The Mid-life Story
Last Monday evening marked the final session of ‘Rooting for Resilience’, the 5-week course which I embarked on mid-March with a lovely group to explore the themes of Values, Purpose, and Story.
It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to explore these themes with such an engaged, curious, and courageous group of women, and I will share further insights into our collective learnings in due course.
In our final session I touched upon the concept of the Mid-life Story, which is one that I find myself returning to time and time again.
This is an understanding of the concept which does not necessarily relate to chronological age, rather it provides a broader and more inclusive definition of mid-life, which I have found to be deeply comforting and useful in clarifying where I am in my own journey, and in supporting clients to do the same.
I first learned of the idea that there exist Youth Stories, Mid-life Stories, and Elder Stories, during the ‘Yin Yoga & Storytelling’ teacher training I completed with Biff Mithoefer in 2018.
The vast majority of the stories we are told and absorb are Youth Stories, akin to the hero’s journey, in which the hero heads out into the world, defeats a dragon, acquires a beautiful princess, and then settles down, bucket-list boxes ticked, to live happily ever after.
The majority of Western society is obsessed with, and forever refers and clings to the Youth Story; a phenomenon which can be directly observed in the fearful and shameful view of ageing consistently promoted.
It is often when aspects of the Youth Story are no longer ringing true or working that people seek coaching or some form of goal-oriented personal development path.
Perhaps the strong drive they once had to achieve certain goals is diminishing.
Perhaps they can no longer motivate themselves to put the blinkers on, move at a relentless pace, sacrificing health, relationships and lifeforce energy to attain a given status or accolade.
Usually, people feel bad about this diminishing drive. Usually, they think they have somehow got lost or strayed from the correct path.
While there are various reasons for which drive may diminish, a very neutral and normal reason is the arrival at Mid-life.
Sometimes we reach this stage when we are actually in what is chronologically termed ‘mid-life’, but many of us reach it earlier, while some will never reach it.
The Mid-life story may begin:
· After the ‘happily ever after’ honeymoon period.
· Following a tragic, traumatic, or deeply unjust event in one’s life, and the realisation that life truly is not fair; that bad things do happen to good people.
· When having achieved some, or many of the life goals we aspired to achieve we find ourselves no more content thanks to having achieved them.
· When we begin to realise that the little things are indeed the big things in life, and that how we live, and how we feel on a daily basis is more important than what we have achieved, acquired, or been titled with.
· On realisation that nothing, nobody, no job/vocation/career is perfect, and that compromise and acceptance of ourselves and others as perfectly imperfect humans is the name of the game.
If, for a moment, you could remove the fear-tinted glasses you may too automatically put on when any mention of ageing is made, might some of these Mid-life characteristics apply to you?
If it were possible to in fact enter this interpretation of Mid-life at any age, might it be that you are already entering into it?
Some of the elements that characterise our Midlife phase are an appreciation of compromise, of nuance, of no situation being black or white.
It can feel like a scary and lonely place to be if those around you are still living the Youth Story dream with all the vigour and zest that this life-phase offers.
One of the simplest, and most affirming processes to re-orient yourself when navigating the crossing of this threshold is to get clear on your Values, your Purpose, and your Story.
We do not look at these concepts through the naïve, one-size-fits-all lens of the Youth Story, rather we approach them from a wiser, more mature, and increasingly compassionate lens.
In doing so we explore the meaning offered us in the story we have lived to-date, and embrace ourselves exactly as we are, and our present reality exactly as it is.