The definitions of Midlife and Midlife crisis vary according to the beliefs and opinions of the viewer.
One description of a midlife crisis is they happen at 40 (plus or minus 20 years). This gives an age range of 20 – 60. My personal take on the Midlife range is 35 – 65 because we live longer these days and societal norms continue to change.
Midlife can be viewed as a perfect storm where youth has finished, older age beckons, the humdrum kicks-in. The older generations die, children age and leave home, a feeling of ageing arrives on the horizon. Alongside these are concerns: financial worries, awareness of retirement, keeping up appearances, menopause (hormonal changes affect both men and women), the demands to perform. And, the questions: “is this all there is?” and “what is my life purpose or legacy for the world?” may begin to scratch at the edge of awareness.
Like a hurricane, Midlife can spin around, disorientate and stir up confusion to overload our capacity to manage, to cope, to deal with what has to be faced. Let’s be honest here, we’re rarely, if ever, prepared for the trials and tribulations that life throws our way.
Occasionally, with age comes wisdom. Also, it becomes increasingly obvious that most people just wing it; our friends, our bosses and our elders and trusted advisors. Everyone has a viewpoint, and everyone has their own wisdom; some have more experience, too. Which can prove useful.
In Midlife much has happened, and much is to happen. For many there’s a need to make some form of sense about who they are, to find a sense of identity. And to find a place amid the noise.
So how do we make a difference in our experiences?
The modern world – particularly in the self-styled sophisticated West or places where others’ views of us and our success (keeping up appearances are key), complexity has become a determinant of so much.
In my 56 years, I’ve seen massive change. What was relatively simple, has become increasingly complex and confusing. Yes, there has been greed in the past, but perhaps not on such a scale as today. Technology is wonderful in what it can achieve, yet many use it to oppress, control or affect others in unpleasant ways. Not everything we see online is real, true or honest. What’s sad is that deliberate, contrived manipulation affects so many, as they compare their circumstances and feel they fail and build increasingly difficult lives trying to keep up.
With the wonderful changes we see in the modern world, the fractures are clearer, too. Much of society has changed. Many fundamental community structures that formed a foundation, have dissolved. Yes, there were many restrictive habits and requirements in the old structures, but there were manners and consideration towards people. Many of these things are now rare or gone. Some individual community pockets, often built around either religious/spiritual beliefs or cultural similarities such as either ethnicity, country or other commonalities, still maintain a spirit of collaboration to empower themselves and their community.
If we’re lucky enough, midlife happens whether we want it or not. By the time we face our middle years, most of us have been through many, many tough times and transitions – moved homes, schools, countries, jobs, faced death, grief and loss; experienced broken hearts and lost relationships. In getting older, we’re possibly becoming the oldest generation in our families. How do we deal with all these pressures without despair, anxiety, depression or complex emotions and behaviours kicking in?
How do people manage? They seek to inhibit or manipulate their emotions and feelings that interfere with their ability to cope. Some people choose affairs, seeking to escape. Others drink or drug or adopt other addictive habits. Others choose prescribed medications to alter their moods; unfortunately, antidepressants don’t just dumb down anxiety, they also affect the upbeat feelings, too. When we choose to chemically alter our perspectives via drugs of any kind, it’s a no-win; there’s always a come down or complication from their use.
I once heard a story of an Italian town that quite literally moved en masse to form a new town in the USA. Their food choices were a typical American high fatty, not very healthy diet, yet, their rate of heart disease much lower than their American neighbours. One suggested reason for this was their sense of community, and inclusion, helped keep them healthy.
This brings the question: as Midlifers, we’ve been here for a while and can see the benefit of communities. We have life experiences. We have hard won wisdom and understanding and surely, we can see the benefits of being a part of communities and societies where values and wisdom are considered essential. Why don’t we build them and sustain ourselves and others, as a result?
Perhaps the Midlife crisis midlifers face is the loss of sense of self amid the turmoils? Perhaps it’s the lack of community and structure? Perhaps it’s loneliness, confusion and fear? Perhaps the middle years provide a striking contrast and sharp-relief that questions our place in the world? There’s nothing like confusion to confuse and encourage complexity.
That may be the root of the Midlife crisis is transition and struggle: feeling unable to cope and a need for clarity. A community of support around oneself, would be powerful to deal with this. But, are we smart enough to find our own support and connections? People who can support and guide and encourage and empower us as we face our own issues in life? Are we kind enough to ourselves to locate a community where we can thrive and feel we add value by our presence? If your answer is yes, then you know where to start: https://bennabdy-collins.com/midlife-transitions/