Unraveling at Midlife
I find my birthday increasingly hard.
And it is not because I am getting older, which would seem like the logical reason. It is because I have been attempting, especially in the last number of years, to take full responsibility for my life and in so doing, sometimes, parts of me long for simpler days, days where I wasn’t as aware as I am now, when I wasn’t as awake to my own journey.
Let me explain.
So much of the first half of my life I built to distract me from the things in me that needed my attention and healing, from the bigger task of becoming my true, authentic self. This is actually true of all of us and is as it should be.
The first half of life is about building a life and we do it largely unconscious of the forces in us that are actually running the show, making our choices for us; the beliefs, patterns, family histories, woundings, traumas and unhealed wounds. You think you are building your life, but your unresolved childhood and potentially the unresolved childhood of your parents is actually choosing for you. Hate to burst your bubble but we are actually being propelled along life’s path by stuff that is largely unconscious within us, all the while thinking we are autonomously choosing…we are not.
Consider, if you will, that our childhood survival strategies, the roles we learned to play in order to survive the vulnerability inherent in childhood, have actually built what we experience and consider to be our lives, not our true, authentic selves. That means that if you survived by being a good girl, people pleaser, loyal son, rebel, victim, bully, tyrant or any other role, it is largely that part of you that is responsible for creating the life you know as yours. And, if you are in a partnership, it is true of them as well and your wounds have found a match in each other.
This is actually as it should be, except that those roles, designed to help us survive and not thrive, are being used by us long after they have stopped serving our actual survival needs, because we have survived and no longer need those same techniques to keep us safe. However, because we are still using them after their expiry date has passed, they become limiting and destructive to self and others. We were most likely raised by parents still mired in their survival strategies and that is part of the problem we are now facing and becomes ours to heal.
It is as if we have become the clouds of our lives, instead of the sun. We become the parts of us that block who we actually are, instead of who we, in fact, are. The clouds serve a purpose but if they block the sun forever then things start to get sick and die. So it is with us.
But don’t worry, the sun of you and me has a plan. The problem is that we often don’t recognize it for what it is. An invitation to our true becoming.
Sometime, after age 35, things will start to break down for us. Our survival story stops working. The sun attempts to shine through and burn away the cloud cover. This may show up as a depression, lethargy, disillusionment, dissatisfaction or being overwhelmed with a backlog of emotions, a disease, breakups, or diagnosis and pain. We may stop enjoying relationships, roles we play, our jobs. Really, the very lives we have worked to create for ourselves may loose their meaning and we may wonder who we, in fact, even are or what the point of any of it is.
This is often when we seek out therapy. Someone to fix it, to help us put it all back together, to put us back together. Someone to help us prop up what is not working, to help us become satisfied again with what satisfies no longer. Something designed to prop up our survival story so we may carry on, so we may keep just surviving. And sometimes this is necessary. Sometimes we are not yet ready to unravel or to allow the sun of us to come blazing out. But sometimes, this is a huge disservice to ourselves and to our planet. It is a disservice because the survival story we have been living, the limiting roles and ways of being that we find ourselves in, were always meant to stop working.
We were always meant to arrive at this place, the place where the sun of us, the brightness that we truly are, would one day say, “Enough! It’s time!” and coming blazing out.
What makes this season so hard and why it is often called a mid-life crisis is because we are often afraid of the blazing power of our own sun and because the people around us are often afraid too. And, because, very likely, the sun will burn down everything in your life that is not authentically you, or at least it will feel that way.
Like everything is burning.
Like everything has turned to ash.
Like you are in the fire.
Or on fire.
You watch the things you have built up, come down.
Jobs, relationships, beliefs, ways of being, expectations, dreams, illusions of self and others, the world we have made.
Before there are beginnings.
Although one of the most painful, misunderstood, overly-medicated time in our lives, this is a necessary stage in our own awakening and becoming.
The invitation from the sun of you is to stay. Don’t run. To say yes to, or allow, or at least get out of the way of and let the sun do its work. Allow the clouds to part so that you can truly see. Even though it is painful and hard and lonely.
You will have to endure prolonged feelings of emptiness, of loneliness, of not-knowing and letting go. You will have to avoid the need to create something ‘new’ before the old is truly digested or you will be in danger of creating the same thing and telling yourself that it is different and that you can expect different results.
You will have to remind yourself that this place you have found yourself in is good, necessary and beautiful, despite evidence to the contrary.
You will have to get familiar, intimate with even, the reasons behind creating the life you created, behind the person you believe yourself to be, your patterns, they ways you have compensated for what you lack, the dysfunctions and choices. You will have to heal the wounded parts of you that are under it all. You will have to face yourself, truthfully.
Eyes wide open.
Feeling all the things you have stored up from your childhood for just this occasion in your personal development, for that is what you are actually doing, developing yourself.
You will need to look under all the rocks.
Everything you became that is not actually you, as well as what you have built while becoming it, will need to be examined and, quite possibly, will need to fall away.
Sounds like a big task?
This is the task of a life time.
This is the work we offer future generations.
This is what we invite our children to do when they are ready.
Their own becoming.
For that is what we are finally doing.
And slowly, after the dismantling, the digesting and undoing, your will see that the sun is, in fact, causing new things to grow. There is a new you that is growing.
A new becoming.
An authentic you.
You will feel the rightness of it all. The necessity. The courage it has taken for you to withstand your inner sun’s fire. The enormity of what you have said yes to.
You will find yourself feeling more YOU, more expansive, more whole, more integrated, more resilient, more healed.
Less accommodating. Less willing to please others at the expense of yourself. More willing to follow your own path. Less willing to betray yourself in order to get your needs met.
More in touch with your heart.
Less reacting to life and more choice in how you respond.
You will have become truly self-compassionate because you now understand why you chose what you chose and did what you did. You can hold your own truth and the very likely truth that others were hurt while you were living in your survival story. Both will be true and you can stand in that place of tension without needing to fix or blame. You will have become responsible for yourself and your story. You will own yourself. We will have freed ourselves to live our own journey and in so doing, free others to live theirs.
This is what the world needs.
This is the healing that is possible.
The journey of becoming authentically ourselves requires that we discover and heal who we are not. We must allow the dismantling. The undoing. The unravelling.
The task of becoming more authentically myself is the journey I have applied myself to for the last decade. I have experienced resistance to my own unraveling and unfolding as well as compelling reasons to say yes to it. I continually find myself surprised at where it has taken and continues to take me.
Truly, I feel more fully my self than ever before.
I too have had to grieve my old life, the old me, the security of my survival story and the losses along the way, that a larger life was calling me to. I have had to heal. Turn over the rocks. Open my eyes. Be willing to let go. Risk a larger me.
I started this writing talking about how my birthday seems to get harder for me and I would like to end on that note.
It is harder because I am more aware of myself and my patterns and traumas than I was before, when the clouds were blocking the sun. What seems to come to my attention more easily as the clouds move away from the sun, are some of my bigger traumas; abandonment, fear of punishment and my need for security. I built my life to insulate myself from these big, core areas of pain for me.
I got married at 19 - security and combating aloneness, had six kids - even more insulation from aloneness. I also made sure I was a people pleasing, accommodating, good-girl so that I would have a secure place in society, in my family and in life in general. As I have healed myself and stepped out of some of my roles, I have had to hold the tension, the tension found when I don’t please someone else and instead please myself or when I choose to let go of security and face my aloneness. And, since my birth was potentially one of my biggest traumas as I was given up for adoption, I can recognize the many ways I insulated myself from feeling the pain of that experience through the life I created, which is the point of any good survival story. Insulation from pain. What’s different, however, is that I can turn toward the one in me who experienced abandonment and say to her, “It’s okay, sweetheart, we can feel this too.”. I don’t have to flee myself but instead can run toward. Perhaps there is a little more healing to do, a little more unblocking the sun.
That’s the point of the unraveling, so we can reach toward ourselves instead of away. Gather instead of reject. Feel instead of avoid.
I trust myself to meet me.
I trust the sun of me to shine.
I trust the burning.
I trust my own becoming.
I trust that more of me shows up every time I allow the letting go. Every time I stay and don’t run.
We can, each of us, trust the sun. we can, each of us, shine brightly.
We can, each of us, become our true authentic selves.
We have only to say yes, and to let the sun do its work.
Happy birth-day to me.