As I was drifting off to sleep last night, knowing that today was blog-post writing day, I asked my muse—my source of artistic inspiration—to bring me a topic. She did: I was to write about my 50-year old midlife crisis awakening.
For the last eight months I have been on an unexpected journey. At age fifty (now fifty-one), I left the town where I was living (with a dear beloved) and we headed north. Where we thought we were going didn’t work out so we landed somewhere else, regained our bearings (sort of), and soon set out on individual journeys.
What started initially as looking for a new place to call home, soon morphed into new-found discoveries about life, people, and business. Questions arose about my life’s purpose, recovering from addiction, and whether in fact, there was life outside the San Francisco Bay Area.
At times I felt smack dab in the middle of a midlife crisis: hitting bottom with days of incessant crying, big fears screaming in all the major areas of my life: health, wealth, housing, work, and relationship. I comforted myself with many episodes and multiple seasons of Wentworth, Orange Is the New Black, The OA, Rectify, Damages, and rock n’ roll documentaries on The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.
Other moments, however, felt like awakenings: I felt elated, free, and exactly where I was supposed to be. I was living life on my terms for the most part, although fears tried to trick otherwise. I’ll tell you though, time-freedom is everything and I had it; I still do.
Midlife Crisis Awakening: The Details
In truth we do not know when we’re in midlife because we don’t know how long we’ll live. However, to play along with the cliche, here are 7 lessons I learned by age fifty-one; midlife maybe, crisis and awakening, yes.
Lesson #1: Traveling: Trust, Humility, & Cultural Competency
Getting into that old, run-down truck with a gravelly-voiced man I did not know to catch a ride from Mill Valley, CA to Santa Cruz was a humbling experience. Based on my class background (upper) and too many fictional, fear-based movies and “sensationalized news broadcasts,” it would have been easy, very easy for me to judge his “street-presence and dialect” and question my safety.
Oh, side-note… Due to a severe panic attack, among other things, I ditched my car in 2009 and have been car-free ever since. I get around by public transportation, walking, bicycling, occasional car-share, and rides from friends and strangers—paid, trade, and free.
My awareness rose as I caught my knee-jerk reaction to judge this man but saw the hypocrisy in it. In truth, we had some things in common and in fact, were faced with similar life-worries, including housing and work. I could see us on the same playing field; I worked to see us on the same playing field as a sort of mantra practice to resist my own inclination to judge.
Lesson #2: Collective Community Energetic
No place is perfect. That is to say, try to find one town with all your favorite qualities; it can be tough, at least it was for me. If you get seven or eight out of ten, I consider that highly successful. There are many factors to consider and of course, it’s different for everyone.
One day while walking in Marin County, CA, I bumped into what I call the “collective community energetic.” I realized that no place—town, city, state, country, or neighborhood—had only one type of person, though you might be tempted to think so. As for me, I’m not a big proponent of stereotyping.
However, I began to notice I was tapping into the essence of the feeling of the community as a whole, subjective of course. Were folks friendly, offering smiles, kind gestures, and helpful information? Or were they self-focused, coveting their plots of owned and rented land, playing roles of protector and gate-keeper? In some communities, I could not feel the pulse of the people at all; I could not feel their heartbeat. Perhaps that was the most disturbing.
Dragging big, black plastic bags, among other bags, boxes, and sorted-containers, filled to the brim with stuff, from one decade to the next got old and heavy—emotionally and physically. It took up time, my time, and my time is precious time.
What did I really need anyway? The questions hit me hard and I welcomed them. What things were I actually using daily… weekly? Now of course, traveling put me in a different position. I wasn’t designing a house or living in a conventional manner. But just a short time ago I was and there were so many things I just wasn’t using; they were merely collecting dust.
It happened in layers—one at at time—over the course of months in increments. It became oh-so-fun to get rid of stuff… almost addicting; I would also add, freeing and liberating. Being a Virgo (yes, fussy), I’ve never welcomed clutter or “mess,” but what sort of value was I placing on my material possessions and what did they symbolize? I was ready to let go; I did and it felt oh-so-good.
Lesson #4: Recovery is a Life-Long Evolving Practice
Flour and sugar addict: check. How about you?
Life-long evolving practice? Yes. End of story.
Lesson #5: Ego-Body/Thinking-Mind & Awareness
Elkhart Tolle: A New Earth. Reading this book brought me back to roots, my hippie-expression, and my sense of knowing what is. It felt like coming home. When an idea, concept, or way of being speaks to me in immediate clarity, it becomes blueprinted into the landscape of me—in body, mind, and spirit. This is exactly what happened…
And so it goes… We are all here, on this continuum existing in the space between ego-body/thinking-mind and awareness or Presence. Ego-body/thinking-mind presents itself as continuous reactions to past experiences carried into the present moment—knee-jerk reactions of thoughts lacking awareness or witness.
I was reminded: The ego-body/thinking mind is not the truth of who I am; in a sense it is only an imposter. It cannot ever provide true fulfillment, as it chases its tail from desire to protection to defense. This may sound esoteric, but I truly get it.
On the other hand, awareness/Presence is the witness, the watcher of the ego-body/thinking-mind—the ability to create spaciousness. From this place we learn how to pause, discern, and quiet negative emotions that follow automatic thought patterns. Presence is joy, peace, and enlightenment. In other words… I AM.
What is most important to me where I live? I finally figured it out! Like I said, it’s near impossible to find a place that embodies all my favorite qualities, but here’s what I learned… I need to be where I can live the healthiest… for me, right now.
Healthy is quite a large concept and different for everyone; it also changes. Without perfection, as close as possible, here are the qualities that in practice support my healthy well-being.
Deep, intimate connection with nature. This means living in big nature, as wild as possible, and walking through it… daily. Community: Ease in meeting new folks who are friendly and kind, willing to help out, lgbt-friendly, beaming from the feminine divine, and class-conscious. People who care about those less-privileged and lend a hand.
Organic, locally-sourced food that is easy to attain. Affordable, desirable housing for my budget right now. Opportunities to expand my business; entrepreneurial-spirit. An environment that fuels my creative fire; this needs to include weather that moves and moves me.
Lesson #7: Gratitude Is the Bottom Line
Oh how you saved me many times, my friend, Gratitude. I acknowledged you, you spoke to me; I gave to you, you supplied me with the goods I needed to keep growing. Most specifically, it was not mere gratitude that was powerful, but rather, practicing gratitude, gratitude in practice.
Practicing gratitude (it’s so easy and there’s no one-way) is deep medicine. It’s fast-acting, transformational, and heals wounds. Some writers hold back from using the term “cure;” I don’t.
Gratitude, when paired with feeling and identifying emotions, then moving into affirming the blessings of the situation is a cure for depression, anxiety, worry, self-doubt, big-fear, stuck-ness, low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, anger gone awry moving unconsciously through the ego-body/thinking-mind, and the list goes on. I am a true believer in Gratitude, based on despair, experience, practice, and liberation.
Was my 50-year old midlife journey a crisis or awakening? I’ll leave that up to your imagination and please do imagine it. Here I am today, sitting in a cafe writing this blog post. Just being. Just being me. I AM. I welcome your emotional response.