The Beauty of the Midlife Crisis: Monday Morning Confessional

tracksI confess that I’m in the middle of a midlife crisis, and it’s way better than I could have ever imagined. In fact, I’ve become convinced that the midlife crisis gets a bad rap. The phrase itself conjures images of extramarital affairs, two-door sports cars, and the hair club for men. My story is unfolding quite differently.

Five or six years ago, I began to see that I lived far too much of my life for other people (not their fault, btw). This is always the realization that triggers the midlife event. In a very general sense, we realize that we have lived the first half of our lives to please those around us, the life we think others want us to live. After a good forty years we finally grow tired of this approach.

Here’s where it goes south for some people. Their response is to bail on all of their commitments and start a whole new life… huge mistake. When people do this, all of their problems follow them and nothing essentially changes except that they have become more selfish and destructive. The only way to thrive through your inevitable midlife crisis is to keep FIDELITY at the center of your life. Keep your covenants and promises.

Stay in your life; don’t go trying to find a new one.

The GIFT of midlife is that we stop trying to live the life others want us to live, and try to live our own life. This is a gift because we don’t decide to do this. It just happens. We just wake up one day and realize we are tired of the silly games we’ve played for 40 years.

The CRISIS of mid-life is brought about by the sudden realization that as we attempt to live the life that is authentic to us, we must face the painful truth: We don’t really know who we are. This triggers the existential crisis.

This is the crux-move. Will this realization cause us to retrench, to bristle and fight to keep the status quo? Or will we dive headlong into the unknown and trust that God can keep us alive? Will we become more rigid, or more pliable? Resist, or surrender. That’s the choice.

One of the greatest gifts of the past five years has been to realize I don’t know myself as well as I thought. There’s no shame in admitting this because nobody escapes this reality, at least not in North America. The realization brings such freedom. The freedom is confusing and disorienting at first, and it means settling in for a lot of difficult realizations. The changes we face at midlife involve a metamorphosis every bit as dramatic as puberty.

However, if we can admit that we have much to learn about ourselves, and if we can live in fidelity to others as we go about the long process of self-discovery, then the midlife event is not so much a crisis as it is an incredible gift.

Not to say there aren’t seasons of depression, sadness, confusion, etc., but even those can be exhilarating in their own way. It’s painful to scrape away the false self and let the true self begin to stretch its legs. But, it’s a good pain—like a hard workout. Over time, it can become profoundly beautiful.

So, my confession today is that I’m in the middle of a midlife crisis, and it’s quite possibly the best time of my life. I am so grateful to be alive, grateful to be a part of my family and my church. For the first time in my life I can say I have no regrets, and actually mean it. I hear that midlife usually lasts around a decade. That’s fine with me. I think I would be okay to live this way for the rest of my life.

That’s my confession for this Monday. Your turn…

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  • Nimblewill

    Thanks for putting into words what I’ve been going through. Although this crisis, (did you know that judgment in Greek is “Krisis”?) hasn’t disrupted my family it has interfered with my church life.

    Glad I found your blog. I look forward to reading more.

  • Wonderful post. Matches my experience, too. The surrender came after the letting go in my case and it was life changing. Learning to embrace all of life’s commitments through it is the journey, as you say. No more games. This started for me 5 years ago and I’m still exploring the effects. It’s been good.