Middle-agedness...what do I think it means?
It is freedom to choose what I will accept in my life – as a way of earning income, as a way of choosing where and how I will live, how I will spend my time and who with. I am not being held back by anything except my own limiting beliefs, and I am slowly but surely getting on top of this. Sure, I have not attained true financial freedom, but working part-time gives me a purpose and I feel like I belong to something bigger than myself.
It also means being OK with the decisions I made earlier in life and realizing the things that sent me spiraling, have now dwindled so far into the background they have no impact. Divorce was harder than I could ever have imagined, and I will never ever be on even footing with the father of my children, but that’s on him not me. I now understand narcissism and I won’t ever be with someone with these traits. I know what to look for.
I have come to terms with feeling like an outsider most of my life, and it helps now that I have a partner that is the same way. We are too weirdos, and it is so good to be ourselves!
I think my life would have been a lot easier if I had a strong female family tribe to go to and heal when I needed. The lack of guiding females in my life has meant I turned to friends more than most. My school friend of forty years said to me the other day I am the glue that holds our school group together. I have always been the one to stay connected, organize catchups and events. I have never taken it personally that others don’t seem to text or call as much as I do. I think I am narrowing my perception of what a good friend is. Yes, those school friends will always be in my life. But as a middle-aged woman I won’t be ‘chasing’ anyone. People know where I live, they have my phone number...everyone gets to choose what they give their time, energy and attention to. I am ‘worth it’, regardless if someone is thinking about me.
As an outsider, I learnt skills of adaption. Almost chameleon-like I have changed careers, played different sports and participated in activities that pushed me to talk to people from outside my circle. I’m an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. I also know this was achieved mostly through alcohol for night-time socializing, and through mimicry during the day. I would watch and learn the protocols and then deliver. I heard this type of behaviour discussed on a podcast the other day and it said how this is unsustainable. I would agree that I feel thoroughly drained after socializing. It’s almost like collapsing in on myself when I walk through the door. Now I am stronger with who I am, I no longer rely on alcohol to prime me for a night out.
My home is my sanctuary. After two painful relationship breakdowns I have built myself up again, both physically and metaphorically. To now say I will own my house outright very soon is pure joy. I am proud of what I have achieved.
I think I am who I am because I refused to take other people’s shit. I don’t think most people understand the level of endurance needed to get up every single day and paste on a smile, when it feels you are holding back a tsunami. Or maybe they do, and we all played this no-win game. I haven’t had to do this for quite a few years now and reaching middle age has brought me to this feeling of acceptance.
When Mum first passed away I was so young and I felt barely a ripple. I was ‘supported’ by my ex-mother-in-law and ex sisters-in-law and had women in my life I could ask questions to. But as the marriage imploded so too did these inauthentic relationships. I was very quickly outcast by other female wives and girlfriends too. Women who leave their husbands can be seen as ‘icky’ by ‘happily-married’ women. It didn’t help that my ex played a masterful game of character assassination. Judgement – how I know this feeling. During this challenging time, I still had female friends, but I’m not sure I one hundred per cent admitted (to myself) that I felt like an orphan as they spoke of their family Christmas’s or holidays together. Sometimes invited to join, but always feeling like the weird non-relative charity case.
Middle-agedness is all of this. It is knowledge and power. Power over my dark thoughts as I’ve come to learn the maxim, ‘this too shall pass’. These words are always by my side.
Power over my impulses to rush into things – life really is a marathon and I’ve learned to slow the fuck down. And middle-agedness is full of love. I don't think I loved myself for most of my life. I think I told myself I was doing a 'good job' with juggling motherhood, career and finances. But I would never have said ‘I love every single flawed part of myself’. This time of my life has seen me let go of the perfection myth and lean into what makes me happy. Do I like peanut butter ice-cream – hell yes! Will I pack the fridge with fruit but sneak chocolate into my car? I might... The truth is that I don’t have to be anything for anyone now. Women are often the worst at judging other women and putting forward a curated version of themselves. Middle-aged means saying that doesn’t work for me. Take that buff gym body and perfect skin-tone and go away. I still exercise, still apply moisturizer and colour my hair – because I like the feeling and it makes ME feel good. Full stop.
What does middle-agedness mean for you?