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Is Midlife Contentment an Oxymoron?

October '15

My ears perked up the first time I heard the word oxymoron. Much of what transpired in my ninth-grade English class floated over my head, but the sound of this word caught my attention. I was even more fascinated with its definition: “a rhetorical device in which two seemingly contradictory words are used together for effect. (The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy)

In those days I avidly located examples of oxymoron like jumbo shrimp, bittersweet and don’t do. More recently, I’ve began to wonder if the phrase midlife contentment might be an oxymoron. If my coaching clients are any example, the word “discontent” would best describe the reason they originally contacted me.

Despite leading successful lives with good jobs and happy families, they feel dissatisfied and cannot understand why. Sound familiar? Perhaps you resonate with the restlessness that characterizes many women who unexpectedly find themselves in a midlife transition or even crisis. May I suggest the feelings of these women indicate that midlife contentment is indeed an oxymoron?

While contentment is certainly a desirable state, I’d like to propose your discontent at midlife be embraced. It signals a different life beckoning on the horizon and that you are about to embark on a magnificent journey to bring new meaning to the second half of your life. Since things can no longer continue in the same way, disruption may be crucial.

This voyage of discovery will be an inner exploration, which in turn will lead to outward changes. As you come into a new relationship with yourself, you will more easily come into a new relationship with the world around you. You may change jobs, or go back to school for an advanced degree, or move to a different part of the country, or find ways to be happier at work, or take up an engrossing hobby, or start a new business. I mention these possibilities, because they are all rich examples of what my clients have done.

If you agree that midlife contentment is an oxymoron, I encourage you to turn toward your discontent and accept it as a sign that some new growth is about to occur!

Happy Traveling!

P.S. I’d love to learn if you think midlife contentment is an oxymoron – in addition it’s always fun to hear some more examples of oxymoron.


  1. Annette Tate said on November 18, 2015:

    Dear Bonnie,
    I realized several months ago that I have been in a mid-life transition for about five years now. This realization came about after I became frustrated and fed up with the persistent feeling that I had “lost my joy”; the underlying, ever-present, life-sustaining and enhancing part of my soul that I loved. So, I did what so many of us do when we are looking for answers…I “googled” it. Here is what I put in the search: “I am 50 years old, what the hell is wrong with me”. After scrolling through the results and reading everything that I could find that seemed pertinent to me and my situation, I was relieved to discover that I was in the middle of a mid-life transition. Through my research, I found you, your website, articles, insight, and journaling Ecourse, which I purchased and have yet to complete. Thank you for all that you do to reassure us that we are not crazy, depressed, ungrateful, irresponsible, or alone. Thank you for providing encouragement, advice, hope and assurance that we WILL come through this necessary and beneficial part of our lives, however long it takes, to become a better version of ourselves! I have learned to embrace the process and not be in a rush to “get over it”. I have already made many changes and adjustments in my life since my mid-life transition self-diagnosis. My husband and I recently decided to move from Texas, working for a family business, to a small farmhouse in the Ozarks of southwest Missouri because we love it here. We are starting over, finding new careers, friends, and a more peaceful life together. Its challenging and exciting. Thank you for all that you do to encourage us to embrace these kinds of life-enhancing challenges and changes!

    With gratitude,
    Annette Tate

  2. Bonnie said on July 1, 2016:

    Hi Annette!

    First of all my profound apologies for not responding to your lovely note sooner. For some reason (that I will be investigating) I just received notification of its presence. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. How exciting to hear you relocated to a spot on this earth you love as you are starting over – relocation often comes with reinvention. It seems incredibly wise of you to “embrace the process and not be in a rush to get over it.” What a perfect statement for the midlife reinvention! One suggestion I have for completing the eCourse might be to gather a friend or two, who is also reinventing her life, is to meet virtually, or at your local coffee shop and journal together one week at a time. Then if you like, you can read your journaling commentary to each other. A number of folks have found this structure really works.

    Good luck as you write this exciting new chapter for your life,

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