Midlife Clarity: A Butterfly Emerging from its Cocoon and Taking Flight

Midlife Clarity: A Butterfly Emerging from its Cocoon and Taking Flight

It happened right before my very eyes! I had unexpectedly popped in to check on a friend who was struggling with many aspects of her life. Just the day before, her teenage son had bent the family car for the third time, Mr. Wrong was caught in his ninth lie, and the child-support check had not come -- again.

"How are you doing?" I asked, noticing there was something different about her today. She vented about that day's new problem, which I think had something to do with cash flow or, more specifically, the lack of it. I reminded her of a trick my ninety-two-year-old grandmother had taught me. Whenever I complained about an insurmountable problem, she would say, "Put yourself one year forward in time and ask, 'Will this matter next year? Will I even remember it?' Listen to an old lady, and know that nine times out of ten it won't!"

While she digested my grandmother's advice, I paused, and then added, "You know, girl, after forty-eight years, need I remind you of that old adage -- God never puts more on your plate than you can handle."

She sat for a long moment, then looked me straight in the eye and said, "Right now I'm very clear about one thing: I need a smaller plate!"

Midlife Crisis or Midlife Clarity?

She sat smiling in contemplation for a while before she again spoke. "I think most people would call what I'm going through a midlife crisis, but they're wrong!" She almost shouted as she sat straight up in her chair. "This is not a midlife crisis, this is midlife clarity!"

The voice that made this announcement was strong, confident, and clear, almost as if a new person had appeared behind my friend's desk. It seemed as if a butterfly had just emerged from the confines of its cocoon and taken flight. She leaned back in her leather chair with a new air of poise and self-reliance, as her eyes wandered upward in thought.

Midlife clarity? She hadn't been clear about anything in her life for a long time, I thought, as I sat observing what was almost a physical change wash over her. In the past year she seemed to have completely lost herself -- divorce, single motherhood with two teens, great challenges with her profession, a current dysfunctional relationship, and an ex-husband continually hauling her into court. I guess this was why she wanted a smaller plate, I thought, laughing to myself.

Got a Lifeline?

We had been friends for twelve years, casually and professionally, yet for some reason our lives had only recently begun to interconnect on a regular basis. Why now, I had wondered, would our relationship grow close after so many years?

I soon found out, as our lives continued to weave together until I found myself hovering on the edge of her midlife whirlpool, strategically poised to throw her a lifeline -- the kind of lifeline that can only be thrown from someone in the sisterhood, the lifeline we women earn after weathering many storms.

I returned my attention to her. The lifeline I had been attempting to throw her had been earned through years on my own journey of self-discovery, struggle, and, at one point, truly losing myself. Just like my friend in her own whirlpool, I too had navigated through waters I never belonged in to find midlife clarity.

Afterwards, I began to see other women move along the same course I had navigated in my thirties, when I found that core essence of "who I am" and began to be comfortable with myself. My "who I am" moment was that same moment my friend was experiencing now: a moment of clarity -- midlife clarity!

I Was Lost, and Now I've Found Myself

My thoughts turned to memories of my life before my "moment" -- I had met a wonderful British man when I was working in the Middle East. We had connected on a level that was that once-in-a-lifetime love. Wow, it was wonderful! I remember thinking, "I now know what it's like to be walking on air."

After a few years in the Middle East, we moved to England. As an American, I was enchanted by its tradition, history, and beauty. I made girlfriends and slotted neatly into the English life. What I couldn't see was that, piece by piece, I was slowly losing myself.

The more time passed, the more of who I was faded into my fiancé's life. I couldn't work, as a foreigner in another country; I didn't have my American girlfriends; and my fiancé's world began to develop into my own. I didn't know it but I was lost.

It wasn't until I returned to the United States that I realized how lost I really was, not until I began to interact with my girlfriends and feel the early signs of empowerment. The sisterhood to the rescue! It took about three years to regain myself; with the help of my friends. And then the moment came -- and it came with a bang! Nothing specific set it off, it just came.

I Am Who I Am

Midlife clarity is a process that usually begins in one's thirties and culminates when you wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and see yourself. Not the self you saw yesterday or the self you saw when you were in another country or the self of the last decade. You see yourself stripped of all the trappings of other's expectations, ambitions, or dreams, liberating your core essence.

There is no asking, "Who am I?" You know. You stand tall, you walk proud, you command respect, and you instill confidence in yourself and others. It's clarity, exponentially cubed! You are no longer overwhelmed by life; you are instead wonderfully surrounded by it, capable of handling most of what life can deal out.

Surrounded by life! This is what midlife should make you think; yet, all too often, midlife has the stigma of crisis attached to it: "My milestone birthday," "I'm over the hill," "I'm having a midlife crisis;' "I'm so old," or "God, I'm depressed; I've really done nothing with my life" are comments commonly heard from women approaching forty.

This Is The Moment You've Been Waiting For

The word midlife can conjure anxious thoughts of that pension plan you're going to start tomorrow, a lost youth, or even of your own mortality. Then the moment comes when you realize, this is the point in life we all long for, not dread: the point where you find yourself braver than you ever believed, stronger than you ever knew; and willing to clarify the rules you now play by to anyone who crosses your path. It's groundbreaking!

You may be driving in your car, sitting quietly at your desk, or drowning in that whirlpool that sucks you down and around so that you feel there is no way out. Oprah spoke about "that moment." She, like so many others, said it's as if a light bulb just came on. Like clockwork, midlife clarity happens, sometimes on a woman's exact fortieth birthday.

For years I have known this process existed. People watching has always been a favorite pastime, and I've noticed that at about age thirty-five, something begins to click in a woman's brain. She may notice it on a conscious level or may have only a niggling feeling. She may feel as if someone had just introduced her as a new member of the family. Those courteous words we are all taught to say, "Nice to meet you," could never have rung so true.

Midlife Clarity: A Rite of Passage

Not everyone lets it in, but not letting it in is akin to knowing you need to shed that extra fifty pounds, and then not even trying to lose them. The fear of looking good may be what is stopping you: you may have to fend off offers for dates or feel you must now perform sexually. But if circumstances allow, and if a woman is not afraid of introducing her new self to her old, the process commences. You might hear her husband comment, "This is not the woman I married! She would never have said that or done that in the past." That's when I say, "You go, girl!"

You may be saying, "Yes! I know exactly what you're talking about!" When you've gone through your moment of clarity, you then have a great perception of the early signs of the process in others. That's when you can place yourself in a position that supports, informs, and throws a lifeline when needed, until your struggling friend comes to the moment of her own midlife clarity.

What a privilege to have been in my friend's office to witness this transformation, the moment her own midlife clarity was born. On that special day, it was obvious to me that another stage in the maturation of the human species had just been labeled, a stage that had either gone unacknowledged or was considered a negative rather than the monumental, positive facet of human growth that it is! That moment, midlife clarity, is a rite of passage just as real and important as puberty.

The Second Half of The Game of Life

Let there be no mistake. The moment of midlife clarity is not where easy street rolls out and the world becomes a kinder, gentler place. This is the kick-off of the second half of the game of life. There will still be penalties, intercepted passes, and yes, the quarterback will sometimes get sacked. But then there will the touchdowns, many field goals, and every now and then even a safety.

Play the game. Play it hard, because this is midlife, and what could be better than being surrounded by life?

©2002. Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Beyond Words Publishing. www.beyondword.com

Article Source:

Midlife Clarity: Epiphanies From Grown-Up Girls
by Jane Foley.

Midlife Clarity by Jane Foley. A woman’s wisdom is one of the Earth’s greatest natural resources. With a perspective that only a certain number of years on Earth can bring, the thirty-two women in Midlife Clarity show that midlife can be a release of our true self, a chance to be free of others’ expectations, and a time to inventory our blessings. With personal anecdotes, essays, short poetry, and plenty of humor, Midlife Clarity focuses on issues common to every woman. Whether the topic is men, self-discovery, death, or struggle, each woman finds those small moments of satisfaction and joy that, after all, are what life is all about. Their midlife musings are at once basic and sublime, obvious and profound, individual and global. They inspire us to welcome change in our own lives with the same humor, grit, and strength.

Info/Order this paperback book or download the Kindle edition.

About the Author

Jane FoleyJane Foley has worked as a sonographer for over twenty-three years. Such intimate work with people's bodies somehow causes them to spill their hearts and souls as she examines their insides. From years of heartfelt discussions over fearful, hopeful, and joyful times, Jane has learned a lot about the human condition that stretches far beyond the physical body. Jane grew up in southern California. She took off at the age of twenty-four to work in Saudi Arabia for a few years and then moved to England, where she lived for three years. She now resides on the island of Maui. She is also an accomplished musician and composer.

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