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Is a Halloween Storm Like Your Midlife Transition?

October '11

This past weekend, a winter nor’easter blew through the Mid-Atlantic States and New England just two days before Halloween – crashing trees, creating power outages and disrupting our daily routine. Afterwards, I wondered if it just might be a great metaphor for what happens at midlife.

IMG_0194(As you might guess, I had time for such contemplation, because this storm left coastal Rhode Island relatively unscathed as this “morning after” photo taken out my back slider will attest.)

When I first talk with women in my 30/30 Consults, they often express frustration about what is happening to them. Despite their earlier achievements and very evident capabilities, these midlife women often feel lost and confused. Whether they’re planning to return to the workforce after taking time with their kids at home, or employed in a well-paying, highly regarded position, their query remains the same, “Is how I’m feeling normal?”

Like the unseasonal arrival of our winter storm, these unwelcome emotions seem out of place. In addition, those familiar pillars that formed the structure of their lives have come crashing down like snow-weighted tree branches. One Mom’s role might be shifting as her youngest child heads off to College, or another woman may find the luster of her intensive, high-power, high-income job has faded and cannot be restored. A well-ordered existence that has anchored their lives so well is uncontrollably changing.

Unlike our Halloween storm, however, the disruption at midlife does not blow through quickly to leave a sunny morning in its wake. The midlife storm erupts more gradually, churning up newly-experienced emotions, as you find your daily routine no longer satisfies you. Eager to feel excited about your future, you feel set adrift with no idea of  where to turn, or how to move forward successfully.

The sunny skies that followed this winter storm can also follow your own midlife disruption to bring you a life of focus and meaning. But the journey won’t take one night, and like this storm, it will be peppered with the emotional equivalent of overcast skies, freezing fog, and thunder snow. Perhaps the speed of this storm disqualifies it as a perfect metaphor for the midlife transition. But I still like the element of surprise it contains, because of that question I hear so often, “Is what’s happening to me normal?”

There are many other metaphors that can be used to describe the challenges of the midlife passage, like the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to butterfly, or taking a long ocean voyage. What metaphor would you use to describe your experience? I’d love to hear it, or any other thought, or query you may have.

Happy Halloween!
Bonnie

6 Comments

  1. Claire said on October 31, 2011:

    I read a humorous article about menopause, “The Bitch is Back” in the Atlantic Magazine, and laughed and laughed. I re-posted the link to Facebook, and highlighted this section:

    Mary Anne, age 48, came into my office feeling overweight and bloated. She hadn’t been sleeping, work was stressful, her husband had just gone on disability, and he required daily care. Mary Anne complained to me of lower-back problems and gastritis, and also cramping during sex, which had become more and more infrequent. She was extremely depressed about moving her 84-year-old mother to a nursing home, and upon examination I noticed vaginal inflammation.

    ha ha ha ha ha!

    I was thinking about it. I found it funny, but it’s only a slightly exaggerated story of my life right now. I’m 49, not 48. Feeling not exactly svelte these days, if not quite bloated. Hadn’t been sleeping? Check. Work stressful right now? Check. My husband isn’t on disability needing daily care. No, he’s unemployed, fell down a mountainside in August, and injured himself to the extent that he spent several weeks in a cast. He can walk around with a cane now pretty well. I am not moving my 84 year old mom into a skilled nursing facility. No, just both parents (in their 80s) in a “more supportive setting”. Where it diverts: I don’t have lower back pain (thank you yoga class!) I don’t know whether or not I have vaginal inflammation because I haven’t been to a gyno in months and months and months because with a husband unemployed, who has health insurance for that?

    Other than that, this isn’t satire or farce. THIS IS MY LIFE.

  2. Tricia said on October 31, 2011:

    After 25 years in public education, I am limping down the last 2 years to the finish line. I feel like the pretty party balloons have all gone flat and are lying around the ground being blown about aimlessly.

  3. Bonnie said on November 1, 2011:

    Hi Claire!

    I put a link to the very same article on my Bonnie Leonard Coaching Facebook page! I found this article not only very witty, but also full of good descriptions of the challenges many women at midlife face in their day-today lives – the kinds you outline so clearly in your post!

    I wish you all the best as you move forward. Keep up that yoga – a brilliant practice for reducing stress. And I’d love to hear of any other extreme self care activities you utilize in your daily routine.

    Warmest regards,
    Bonnie

  4. Bonnie said on November 1, 2011:

    Hi Tricia!

    I love that race metaphor of yours, because it is so descriptive; I can just picture you all wrung out as you “limp” across the finish line! I might suggest a two-prong approach here. The first is to find one thing a day that you would consider exciting and do it, so the present can begin to improve. Then it might be fun to focus for the future on how you plan to write that new chapter in your life. If it’s possible when your 25 years are complete, why not take a sabbatical for year to figure out what’s next?

    Good luck!
    Bonnie

  5. Vicki said on November 1, 2011:

    Bonnie,
    As a non-Facebook person (I know I know!), is there any other way to share that article. I relate to so much here but am still swirling with “how did I get here?” and “when will the sun come out again”???

    Thanks!

  6. Bonnie said on November 1, 2011:

    Hi Vicki!

    Sure! Here’s the url for the article. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/10/the-bitch-is-back/8642/

    Enjoy,
    Bonnie

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