Midlife – Crisis or Chrysalis?

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“Is this all I am ever going to do?”

iStock_2709202_MEDIUMHave you ever had this thought? If so, you might be approaching midlife, or maybe you already got there. Where is that exactly? Well it keeps moving because people live longer and healthier, but for most of us it starts anywhere from your forties through to sixty-something.

Of course the idea that there might be something new to do isn’t limited to middle-age but it is often a feature of middle-age. Some people call this time of re-thinking and longing a crisis. But good things come from a crisis.

Gerald Marzorati is one example of a man who did something new. Late to the Ball is his story of how, aged 60, and complete with arthritis, tendonitis, and flat feet, he decided to become a national tennis player. Before this, he had played amateur tennis for a few years only. I haven’t read his book, and I’m rubbish at tennis, but I think I know the midlife feeling.

Crisis or Chrysalis?

I am in my early fifties but when I was approaching the five-oh I had that “is this all I am ever going to do?” moment – in fact lots of them, over many months. I was struck by all the ideas I had put off as a young man till later, all the things I was “too busy” to do, and even things I felt God calling me to do but … not just now please. They all appeared at once, as did the realisation that doing them all “later” suddenly didn’t seem very practical.

Not all mid-lifers go through this unsettled phase but many do. Mid-lifers are not “old” (…of course not!) but we can see old strolling down the road smiling amiably and waving at us … And we don’t want to greet him just yet. For many, especially in their 50s and 60s, careers are settled maybe tailing-off, mortgages being paid off, children on the verge of independence –they will always cause us worry but there seems less we can do for them – and bodies are often healthy if not youthful. So …

What’s next?

We keep hearing that we are living longer and in better health than ever, so a reasonable question to ask is “what do we do with this windfall lease of life?”

I heard some retired folks talking about their “SKI” plans – I was impressed until I found out it meant Spending the Kids Inheritance .. it seems by going on lots of holidays. If that’s you, OK, but surely there are other things to do as well as throwing money at cruise operators and faster cars?

You have more skills than you probably think you have. You have learnt them from experience. You have perspective. You even remember how to communicate face to face, not just electronically as our young millennial friends do.

What do others say?

Ann Morisy a theologian who writes on aging talks about us being settled in our identity. We are secure with who we are, and ….“with this security we become less defensive. A reduction in defensiveness brings with it new energy and stamina as well as emotional robustness… and significant gains in relation to spirituality”. She adds“…best placed to commend the Christian faith are those who have experienced the ups and downs of life and still choose to follow Jesus”.

Beginning his studies for an MBA in his 40’s Timo Marquez says: “Reinventing yourself is ageless. Some think it stops after a certain age but in today’s fast-paced world, reinvention (in learning, approach, etc) is very important”.

And my friend, Christian Psychiatrist and fellow-blogger Sunil Raheja speaking on lessons on turning 50 points out that God in fact only started using Moses, Abraham and others rather late in life.

Reboot your life!

Since you have read this far, ask yourself this question:

What do I care about most, aside from the things I am paid to care about?

Family is an obvious answer, but family may be less dependent on you now so what else do you care about? The answer should provide a helpful clue to where God wants you to be next. Take some time. Consider that God has something new for you to do (something even better than that cruise). Here’s a few ideas:

  • Study part-time. This 88 year-old man If you don’t have a degree, now is the time. If you do have one, well this time study something you are REALLY interested in.
  • Look at all the volunteering opportunities – from giving time locally to starting your own charity to really make a difference as my former Pastor and his wife did in their 50s.
  • Short-term mission work can provide a signpost for the future and a worthwhile end in itself. See for example BMS or Tear Fund.
  • Have you previously had some preaching, teaching or pastoral-care experience? All our churches are keenly promoting the ministries of part-time lay minister, lay reader

… and if this applies to you, invest in becoming an astonishing grandparent!

The question that matters is not how old are you but how much enthusiasm do you have? Take a risk – there is time yet for another big adventure. Giving up a settled life is a bit scary but the best adventures always are!

Chris Goswami blogs at 7minutes.net He was awarded the title of ‘Blogger of the Year 2015’ by Premier Digital Awards. Chris has worked for 25 years in the telecoms industry and is currently Director of Marketing and Communications at Openwave Mobility, a bright new company in Silicon Valley USA. From a Hindu background Chris has been a disciple of Christ since the age of 19 is also Associate Pastor at Brownley Green, Wythenshawe, a large outer-city estate

4 thoughts on “Midlife – Crisis or Chrysalis?”

  1. I visited a cemetary today in Macedonia with my wife and her family, who were mourning the loss of 3 relatives. They have a completely different way of mourning here, they put food and drink on top of the grave and they sit, eat and talk, light candles and kiss the picture of the person (they put a picture of the person on the grave-stone), there were also people nearby sobbing and wailing at a different grave, grief-stricken, we don’t do anything like this in England. I looked around the grave yard at all the faces on the head-stones, looking at me and it really hit me how short life is, all these people who were born, lived, breathed, loved, cried, now gone. Not sure how relevant this is to this blog post but it has made me thing about what I want to do for the next 40 years (I’m now 39) should I live that long! I do feel like I’m coasting along at the moment, hopefully something good will come along that’ll change things.

    1. What a powerful experience Karl. Yes life and every day is a gift. I think one important key is to be intentional. I remember someone saying, “When you were born everyone smiled and you cried. Live in such a way that when you leave you are smiling and others cry because they will miss you.” Ultimately it is the resurrection that makes sense of it all. Do see 4 Personal Implications Of The Resurrection

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    This information is for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to be personal medical advice. Please ask your physician about any health guidelines seen in this blog, as everyone is different in his or her medical needs.