Growing up female in this world, I was constantly bombarded with a pervasive narrative that made “midlife” sound like it was going to be some kind of hellhole. My boobs would sag, my face would crack, and my husband would trade me for a younger model (of a woman or a sports car or both depending on his own midlife crisis and financial situation).
I would be unloved. I would be unlovable.
The reality is, now that I’m here (give or take a decade), it’s actually pretty rad. And in conversation with literally hundreds of women over the last few years, it’s not just me who feels this way.
Midlife is a not an easy time, I admit, especially for those of us in the so called sandwich generation, women who had kids later in life and are still raising youngsters while supporting our ageing parents. Professional stability is down the crapper, the economy is volatile, women are (as a collective) undervalued in every role we take on and I still have to think about what I wear and where I walk lest I invite a psychopath to end my life for no reason at all. And there are a lot of individuals and industries still invested in trying to sell you this “crisis” idea and, consequently, the products and services you will NEED to survive it. (hint: it’s usually something to make your skin tighter or your tummy flatter).
Add in the hormonal fluctuations that are, I assure you, very, very real for many women, and it’s not exactly a recipe for a par-tay. I talk to women everyday who are being challenged in more ways than I can count. I hear the phrase “I feel like everything’s crashing down around me!” or some form of that sentiment, on the daily.
But in the circles I run with, more often than not, the response is not fear. The response is rage. The good kind. The kind of anger that doesn’t paralyse you, the juicy, dripping kind of anger that dismantles long held beliefs and pours gas on the fires of both personal and global revolutions.
For me, the year I turned 40 was a year of being stripped back to my rawest form. There was a brief period of “Oh shit! What I am doing with my life?” and a somewhat painful recognition that there are things I wanted to do or see or accomplish that are, realistically, no longer likely to happen. There was an implosion that blew apart a lot of who I thought I was, both good and bad. I cried a lot. I grieved.
And then there was the aftermath, when I caught my breath as a kind of clarity descended on me. I found myself saying, joyfully, “I’m too old to care anymore” as I laughed and laughed and laughed. Life felt like a barrelling wave that had finally let me go; I was still having to kick and thrash to stay afloat but I knew then, as I know now, that I was gonna be just fine.
I’m a writer and coach so I took a systematic approach (with the help some very good and very blunt friends who were not always my favourite people…you know who you are!) to unpacking my own life. To examining every single thing I had ever wasted my time worrying about and vowing to move forward in a different way. To owning up to my failures and the commitments I needed to make (or abandon!) so I could grow. It was unfamiliar, and like every good crutch, I pick my anxiety/worry/fear/doubt/victimhood up and try it on now and then, like an old pair of jeans I used to love. They’re comfortable, they’re familiar, but they’re just not me anymore. So I take them off and put them away.
I am beyond grateful that the women who surround me are the very best of the best. They are strong, they are fearless, they are compassionate, they are unwavering.
But they are also tired.
And so we huddle together, my pack and I, and we take turns in the lead, which sometimes looks like taking the back of the line to push each other forward. And every time- every single time- when one of us thinks we can’t go on and we despair and shout “I’m done”, there is another woman there to say, in a way that makes you know not to argue, “Oh, no, you’re not. Come on.”
If that image, of a bunch of middle aged women with no f**ks left to give, traveling in a pack, makes you feel just a little bit nervous, good. Maybe it should. Because we are on the move. We are powerful.
And we are just getting started.