Midlife is a challenging time of transition when many of us find ourselves at a place where one phase of life is ending and the next part of the journey has yet to emerge.
Many folks I journey with feel lost, confused, and stuck without a map of how to proceed in a way that feels meaningful and inspiring.
We begin to get a sense that life is short, and we have an increasing hunger to live in alignment with our true selves.
Brené Brown wrote an article about what she called the midlife unraveling where she explained, “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.”
Having gone through my own midlife awakening that was triggered by launching my children, leaving my beloved nursing career, feeling disconnected in my marriage, and aimlessly searching for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, I know how challenging the journey can be.
It was the first time in my life that I actually felt a profound sense of what I came to call soul hunger,
When I found myself on the other side of the midlife awakening storm, I found myself looking back and asking, What happened to me? What was the root cause of my distress? What helped me get through it?
Midlife awakening is the perfect storm for many of us, often forcing us to pause and take a look at ourselves and the lives that we’ve created. There’s an inner sense that going forward is going to require a different map than the one we were previously using.
Creating meaning around your midlife awakening goes a long way to lessen the stress and uncertainty that often accompanies this really significant passage. I wrote the book, Awakening a Woman’s Soul: The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness to Transform Your Life, to share my story and the role meditation and mindfulness played in returning home to myself.
A midlife awakening is not a crisis it’s a transition between one phase of life and another. There are some profound shifts that result when we navigate the transition in a conscious and empowered way.
What are some of the shifts that happen as a result of a midlife awakening?
A shift from the primary focus on the outer aspects of our lives to expanding and integrating our inner world of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and our personality structure.
A shift from doing and taking action on things that arise from satisfying our ego’s need for perfection, achievement, and success to action that arises from our soul and the life force that is flowing through us.
A shift from being triggered by unconscious and reactive habits to being conscious and responsive as we develop the capacity to connect with our deeper self below the turbulent surface.
A shift in our relationships from fulfilling our roles to honoring and listening to our soul’s need for growth and expansion.
A shift from building a healthy personality (which is necessary for the first half) to evolving our personality to be in service of our soul’s plan for us.
A shift from overidentifying with either the masculine or feminine energy within each of us to living from a balanced and integrated way of being and contributing.
A shift in relationships that compensate for our wholeness to relationships that promote our growth, individuation, and wholeness.
A shift from the first half of life where we do the journey to the second half of life where the journey does us.
A shift from primarily identifying with the world of form to getting curious about the mysteries of life and spiritual matters.
A shift from doing life with a map to doing life and creating the map as we go along.
I wish I had known the following 3 things when I went through my midlife awakening:
The low-grade anxiety and depression I was experiencing had a purpose that didn’t need to be medicalized or pathologized.
At one point, a family doctor gave me an antidepressant because I was weepy and in the “separation” phase and just needed to cocoon for a while. I knew that my midlife awakening was not going to be fixed by a pill. My symptoms were sources of wisdom and part of the journey was about learning to feel my feelings and not suppress or numb them.
My soul was beckoning me to begin the journey home to my true self and to live in alignment with who I was meant to become not who I thought I was supposed to be.
Having a few tools going into the journey would have been helpful.
It would have made the journey easier to navigate if I’d known what it was about and had some tools to help me.
I came to learn that practices like meditation and self-compassion are invaluable during the entire journey. Meditation helps us calm our minds, regulate our nervous systems and deal with the accumulation of years of stress. Self-compassion enables us to be kinder and more gentle with ourselves.
The Enneagram of personality map became a lifeline that I wish I had known about as a young adult. It would have helped me understand myself better and provide a sense of who I was meant to become.
That I wasn’t alone, although at the time I felt like I was the only one struggling with this phase of my life.
This was probably the biggest thing I needed to know and hear.
I had heard about the midlife crisis in men, but I had no idea what it really entailed for women as well. That many people are navigating this middle passage that’s calling us to deeper meaning, purpose, and connection. That what was previously called a mid-life crisis is really a journey of transformation.
It’s a journey that takes us deeper, not higher and in the process, we awaken our true selves.
In the following interview, I speak with Dr. Donna McArthur about her experience with her midlife awakening and what helped her get through it:
If you feel called, please comment below. Our community would love to hear from you!