Monday, January 18, 2010

Midlife – The Madness and the Magic

by Raewyn Hamilton

Why is midlife such an important rite of passage and why isn’t there a manual for it?  There is for every other key life experience such as puberty, marriage, pregnancy etc, etc.

My midlife transition finished with an emotional collapse which stopped me dead in my tracks after  3 years of personal unrest, inner conflict and a lack of interest in a 30 year career.  I had completely ignored all the other signs. I recognised my life had to change dramatically as I had to a large degree lost my self esteem and was totally off centre.  I had tried talking to a counsellor; I searched the internet and the bookshops and found a yawning gap where helpful books or similar stories should have been.  Then I started sharing my story with other women and was amazed at the parallels in similar women’s lives.  This is what I discovered.

Many of the women I spoke to in the 50+ age group are floundering in their search for  1. what matters in their lives,  2. what works for them  and 3. what’s next..  They are adamant there is a next, and they do not want to stay confused, or dependent, or depressed, or unfulfilled. 

They have probably realised their mortality is limited, they know they have at least 20-30 good years ahead of them, they know life is hard and that calamities are inevitable throughout midlife and they care less about what society thinks so they are feeling empowered but frustrated.

They recognise the importance of the sisterhood (ie. talking to their good friends about what is a common theme and about problems) and delight in sharing ideas and they will take advice from others in the same situation.  They are not interested in young fashion as they know what suits them and they are not interested in endless goal setting, the latest life coach or most of the ra ra stuff that is being offered through motivational speakers. 

They are more than willing to approach health alternatively and will not take conventional medicine as gospel.  They have in many cases had a ghastly time going through menopause with the resultant emotional and physical turmoil as it may take up to 10 years in some cases.  They have felt at times they were going mad and in previous years women accepted HRT or anti-depressants as a way through.

They are much younger as 50-60 year olds than their mothers as they have been trail blazers since the 60’s with contraception, child-rearing, juggling sometimes great careers and are used to running on adrenalin. They recognise they do not think the same way as they did prior to menopause. There are different hormones running their systems and in some cases they wake up one morning, in careers they have enjoyed, not wanting to go to work. One of the main reasons they are trail blazers is that in 1900 women’s average life expectancy was 47.5.  It is now in the early 80’s. Because of this they are having to experience more divorce, death, sickness, children’s ongoing dependency, care of aged parents and financial responsibility for own retirement years, plus in many cases how to make new mid-life relationships work or rejuvenate a marriage of 30plus years..

Previously in their lives such women explain they had always had a purpose going forward as an adolescent, a wife, mother, career person etc etc .Now none of those apply or are enough of a reason to sustain fulfilment.  Some find as they age they are invisible to employers and are not seen as valuable members of the community as they are in some societies. 

One such woman spoken to had written the following poem by way of explanation:
If the universe has a plan for me
Would someone let me know
Because I have somehow lost my way
I don’t know where to go
I know there’s a purpose for me on earth
But I don’t understand
Where to look for my spiritual road
I need a helping hand
True happiness and peace elude me
Purpose is lost somewhere
So before I go mad- please let me know
Just why on earth I’m here.

Women are feeling a need to claim back their strength without dependency and are willing to make changes in their 50’s.  They are also willing to accept a concept of wealth by understanding the need to take charge of their finances. This was never part of their mother’s job description so most have not been programmed to deal with finance and investing.

Thank goodness sites like this exist where women can air their issues, have a laugh at themselves, share and grow in the online company of other like minded and supportive women in their collective quest for a new happiness.

In the words of Carlin Flora in an article in Canvas mag. 7.2.09, NZ Herald,
‘Happiness encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time while living with thought and purpose’.


Raewyn Hamilton is a co-founder of – an online, one stop destination for midlife and beyond women.  Wiseanow is  for midlife women launched in November 2009 in New Zealand.  30 years heading a residential real estate company, MBA graduate, mother of two gorgeous daughters and grandmother to 5 grandchildren, happily married but not for the first time of course and caught short wondering what's next at 60.

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