Midlife is messy.
The time of life between about 37-45 (ish) years of age is an important and often uncomfortable time of transition and development in which we come to a crossroads.
I mostly work with women who live somewhere in the messy and beautiful middle season of life (though they self-identify and their ages range mostly from about 37-70 which I LOVE) and at 49, though I have much to learn, I’ve garnered enough life experience and wisdom to feel confident speaking to this process of becoming. Not to mention that I am in another Winter Season myself.
I believe in seasonal living. In mining for the wisdom and beauty in every season.
We go through Winter Seasons throughout our life, though – not only at 37-45 – and whenever they come, I think it helps remove shame and isolation by acknowledging the common humanity of these hard and important life transitions.
At these unyielding junctures, we come face to face with the fuller truth of who and how we are, the reality of our life, the dissolution of idealized dreams or beliefs about how life will or should be. We are invited to strip off the burden and expectation and weight that our family story, our current culture, even the legacy of those who’ve come before us have handed us.
We are invited into freedom.
But the road to freedom isn’t the stuff of fairy tales. (Actually, lots of original fairy tales were dark and brutal so maybe it is the stuff of fairy tales.)
It is only for the brave, the truth-teller, the one who is ready and willing to turn toward their fear, their longing, their pain, their rage, their gifting and strength. We don’t always feel strong enough or capable enough but all it takes is enough strength for one little faltering step. And then another.
Sometimes it feels less like choice and more like being violently thrust into change while we fight and kick and rage against it.
Death, divorce, societal upheaval, everything familiar being burned or broken down around you, betrayal, financial struggle, physical or mental illness, a spiritual shaking up, natural disaster …. sometimes we are thrown against our will into a Winter Season. A dark night of the soul. A time of remembering.
It hurts. It can feel lonely here. It’s critical to gather in our support system and turn toward each other. To come out whole we must refuse to live under shame or condemnation simply because we are human in a messy world.
In this transitional season – a liminal space – before we can rebuild, rewrite, reimagine, rewire, rebrand our lives or ourselves, we must rest and remember.
This remembering must move from the head to the heart and then deeper into the body. It must take root in the body. So that we don’t just know on an intellectual level but on a physical, embodied, level. We need to deep down know at the core. That we already are. And it will be “ok.” We are safe here doing this work. We have what it takes. And we will find our way forward in time. But for now, we can BE here, fully present and awake and willing.
(It can also help to believe in a bigger than us “I am” – yet in our darkest season, we can feel unmoored spiritually and we need permission to live in the not-knowing without shame, pressure, or judgment.)
This is where freedom lives.
YOU MIGHT FIND THESE RESOURCES HELPFUL IF YOU’RE IN A WINTER SEASON:
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment
- Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.
Not in a neat and tidy life when everything is going swimmingly. In the seasons when we feel like we’ve got our shit together and know what we’re doing. Nor in the places where we’re never challenged or stretched or invited into new growth.
But in the messy places. The dark nights. Right smack-dab in the wilds of grief and the pain of loneliness and the truth of rejection or needing or stripping away of pretense and ego and the ways we’ve learned to self-protect.
Freedom sings and breathes and dances in the barren winter places and breathes new life into us. It brings forth beauty and understanding and compassion and perspective and laughter and new, joyful possibility.
Freedom blooms in the fire, bold, startling. It is strengthened as we release what was, who we used to be, and make space for remembering who we really are underneath our roles and performing and measuring up and pretending we are in control.
Building a right-sized life – a brave and beautiful life – a life that feels like home – asks us to say yes to the work of remembering.
As author Sara Avant Stover teaches, the medicine for winter is rest. And I’d add that the gift of winter is freedom.
NOW WHAT? Freedom involves honest questioning and the vulnerability and bravery to listen to our own responses. Less heeding other people’s voices and adding to our to-do lists in exchange for more inner work, reflection, yummy conversations, or soul-searching. Less grasping for certainty and more willingness to live the questions. Journey to Freedom with the help of this mini-course. Or, consider walking through winter with the help of my Winter Mindfulness Journal.