far with whom I’ve had this conversation. The conversation stems around the two more critical questions we humans have about life. Questions we flirt with during our first few decades. Questions we think, until midlife, are just fleeting inquiries that are really just luxuries to have answered.
“Who am I?”
And “Why am I here, now?”
I had my self-reckoning and continue to find myself diving deeper into my own answers. I don’t really expect to ever have “the answer”. I don’t think any of us ever really ever do. In fact I don’t think there is “an answer”. What I believe we do have access to though, is the inner conversation that hones our “sifting and sorting skills”. Skills that are under-valued and under-appreciated until we find ourselves in that temperate pot of midlife soup at a slow boil. A boil that strengthens until we put our newfound skills to work. And work it is.
The midlife unraveling is not an event, as we would understand a crisis to be. In my mind a crisis happens “to us”, we deal with it and then proceed. Think sports car lease and salon appointments…and dating apps for the stereotypical scenario I started out with.
Unraveling requires inquiry. It requires studying. And analysis. And sifting. And sorting. It requires letting go of expectations we placed upon ourselves and allowed others to pile theirs upon. It is not a passive event. Not in the least.
Now I suppose it can be passive, in a way. You could choose to ignore it or medicate it or internalize it then deal with the consequences. That is a decision and by all means your choice to make.
The unraveling is not for the meek, nor the delicate. It requires chutzpah and heaping helpings of it!
I’ve been a fastidious student of Brené Brown’s since I first met her in 2017. I watched her Ted Talk and that was it, she was now my virtual BFF and that was that. She speaks to our collective soul and talks about the things we just don’t talk about. As a result of our silence around important things, the fallout festers and festers some more. Eventually reaching the level of “deal with me or else”. And deal with it we must.
Another incredible Brené-ism is this:
“Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
‘I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and lovable, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through your veins. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.’
If you look at each midlife “event” as a random, stand-alone struggle, you might be lured into believing you’re only up against a small constellation of “crises.” The truth is that the midlife unraveling is a series of painful nudges strung together by low-grade anxiety and depression, quiet desperation, and an insidious loss of control. By low-grade, quiet, and insidious, I mean it’s enough to make you crazy, but seldom enough for people on the outside to validate the struggle or offer you help and respite. It’s the dangerous kind of suffering – the kind that allows you to pretend that everything is OK.”
After reading this one passage, can you see why I love her and why she is one of my virtual BFFs? I have a few, mind you.
Brené’s wisdom is an inspiration behind my creation of the Unraveling Together community. We are rebellious midlife women who are rolling up our sleeves to do the work in community. Unraveling Together is created in the spirit of strength in numbers and as an offering of respite. We’re looking to one another to help us navigate the uncharted waters of midlife, menopause and meaning. We aim to do the heavy lifting as a collective, for “many hands lighten the load” isn’t a saying for nothing. We’re considered rebellious because we dare question the “everything of it all”. And I mean everything.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing insights from what’s brewing in the Unraveling Together (UT) community and extend to you a personal invitation to explore whether UT is a fit for you. If you want to be sure to be in the know, you can let me know HERE.
Fine print: the group is open to women only at this time, but men are most definitely welcome to the fireside chats I’ll be hosting from time to time, so raise your hand HERE as well and I’ll keep you posted.
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