The past few years I have become increasingly aware that I should feel free and brave by now with my continuous journey of self-discovery and openness to dive deep into my story and find out what makes me who I am. Four years ago, I boldly took off my armor temporarily and stood naked, so to speak, for the first time in many years, as I came out of the mental health closet. Maybe, it was really for the first time ever.
As the unraveling began, I didn’t find myself living with adventure and growing into my gifts, feeling an abundant sense of relief and joy. I tried. Goddammit, I tried. So, when I didn’t feel that way I reverted to armoring up to safety.
“Midlife is not a crisis. Midlife is an unraveling. Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. 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.” – Brené Brown
Here I am teetering on the outskirts of midlife, and I sometimes still feel more lost than I have ever been. The idea that the truth shall set you free, and being vulnerable is the starting place of healing and change, is something I have learned and preached to others. My ongoing struggle of self-exposure lingers between the shame that still tries to weigh me down, and the continuous comparing myself to others. This can make it difficult to practice what I preach sometimes.
So, as this midlife status lingers, I am bombarded with the reality that time is running out. I panic and think, how will I feel about my life when I am the age my dad was when he died? Will I have regret that I let anxiety rule much of my life? Will I feel like a failure from walking away from my career in 2008 and never quite being able to find my place in the world since? Will the feelings of inadequacy still be there? Will I feel proud that I armored up to protect my heart and soul at the expense of an adventurous and carefree life? Or will I feel shame that I worried too much what other people thought?
I don’t know. I only know that time feels like it’s creeping up on me. I don’t know if it’s because this past year has been a very grief- and death-intensive year and the reality of the life cycle is sinking in, or that when I get up off the floor my hips remind me, I am not 25 anymore. I have had a few close calls with death, and I am not ignorant to the fact that I am lucky to be alive.
I used to think midlife was all about the struggle and fear of getting older that could be resolved by buying a sports car, finding a younger man or going hiking in the mountains, but here I am at midlife and none of those things ever cross my mind or appeal to me.
If midlife is about questioning where you have been, where you are going and deciding if you are going to be you or the facade you have been portraying for years, then I am definitely at midlife. I am at that place of questioning everything. I am at that place where my coping mechanisms and armoring up are starting to piss me off, even though it’s been a knee-jerk reaction in life that I’ve gotten used to. I feel the universe’s hands upon my shoulder as she whispers in my ear “I’m not screwing around.” And, if I have learned anything in life, it is that if you ignore the universe’s whisper to smarten up, she will try louder until you can no longer ignore her.