Brene Brown (and Evan Marc Katz) on Having a Midlife Crisis

Brene Brown (and Evan Marc Katz) on Having a Midlife Crisis
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Next confession: I’ve never read a Brene Brown book. I might have seen her original TED Talk, but it was a few years ago, so I’m not sure. I know she’s a big deal and that’s why I’m sharing this poignant article called “The Midlife Unraveling.”

It’s really insightful and speaks directly to my work as a dating and relationship coach.

All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and lovable, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through your veins. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.

I just turned 47. My wife will be 50 in a few months. Like everyone our age, it’s hard to see yourself on the other side of midlife – especially when it seems like yesterday that I was 33 and single. But, well, here I am, married over a decade, a third-grader and first-grader in my house, supporting my entire family financially, and fifteen pounds heavier than I was when I was 33.

There’s no hiding from middle-age. Only hiding from the emotional problems it presents.

There’s no hiding from middle-age. Only hiding from the emotional problems it presents.

Brown: “It’s a painful irony that the very things that may have kept us safe growing up ultimately get in the way of our becoming the parents, partners, and/or people that we want to be.

Maybe, like me, you are the perfect pleaser and performer, and now all of that perfection and rule following is suffocating. Or maybe you work hard to keep people at a safe distance and now the distance has turned into intolerable loneliness. There are also the folks who grew up taking care of everyone else because they had no choice. Their death is having to let go of the caretaking, and their rebirth is learning how to take care of themselves (and work through the pushback that always comes with setting new boundaries).

Whatever the issue, it seems as if we spend the first half of our lives shutting down feelings to stop the hurt, and the second half trying to open everything back up to heal the hurt.”

Brown often refers to The Universe in her writing – let’s put aside whether The Universe has a Plan for you and agree that life is going to throw a lot your way – much of it unexpected, much of it unpleasant, much of it undeserved. The only question is how you’re going to react to it: is it by continuing to hide and deny and ignore?

“After the ear-plugging and humming, the only way to maintain your denial of the midlife unraveling is to become even more perfect, more certain, and more judgmental. For these folks, allowing just one ounce of uncertainty or doubt or questioning to bubble up could cause rapid, involuntary unraveling. They can’t be wrong – their lives could spin out of control.  They march through life, teeth and butt cheeks clenched, without flinching and, often, without feeling.”

We see a lot of this in the comments section – people so committed to the worldview that has led them to being single and unhappy – that when this blog challenges them, the only thing they can do is lash out at a guy who gives free dating advice on the internet.

It’s much easier than admitting that your choices and beliefs aren’t working for you.

Continues Brown: “Unfortunately, what makes midlife different from the other stages that we’ve managed to survive, is that the symptoms don’t improve over time. Choosing to numb the midlife unraveling is choosing to numb for the rest of your life.”

Women who choose to face the midlife unraveling head-on are my favorite clients – my success stories – the women who I write about in the PS of every email I send out.

If you are not content with the life you’re living and want more love in it, click here.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Jeremy

    This was hard to read….and so important. Especially the part about giving ourselves permission to ask for help. Like many of Evan’s readers, I’ve invested my self-worth in being the provider of help for others, not the recipient. Never thought less of others for needing assistance, but thought a whole lot less of myself if I needed any. And then….life happened.

    I was in my mid 30s and was hit by a sequence of life events. Father had a heart attack, mother hospitalized for mental illness, colicky baby who wouldn’t let me sleep, marital conflict, money stresses, sister diagnosed with terminal cancer, family falling apart, no one to deal with any of the fallout except me…Always me. Whenever my life felt too stressful to bear, I envisioned myself as a tree, growing upward to the sunlight. And no matter the load weighing me down, I envisioned that I could grow, just grow big enough to bear it. But you know what? Any tree will eventually bend – and break if bent enough. I was no different.

    I had to ask for help. Counselling for my mind, support from my family and friends. And the crazy thing was that my family was ready and willing to help, waiting for the opportunity for me to move out of my own way so they could. Maybe not the way I’d have done it, but in their own way. The psychologist’s waiting room was full of people just like me, I was nothing special or extraordinary. There is something liberating in the notion of being ordinary, in shedding our armor of invulnerability, as Brene Brown would describe it, our illusions of our own extraordinary-ness.

    This morning we threw out our daughter’s dresser. We took it out of her room and left it at the top of the staircase until we could move it downstairs. And I looked at it and, when no one was watching, I lifted it and tried to carry it down the stairs myself. My wife caught me and chided me to not be an idiot, to wait for her. That there is nothing wrong in asking for help. She was right, of course, I was being an idiot. It’s a hard lesson to internalize, and it slips like teflon even then.

  2. 2
    Emily, to

    But doesn’t a midlife crisis involve more than just not liking your love life if you’re single? There are people who are married who have a midlife crisis, and after years of being married, living in the same house, going to the same job, repeating the same routine … ask: Is this all there is? I was talking about this very topic with a 40-year-old co-worker. He said all he does is work and then go home and do more work around the house. He wanted to know when the fun showed up.

  3. 3
    Mrs Happy

    I find Brene Brown hard to read and connect with, a bit too much contrived angst perhaps, our book club just did one of her books and all the other women were raving but I was quite underwhelmed.

    Humans like having a struggle or battle about something, don’t they. We live in an age we can suddenly, amazingly, mostly all reach middle age, and here we are moaning about the often smallish psychological trials and tribulations of it. In Shakespeare’s time 4 out of every 5 children in London were dead by their 5th birthday. I like (one of) my old military boyfriend’s attitude to too much moaning: “build a bridge”, he’d say bluntly (i.e. “and get over it”, the problem, the moan). Military men are very manly in their reduction to the basics – actually Emily to, I think you should sashay over to some barracks, I think they’d suit you. Especially physically.

    For me the middle aged slide has been health, but it’s important not to wallow, just to manage it. I’m 46 and last year did an endurance event I’d not trained for properly, an event I could’ve done with no/little training at any time through my very fit 20’s and early 30’s. 2/3rds of the way through the event my heart stopped working properly and I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance! Bizzarro weird experience without enough blood getting to my brain to think straight – very relaxing though. And in the last 12 months I’ve been to more specialist appointments for various health failings than in the last few decades altogether.

    But there are lots of positives about middle age. I don’t try to please people so much now. I’m completely over what I look like – I walk up to the local bakery in my pajama outfit (doesn’t look like PJs) (much) at 5.30am with unbrushed hair. I care less about being nice so others will like me. I have seniority at work, and the freedom, power and money that goes with that, including the lovely option of only working part of each week, which I’m now increasingly embracing. A type of practical wisdom comes in middle age; an ability to look at the wider picture, predict people’s actions, manipulate your path through the world with more ease and success. (But this also makes life more boring because little surprises you.)

    I think women – people – do have to let go of the “I”ll carry 100 tasks” to enjoy life more, and with middle age, more understanding of my personal priorities and health failings, I’ve been more comfortable dropping tasks. Jobs can be outsourced. Other mums can volunteer at the school for this one. Other sport teams can provide the fundraising cakes sometimes. I think age lets you stop and live life more how you want it (if you’re lucky, i.e. developed world, support, health, wealth, etc), stop working to build things, and just really enjoy the things you’ve got.

    1. 3.1
      Jeremy

      I treat several military people and I see their stoic attitude quite a bit. One particularly stoic fellow came to my office earlier this week looking uncharacteristically distraught. His friend and colleague had just committed suicide. They’d just had a funeral ceremony for this 35 year old man. This young man who just couldn’t get over it, couldn’t “build a bridge.” not an uncommon happening – too common in the military, in men in general, in fact. in a moment of rare candor, my patient told me that he understood his colleague, that they all understood him. That “there but by the grace of God go I.” Because telling a human being struggling with real psychological problems to just “build a bridge” does not work, and the military machismo that appears so attractive to some women only stunts that person’s real psychological needs. There has to be a middle ground between wallowing in our emotional muck and that.

      1. 3.1.1
        Jeremy

        I agree with the rest of your post, though. Weird story about your heart mal-function, I hope you’re ok now and the issue has been resolved. I know that spacey feeling, experienced it this year when I passed out one morning a few months ago. Felt like my dream-state reached up and pulled me in. I’ve gone to some specialist appointments too in my middle age, and while they are not fun, at least they sometimes lead to funny stories. Like coming out of anesthesia at my colonoscopy feeling completely hazy and dis-inhibited, and having the young nurse say, “Ok sir, we need you to pass wind to see if your colon is working properly.” “Excuse me,” I slurred, “what did you say?” “We need you to pass gas for us.” “Okie dokie,” I replied. A while later, “Ok sir, you can stop now. Sir?…..Sir?!” Ah, middle age. And I hear you can get away with even better stuff when you’re a senior.

    2. 3.2
      Suzanne

      I read some of Brown’s work, too, and think it’s just a big word salad. Honestly, I find middle age to have been the best decade so far. I had a blip two years ago with a job loss and a breakup with a man who wanted to date his friend’s wife (they are living together). Since then I found excellent work, new friends, am never bored and lonely. I also have a wonderful kid.

      I am more myself when I’m single and find the mirroring and online dating exhausting. I always struggled with the theory you can’t be feminine and ambitious. BS; I’m both.

      I dated a man I met via Twitter, but have sworn off online dating for good. There are too many married men there. That’s the real midlife crisis!

      We live in an age if you don’t have an issue you need a coach for, then there’s something wrong with you. Maybe you’re fine.

      1. 3.2.1
        Lurking

        Bravo! Suzanne, I have been struggling to articulate your bullseye post. So true. The women that have experience with dating later in life know it is not sustainable, nor is it fun, or a growth opportunity. And…it’s ok to say so because that is your truth. It would be phony to put out some cheerful rhetoric about ‘playing the feminine and positive game this way for this long, for that result” Sounds like- you are a fantastic catch that has tried hard, but can’t find your equal- through no fault of your own. It is what it is! I’m finding gobs of baggage-laden guys, even more than married guys, but still, I can relate. God Bless You. xxoo

        1. Suzanne

          I feel like many of those posting here; that midlife is pretty good. I’m sure Evan’s advice works for many women but I have had to compromise too much of myself using it.

          I don’t feel any clocks ticking or that anything is missing.

          If I meet someone, great! If not, also great!

          Maybe it’s where I live, but I could sign on to several sites here and it would be the same men or the same KIND of men on every one; all looking for slim, attractive women yet doing nothing to put in effort into their own looks or lives.

          Such a waste of time.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Have you enrolled in Love U?

    3. 3.3
      Emily, to

      Hi Mrs. Happy,
      “Military men are very manly in their reduction to the basics – actually Emily to, I think you should sashay over to some barracks, I think they’d suit you. Especially physically.”
      Physically, yes, I think they are dude dudes, so they know how to lay it down, but intellectually they’re too by the book for me. I work with a guy like that. For a brief time I did like the way he took over things and told my immediate supervisor, who can’t make a decision, what to do. We were in desperate need of that. But trying to talk to this guy …. not much there.
      “And in the last 12 months I’ve been to more specialist appointments for various health failings than in the last few decades altogether.”
      Sorry you’ve had some health issues. I have had some as well, though not as serious as yours. And I HATE it. I hate going to the doctor. I hate having to deal with the symptoms, illness. I have spent more time at the doctor in the last few months than I have in my life, or so it feels. It is not how I wanted to spend my time.

      1. 3.3.1
        Mrs Happy

        Emily to, I agree re the by-the-book and automated thinking, but a woman knows what she is getting with a military guy. They tend to be so upfront and so logically goal-directed; looking back, I really appreciated the candour. And they fully live life.
        But I mainly thought of you because of their physicality and your corresponding joy in male maleness; they are just so good at that.

        1. Emily, to

          Mrs. Happy,
          “But I mainly thought of you because of their physicality and your corresponding joy in male maleness; they are just so good at that.”
          I agree, but the automated thinking kills it for me, as do the high levels of logic. Kills it immediately. Basically I want an artist’s soul and sensibility with the physicality and confidence of a guy guy. We’re talking fantasy, right? 🙂

        2. Emily, to

          Mrs. Happy,
          ” by-the-book and automated thinking, but a woman knows what she is getting with a military guy. They tend to be so upfront and so logically goal-directed;”
          By-the-book and logical … not really my type. I grew up with that. It turns me of

    4. 3.4
      jo

      Mrs Happy, I totally agree with you about not getting Brene Brown’s writing (or speaking – people raved about her TED talk, while I thought it just ended abruptly with no useful takeaways).

      But I wonder if you are one of the lucky ones in middle age compared with the general population, to have the great attitude you do about positive changes. Recently, the US National Public Radio (NPR) had an article about suicide among the elderly. It showed the bar graphs of suicide rates among different age groups, and although the label said something about how elderly have a high suicide rate, it didn’t mention that the HIGHEST rate of suicide was in the age group 46-55. That surprised me. I thought it would have been a younger group than both these.

      So there really is something there about middle age suffering, at least if suicide rates tell anything. I wonder if it’s something that Emily hinted at about her co-worker, about already having spent years in tedium and wondering how long this was all going to go on, and is this all we have to look forward to the rest of our lives?

      1. 3.4.1
        Emily, to

        Jo,
        “I wonder if it’s something that Emily hinted at about her co-worker, about already having spent years in tedium and wondering how long this was all going to go on, and is this all we have to look forward to the rest of our lives?”
        I do ask myself if this is it. Middle age is … being responsible. It’s an endless series of mundane tasks. It’s going to appropriate dinners and getting home at 8:30. I think what one looses is the wonderful feeling of “what if.” As a young person, you go out and feel that anything could happen. In middle age, you go out and know exactly what will happen.

        1. Lynx

          Emily: The “what if” feeling is a choice, and I feel you can retain it into midlife with a big caveat — lighten the load. If you’re living in a suburban McMansion, then the bulk of your free time is maintaining it. Contrast that with the person who opts, say, to live in a condo in a city. Huge lifestyle difference.

        2. Emily, to

          Lynx,
          “The “what if” feeling is a choice, and I feel you can retain it into midlife with a big caveat — lighten the load. If you’re living in a suburban McMansion, then the bulk of your free time is maintaining it. Contrast that with the person who opts, say, to live in a condo in a city. Huge lifestyle difference.”
          I wasn’t referring to lifestyle. I meant that, if I have social plans, I pretty much know exactly what will happen and what time I’ll get home. We’re all going to lunch and then we’re seeing a movie. No one is getting too drunk, we aren’t arguing and throwing drinks at each other (something we did in our 20s :)) and there’s NO chance I’ll be picking someone up.

        3. Marika

          Honestly Em, I have still have nights like that (minus the drink throwing…and casual sex – can’t handle it). I’m not sure if it’s the places you live or the groups you find, but there are definitely people in their 30s and 40s who still enjoy a bizarre, hilarious, fun night out. And don’t talk endlessly about school plays and renovations.

          Although, to be fair, and not to generalize, but one of my friends found something similar when she lived for a few years, I think it was Santa Monica or nearby? She’d be out for a coffee and suggest a drink: they’d all have ONE and go home. She was up for a big night. Unheard of around here (not sure that’s a good thing though!) 😉

        4. Emily,to

          Marika,
          “I’m not sure if it’s the places you live or the groups you find, but there are definitely people in their 30s and 40s who still enjoy a bizarre, hilarious, fun night out. And don’t talk endlessly about school plays and renovations.”
          I’m looking for them, Marika. Am going to another meetup Saturday night. But I can only handle so many wine tasting and jazz clubs. 🙂 I want to grab some shots. Hit up a dance club. I’m really low brow when it comes to entertainment. I’m probably going through a mid-life crisis. It’s just a general malaise in which you wonder if this is it.

        5. Marika

          Australia is a bit far, but how close do you live to the Mexican border, Em? Someplace with clubs and a level of live-in-the-momentness and no age-limit dramas. Or there MUST be a dancing and drinking type meetup in your general vicinity? You probably won’t find Mr Forever, but you’ll have a nice time along the way (and not get to thinking life is over beyond 40). 🙂

        6. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “Australia is a bit far, but how close do you live to the Mexican border, Em? ”
          Very, very far.
          “Or there MUST be a dancing and drinking type meetup in your general vicinity?”
          Nope. There is one that I’m right at the top of the age range to be in. I was hoping younger people would be a bit more adventurous. But it’s going to hear classical guitar concerts and visiting tap rooms with drinks like blueberry beer. I don’t care trust a place that doesn’t serve soda and hard alcohol.
          “You probably won’t find Mr Forever, but you’ll have a nice time along the way (and not get to thinking life is over beyond 40). ”
          I’d be perfectly happy with Mr. Right Now. 🙂

        7. Marika

          Emily

          Ditch the WASPs. Life’s too short. Sorry to all the WASPs out there… 😉

          Is there an Internations branch nearby? You don’t have to be an ex-pat to join. I find the minute you add some cultural diversity to a group, the conversation gets more interesting and the activities get more daring. You’re suddenly in some restaurant you’ve never heard of before getting food ordered in the native language. You’re covering topics of conversation considered taboo in your world that are just fine to discuss in theirs. They have different ideas of what ‘late night’ means…

          People who have gone through paperwork and other hell to be in a country often know how to enjoy it and not take things for granted. Oh, and from memory you’re not on FB? There are many bad things about FB, but one great thing is all the suggested activities. Fun!

          If I can find a fun, dynamic, interesting group that doesn’t make me feel like I’m sliding boringly into middle age in my tiny population, you can too. Let’s get it happening, gal!

        8. Emily, to

          Mariks,
          “If I can find a fun, dynamic, interesting group that doesn’t make me feel like I’m sliding boringly into middle age in my tiny population, you can too. Let’s get it happening, gal!”
          I’m working on it. A friend of mine suggested I hang out at the college nearby, but I am old enough to be their mother, which would make me feel ridiculous. Plus, that’s going to make me feel even older if I am hanging out with people who are at the height of the physicality.

        9. Gallilee

          Oh god, that drinking to excess and going nightclubs was horrible when I was 18. In my mid 30’s I’m absolutely fine with never experiencing such a thing again in my life.

          Now here’s the thing about getting older, especially if you’re single: you need to be interested in things. Lots of things. Pretending you’re 19 for a night will leave you even more depressed the next day. Whether you’re single or married, life has so much to offer you.

        10. Marika

          Galilee

          It’s a very white/WASPy/Caucasiany/middle class American type thing to think that going out dancing late into the night is ‘acting like you’re 19’.

          In many parts of the world people of all ages go out and enjoy a fun nightlife without feeling like they are acting too young and certainly without being depressed the next day. Clubs in Berlin get going at midnight. People of all ages in Chile are out dancing, laughing, sipping mojitos and enjoying themselves. Adults of all ages in Cuba dance in the middle of the street. Etc.

          Emily and I find talking about renovations at a family restaurant with a bunch of people with identical political views and being home in bed by 10 pm on a Saturday (worrying about one’s tennis lesson at 8 am Sunday) depressing. The worst, honestly. Doesn’t make me (or presumably her) immature or irresponsible (I have a Master degree, a responsible job and a budget), I just don’t buy into those generic ways of thinking about middle age.

          You can do whatever you like on the weekend, of course, but the way you write about this is your opinion (and those of many other middle aged people Emily and I don’t want to be like), it’s not the only or right way to live past 30.

        11. Emily, to

          Don’t worry about him, Marika. He is NOT invited to our party.

        12. Clare

          Emily & Marika,

          Let me add my name to the list of people who still goes out dancing “at my age”.

          I am 36, and I go out dancing with my girlfriends at least once or twice a month. Wine, cocktails and other drinks flow freely. I don’t consider this “behaving like I’m 19.” Age has nothing to do with it – I enjoy it as much now that I am in my 30s and in a relationship as I did when I was at university.

          To me, it’s about being alive and celebrating, just because you can.

          On the other hand, I was at a barbecue (or braai, as we would call it here in SA) about a month ago where the entire conversation revolved around baby names, kids’ extra lessons, and church activities. I lasted 2 hours and couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

          I don’t really take kindly to people telling me what I should enjoy at my age 😀

        13. Emily, to

          Clare,
          “I am 36, and I go out dancing with my girlfriends at least once or twice a month. Wine, cocktails and other drinks flow freely. I don’t consider this “behaving like I’m 19.” Age has nothing to do with it – I enjoy it as much now that I am in my 30s and in a relationship as I did when I was at university.”
          You are invited to the party! 🙂 Tbh, I’m not much of a drinker. I have no intention of getting blotto but I just don’t want to be going home every Saturday at 9 p.m. Every once and a while, I want to tease the shit out of my hair, put on purple eye shadow and wear something too short! 🙂

        14. Marika

          Drinking all night is completely optional, Emster! So not a absolute part of the fun night out!! – although when you’re dealing with Aussies and Sth Africans, it is best to clarify 😉

          Further, if a person finds a 2-for-1 steakhouse early bird special and a deep chat about tile colours enjoyable, go for your life.

          The point is, there’s not one way to live your life. Not one set of must-do’s that kick in each decade. A person who thinks there is (and they should tell others what to do) either has never left their own neighbourhood or lives an entitled black & white thinking kind of existence.

        15. Emily, to

          Marika,
          “Drinking all night is completely optional, Emster! So not a absolute part of the fun night out!! – although when you’re dealing with Aussies and Sth Africans, it is best to clarify ”
          Two shots and I’m feeling pretty good. Three and I’m on the floor so I know my limit. 🙂
          “Further, if a person finds a 2-for-1 steakhouse early bird special and a deep chat about tile colours enjoyable, go for your life.”
          I once had a guy at work talk to me about mowing his grass … MOWING HIS GRASS. The story went on and on … I kept trying to get away.

        16. ezamuzed

          Have you all tried social dancing events, like salsa or swing? I salsa dance all around the US and find the people to be about as diverse as it gets. From teens (if it is all ages) all the way up to the seniors. From wealthy white collar workers, rough blue collar, quite engineers. Every ethnicity is there. It is fun and also great for the body and mind.

        17. Marika

          ezamused

          Plus..Salsa is sexy… 😉

        18. Yet Another Guy

          “I am 36, and I go out dancing with my girlfriends at least once or twice a month. Wine, cocktails and other drinks flow freely. ”

          I am 58, my girlfriend is 62, and we do the same thing at least twice at month, often with couples our own age. If a person maintains his/her health, life is like an inverted parabola with the vertex at midlife during the child-rearing years. The beauty of being an empty-nester is that one can enjoy oneself again while possessing the wisdom that is only gained through life.

          Em, I know that you are not interested in dating an older man, but if you are just looking to have fun, look for a social group where most of the members are healthy fifty and sixty-somethings with grown children (yes, there are fit older men and women). I experienced the same thing as you have when I went to Meet Up events where most of the people in the group where under 40. They were mostly held at brewpubs or small craft breweries that had onsite sales. Being a single forty-something is difficult because most of your peers are in the thick of the demanding child-rearing years. The little time they have left outside of their children is spent maintaining their homes and cutting grass, at least here in the U.S. I used to mow several acres of grass each week until I grew tired and hired a service.

        19. Emily, to

          YAG,
          “Em, I know that you are not interested in dating an older man, but if you are just looking to have fun, look for a social group where most of the members are healthy fifty and sixty-somethings with grown children (yes, there are fit older men and women).”
          I went to a Meetup for people 45-65. The older people talked about retirement and grandchildren. (Well, to be fair, 1 did, but she sucked up so much of the conversation … ) I went to another for people 30-50 but it was, like you said, at a series of taprooms or jazz concerts. I’m looking for my “Sex in the City” friends — bawdy, edgy, wanting to get together once a week so we can all wear something tight and talk about inappropriate things. Too much propriety and high culture starts to be a snooze after a while. 🙂

        20. ezamuzed

          @YAG “:.. being a single forty-something is difficult because most of your peers are in the thick of the demanding child-rearing years. The little time they have left outside of their children is spent maintaining their homes and cutting grass, at least here in the U.S. I used to mow several acres of grass each week until I grew tired and hired a service.”

          This is such a gross generalization. In the US there are many divorced single 40 somethings that share custody of children. Because of the shared custody they tend to have a lot of free time they are looking to fill up by socializing when they don’t have their kids. I’m divorced in my mid 40s and share custody of two teens. I have enough time to play ice hockey once a week. Salsa dance twice a week, workout almost every day and go out and socialize with people a few times a week. Before I had a girlfriend I used to perform improv on stage about once a month and go on 2 week vacations in exotic locations. I know a lot of other people in their 40s who have plenty of time to socialize and have fun.

        21. Emily, to

          ezamused,
          “I’m divorced in my mid 40s and share custody of two teens. I have enough time to play ice hockey once a week. Salsa dance twice a week, workout almost every day and go out and socialize with people a few times a week. … I know a lot of other people in their 40s who have plenty of time to socialize and have fun.”
          That’s good to know. I sometimes wonder where all the 40-something men are. Did the earth open up and swallow them? 🙂 When I go to meetups, if there are men there at all, they are usually quite a bit younger than me or quite a bit older.

        22. Marika

          You’re right about meet ups, now I think about it, Em. There’s a dearth of guys around 35-45. I’m not sure it’s kid-related though. Most people I know with young kids still go out from time to time, and when away from the kids, they are *away from the kids*. Not talking about them endlessly. Maybe Meetup isn’t on the radar for that guy age group?

          I definitely think you’ll meet some cool chicks along the way to bruch and dance with, though. Send pics

        23. Gallilee

          Marika,
          I’m neither a wasp nor an American, try not tomracially profile it’s not a good trait. And i Berlin for a while actually.
          I can assure you all night raves are populated almost solely by the young. All night raves may be the answer to middle ages malaise, who knows. Try it.

        24. Marika

          Galille

          I’m not (only) talking about ‘all night raves’, I’m simply making the point that there’s no one way to enjoy middle age. Emily is trying to find an eclectic, open-minded group of people who enjoy various activities and don’t want to discuss renovations over an early dinner every Saturday night and be asleep by 10pm.

          I agree with her, and a few of us weighed in with suggestions. But you come into to criticize and carry on as if that is oh-so-immature and somehow depressing. What kind of useful contribution is that? It’s also short-sighted. Your views on appropriate activities for the over 30s aren’t everyones.

  4. 4
    Hawley

    I’ve watched a few Brené Brown TED talks and youtube videos. She took on a mammoth task of getting to the bottom of “shame” and that research is what put her on the map. My biggest take away from her work is a comment she made as a result of that research and those thousands of interviews. She said that after all the interviews and compiling all the numbers, she found that there is really only one thing that separates the people who find love and belonging from the people who struggle for it. That “thing” is first and foremost that the people who find love and belonging believe that they are worthy of love and belonging. They learned as kids, from their parents, that they mattered. When they failed, they were supported rather than shamed. And when they lost, . . . that support and feeling that they mattered, allowed them to bounce back because even though they may have lost this time, they had an inner belief and inner foundation that they were worthy of winning and worthy of love. They were securely attached. That secure base didn’t eliminate the pain of a lost relationship, they felt the pain of the loss but were buoyed by an inner security that they would find someone else because they believed they were worthy. Not entitled, but worthy.

    I’ve learned an awful lot about myself by reading the comments in this forum even though as an older, avoidant, covert schizoid man, I am not the target audience. Thank you Jeremy and everyone who contributes here and thanks to Evan for leaving the history available.

    1. 4.1
      Mrs Happy

      Hawley, I personally don’t agree with the view that this comments section is only for certain people. Evan like any smart business owner markets his business largely to a certain demographic, but he leaves the comments section open to the whole world, and it is people like yourself, with perhaps some different life experiences than Evan’s average business targets, who probably have a lot that is useful to share.

    2. 4.2
      S.

      @Hawley

      I loved Brene Brown’s Netflix special and got so much out of it. The books are harder for me. So much of it is her voice, her inflections, her slight Texas twang. I got a lot about really releasing shame and that is slowly transforming my life. And about checking ‘the story I’m telling myself’ cause that story isn’t real most times. I used to not ask for help but I do now. It’s about getting older too. I realize it’s okay to let people know how you really are sometimes. And it’s okay to disappoint people to strike out on your own and do your own thing.

      “that support and feeling that they mattered, allowed them to bounce back because even though they may have lost this time, they had an inner belief and inner foundation that they were worthy of winning and worthy of love.”

      This is what I have! So glad you named this. When I get low I reach back to that feeling of being so loved by everyone I knew those first six years. I didn’t realize it until recently how that grounded me and centered me and I have had some pretty low lows. But I know what love is. And I know how great I am. I also didn’t realize until I got older that not everyone gets that grounding. Some create it as they older but it’s harder. Just knowing you matter, you can do what you need to, and you’re always loved by someone no matter how many times you fall. It’s . . . invaluable.

      I’m secure, but wasn’t when it came to dating. But I’m back to my original imprinting, lol. I thank my mother every single time I see her for how she raised me.

  5. 5
    Lynx

    Mrs H said: “But there are lots of positives about middle age.”

    What frustrates me about aging is how media, per usual, ignores facts and magnifies the negative. Because here’s the truth for those in a middle-class+ economic bracket in a developed nation: happiness actually INCREASES beginning in midlife. Google “the U-curve of happiness” to learn more.

    In my mid-50s, I’m happier now than I have been since young childhood. Good genes, good health habits, and good luck means I’m very active and work in a dynamic industry. It also means I’m usually two decades older than those around me, and so I often feel apologetic for being my age — kind of like I snuck into the VIP and am hoping if I stick to the dimly-lit corners of the room the A-list won’t notice the imposter. I hate feeling that way.

    And I’ve got to confess — am really tired of stock photos of 20-somethings in articles targeting the middle-aged. Like all the other ‘isms’, bias is insidious, even though this is the one ism that everyone will experience (if they’re lucky).

  6. 6
    Lucy

    I am very happy in my mid-50s. I think happiness increases with age, because you see many of your dreams coming true, as opposed to wondering as a young person if they will ever happen.

    I do have to say that turning 40 was a midlife crisis of sorts. I left my husband because he kept hedging on kids, and adopted a baby from a foreign country. It was the first original idea I had ever followed through on, and was the making of me as a person. Everyone told me I was a fool to do it, especially so soon after my divorce, but I went with my gut, and from then on, always lived my life that way.

    I do have to say, though, that it takes crisis to make me move. We humans can get self-satisfied. It seems to me I’ve lived through crisis after crisis since my youth, and have ended up the better for them if I took the opportunity to grow as a person, to change and take a risk.

    1. 6.1
      S.

      @Lucy

      Good for you! There are some moves you make on instinct. Life-changing and in a good way.

  7. 7
    Noquay

    For many of my acquaintance, their mid-life crises was realizing the degree of disconnect between the societally proscribed life they lived and who they actually are. They suddenly wake up to an empty nest lying next to someone they have little in common with and wondering what the heck happened.
    I was really hammered throughout my 40s and 50s. Went from a great marriage, great life, promising career to having my life threatened, having to move west for a job, breakup of the marriage, breast cancer, long distance caretaking my dying dad, and complete estrangement from my remaining and sadly irresponsible younger brother, saw both parents through their dying, did their end of life care, conducted their funerals. Got a new, high paying job, worked hard to build the program (Sciences), bought a place, restored the land, tried very hard to fit into the community and have a stable, healthy rship again. Unraveling is a thing. One thing feeds off another, a sort of
    synergy. Programs I worked hard to build were systematically
    cut, my dad’s care and debt he left behind took away from moneys I needed to fix my home here, the job demands took time away from needed training (ultrarunner), dating was a fiasco as the healthy, high functioning men leave in summer leaving folk who are here because they have no choice, the negative perception of this community from outside meant long distance options are also non existent. The values of the older members of this place and my own were never going to mesh.
    Two years ago, the crisis came to a head. The job became even more dysfunctional, we senior faculty in the academic fields targeted for removal, three friends died within 4 months, another friend and colleague nearly died of sepsis, I no longer had time to train and had stress-induced cardiomyopathy, living at 10k’. The one way to deal with loneliness and stress, running, taken away. It was also a turning point; paid off my dad’s debts, sold his house (at a huge loss but it’s gone!), found out that what I was experiencing at the job and in the community was shared by all my academic colleagues and all educated women in town. Empowering that issues that I was blaming, hating on myself for wasn’t just me. To cap it off, was horribly and publically cheated on by my then rship.
    One year ago I quit my Professorship and put this house up for sale. Had retained ownership of a nearly 100 yo farm near Lake Superior and am now in the process of moving there. It’s been a grueling ordeal, maybe more unraveling. Moving very heavy stuff, fixing stuff at both places without help (the reliable labor situation here is a BIG problem), the 30 hr drives in each direction, trying to do things in two places 1300 miles apart. The drain on finances and a housing market favoring small disposable ski houses rather than an actual home on land is frightening. Re-learning life totally off grid, fixing the hand pump, whipping houses and the sauna into shape has been hard work but worth it. My first week back at the farm, I was sitting on a stump next to my outdoor fire, making coffee; Sandhill cranes flying overhead, songbirds singing, wind through thick trees, no motor vehicle noise, and I felt intense gratitude.
    There are a number of moving trips left, winter is coming, I’m scared of running out of retirement, of the house here not selling, of not being able to do what needs to be done, but I’m making slow progress. I look at my life thus far and I can see that I mostly did what was right for me; foregoing a family, having a great 12 yr marriage, speaking my scientific truth despite the costs. I’ve had the privilege of discussing activism with Howard Zinn, environmental contamination with Theo Colborn, was front and center at Native rights actions with some of the greatest Native and non Native activists in the nation. Not bad for an old chick. Because I am a dusky, female, modern day version of Scot Nearing, I understand that few share my values and life alone may be my future but living on ones own terms, in my own way may be worth it. This ain’t a dress rehearsal folks.

    1. 7.1
      jo

      Noquay, your story is inspiring, though I’m sad to hear about all your past and present struggles. I think you would find that there are more people than you think who share your worldviews. They are all around. Possibly even for a romantic relationship, but just because you don’t have that doesn’t mean you can’t find a whole community of friends sharing your values. Beyond middle age, that can be just as good if not better. From what I see (not there yet), depending on just one person in that stage of life can make one very vulnerable.

      (Do you know Winona LaDuke, btw? She is also a Native activist who cares about environmental justice issues.)

      1. 7.1.1
        Noquay

        Jo
        We all have our struggles, what matters is how we face them.
        Yes, Winona is an acquaintance and one of the activists that I was referring to. Returning to somewhere where I was married and many of my progressive friends were friends of us as a couple has been strange, disconnected. Right now my priorities have been getting out of Colorado and making my farm at least livable for winter. No time to meet folks for many months but I’ll try and make new connections as the old ones are mostly retired and gone. The area has become a lot more progressive (not my community necessarily) and there’s more outdoor events going on. The region has become the mountain biking Mecca of the Midwest which is good. This trip, bringing my bikes.

  8. 8
    Michelle

    Love what Lucy and some of the others said above and also believe middle age is not an excuse to let yourself slide physically, call it a day and dive into a pail of Ben and Jerry’s. I am also in my early 50’s and have never been happier, more confident and my life is really starting to take off now. Created my own company, finally purged the one woman play of “I am not enough” in my head (took 30 years and a ton of therapy to overcome severe childhood trauma) and have truly stepped into my power. Also, with the advances in health, medicine and nutrition, (and yes, plastic surgery) middle age is much later in life. I also don’t think we should step into the cliched view of what “middle age” is supposed to look like; ie let body go (I still wear bikinis and rock it; work very hard to keep it tight), think we have nothing to contribute to the younger sect and slink to the back of the room so we don’t stand out (our experience means we have very progressive views and many of us more up on tech than the 20 somethings) and take on the persona of the career stalled, out of date middle aged person. I have gotten facebook friend requests from people I haven’t seen since high school and shocking how they let themselves go, they look old enough to be my parents and they are my age! It’s like they just gave up. It’s a belief system and you manifest what you believe. If you think you are too old to be attractive and don’t take care of your appearance, are not progressive or innovative enough to go beyond your dead end job, the best years are behind you, then that is what you will become, project and attract; you become a frumpy 40 or 50 something, with mid life pudge, a dead end job, and disdain and fear for the younger sect. Get over it, middle age has been redefined and the best years are ahead. Don’t let middle age be an excuse to pack it in. It’s complete crap, especially with all the knowledge we have today on aging, health and mind body connection.

    1. 8.1
      Noquay

      Michelle
      So true. One of the most frustrating aspects of trying to date mid (or later) life is that while I really work hard to stay in shape, am always active, my male counterparts do not. Given that I know of many older men who stay in shape for life, including my marathon running 80 yo best friend, there no excuse. While women’s bodies and metabolisms can really take a hit with childbearing, men obviously don’t deal with this.

      This time of year, folks are here (Colo) for the race series and most are super fit and I had folks to train with. But after that was nine months of forced alone as there are few older healthy folk here. There’s always warnings about going into the backcountry alone but that’s what I always did; no other choice. On line offerings were mostly ski dude guys with big guts crammed into ski suits. Downhill skiing, unless it’s at the pro level is NOT exercise as it’s mainly due to gravity. Had dated overweight men and it was a fail from the get go. A sedentary persons and an active persons lifestyles just don’t mesh well. Remember, if your looking for a LTR, you’re meshing lives, not just going places together. From my late fathers example, the consequences of unhealthy diet and no exercise are slow, painful, time consuming, and very, very, expensive. In the next decade, as we Boomers continue to age, we in the US are facing a health care crisis. Don’t wish that journey on anyone. I agree with you; saw old acquaintances when I was back in Mich on a moving trip and didn’t recognize them for a long time as they’re 40 lbs heavier and some can barely walk.

      1. 8.1.1
        Michelle

        Noquay,

        Your note made me laugh out loud. So true girl! I think they key is finding your match and opening the options up a bit; maybe a younger guy might be better choice? Or a slightly pudgy guy your age with killer confidence and a great smile, who loves the slopes? I think when you operate at a certain confidence and high energy frequency, you need a match for that, or it will never work out. That match can take many forms. The overweight guy might also have lacked confidence too, maybe that was the deal breaker. Unless he was obese, then yes, that’s no go, period. Don’t ever settle for anything less than what makes you happy. Happiness can come in a few different forms. Some deal breakers for you is fitness minded, pride in appearance, active. After that, you can open the door a bit on what that looks like from age, background perspective. I usually date younger for the reasons you described above. I don’t need a “daddy” and make more money than most of the men I know, and the ones at my income level come with a whole other bag of challenges with ego, control, want younger women as the “prize” for their success, etc. Get what you want, it’s out there. I promise you.

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