Mid Life Crisis Management: Avoid Sharp Objects

I confess, one of my favorite shows growing up was Little House on the Prairie. Anyone who knows me won’t find that too surprising. I have to confess I still watch it on occasion. One of the biggest differences I have noticed in reflecting on this time in history is that the concept of “Mid Life Crisis” was not prevalent.  I find myself wondering why not? Why didn’t the average 50 year old suddenly want a bigger and better horse or more time for themselves? Ok…it might be because they didn’t LIVE long enough….or because there was nowhere to really go to get time for one self. Having bigger and better ‘things’ was not really an option when most people had very little.

So there is an obvious reason why people now often fall into this emotional trap. However, I have found a more interesting and perhaps not so obvious reason some people fall into this struggle and others do not. It all has to do with a little phrase that rarely was ever spoken or even thought a hundred years ago…it is the phrase “what do I want?

There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting things. There is something very healthy about setting goals, having dreams and looking for the next mountain peak to scale. However, I have found that there is a general emotional shift that occurs as we age. We see so much information on the physical aspects of aging and how to slow the process or make it less painful and visible. There is also an emotional component to aging that is crucial in the overall ‘success’ of growing older.

Let’s take a moment to consider the way most people think in their late teens and twenties. We raise our kids to set goals for their lives. We want them to do well in school, to create financial wealth and to ‘succeed’ in life. The definition of ‘success’ is almost always related to materialistic and relationship issues. So naturally in our twenties we spend most of our time thinking about what we want. We teach our kids to judge their lives and their circumstances by the outside clues that they have in their lives. “What Do I Want? This is the question we send our kids out into the world with in order to ‘grow up’ and become an adult.

As we move through our thirties and forties, life plays a little trick on us. It goes out of its way to throw us a curve ball. Our careers don’t provide the long-term security that we were so certain it would. Our relationships become lessons in betrayal and despair and in some case our bodies succumb to disease or accidents that change our physical state for the rest of our lives. The plan we had starts to fill with holes and panic sets in. Suddenly we find we are in our late forties and fifties and we realize that this part of our life is over. We can’t look ahead at an empty slate and plan how our lives will turn out. We begin to feel real sadness and even terror, knowing that things are different that what we hoped and worked for and that realization can send some into a tailspin from which they will never recover.

However, the people that realize that it isn’t the ‘glory of youth’ that is over, or the many opportunities that we had hoped were there for the taking. It is when we realize that we need to change our question that we ask of ourselves and of life that we find true peace and happiness in our growing age. When we change from ‘what do I want’ and instead ask ‘what do I NOT want’ that we find aging an easier and even joyful process, despite our circumstances.
We learn that we can’t control the external reality we live in. We can only control how we navigate that reality. I am convinced that those who truly know this and embrace this concept find mid-life and beyond to be a wonderful and exciting adventure. We embrace the mystery of life with open arms and find a new kind of excitement in knowing that we can control much in our lives, simply by choosing what do avoid….not what to move toward.

We no longer define ourselves by what we accumulate or our relationship or financial status. For the select few who understand that while it is still healthy and important to set goals, it is even more important to surrender to the inescapable realities of our lives. Cultivating this ability to avoid sharp objects may indeed be the most important skill we can learn to achieve true-life long happiness and peace, even in the midst of the inevitable struggles of growing old.

Anne Leedom is the Founder of www.parentingbookmark.com and www.netconnectpublicity.com.  She is a graduate of San Jose State University. Her work has been featured in national print and radio and she is frequent contributor to DrLaura.com and other national websites. She lives in Northern California and is the mother of two daughters.

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