When grey hair is what we see in the mirror when laugh lines occur and our waist is probably never going to be the same again, it is perfectly okay to get overwhelmed by the changes we see in ourselves
“Change is the only constant in life.” This is what Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, had once said. Little did he know then that his words of wisdom would be an important life lesson for all generations to come.
Whether it is a change in the weather, change of seasons or a simple change in our schedule, we face changes very often. But, along with the change comes the fear of it. Some of us fear change because we know it comes with disruption and instability, others fear it because it may mean loss of status, job, power or friends and there are many who fear it because they fear the unknown. Whatever the case may be, let’s accept the fact that change is inevitable.
We all change, physically, emotionally and behaviorally as we move on from one phase of our life to another. The much talked about ‘change’ that we experience in our lives is the transition and challenge we face in or approaching middle age. Middle age comes with mixed emotions comprising of our triumphs and defeats, happiness and sorrow along with satisfaction and regret.
So, when I find myself wallowing about my inabilities, defeats, and failures I start to feel how miserable life has become. I also find myself slowly gravitating toward the power of the supreme soul. Health takes centre stage and preventive medical tests become the prerequisite to stay healthy. I shudder thinking about how the remaining half (?) of my life shapes like and imagining life without people very dear to me is equally harrowing. Just when I was self-reasoning about my thoughts, the term ‘midlife crisis’ crossed my mind and the transition I have witnessed in my life in the last couple of years has left me thinking that the ‘midlife crisis’ bug hasn’t spared me either.
The ‘midlife crisis’
In 1965 Elliot Jaques, a Canadian psychoanalyst, first mentioned the term ‘midlife crisis’. He claimed that people in their middle age typically experience depressive periods, religious awakening, sudden inability to enjoy life and compulsive attempts to remain young, lasting several years. Though the idea of midlife crisis refuses to fade to date we often associate the term with negative emotions. But, let’s not lose heart. This phase also comes with a silver lining.
Middle age is a period when we have reached major milestones in life and we feel that the best years are behind us. Though this period is kindled by the realization that our lives are halfway over it also unravels a period best suited for inner growth and development. It is this time of our lives that we learn to connect to ourselves, our loved ones and to our world without being a slave to the noise of our internal dialogue. It presents us with an opportunity to reorient ourselves and helps us to stop missing out on life through worry and regret. The key to surviving depends on the coping mechanism we adopt.
As we move from one phase of our life to another, we change in terms of how we look, think, and feel. There is nothing we can do and that the clock will not stop to tick away. However, what we can do is to anticipate the change and accept it with grace and positivity. The sooner we embrace the ups and downs the easier it will be to thrive on this roller coaster of transition. Therefore, let’s learn to interrupt our internal critic once in a while so that we don’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with someone more successful, more beautiful and happier in life.
Live in the present
When we let our lives be governed by the thoughts and emotions of the past or with the excitement and anxiety of what future holds for us, it is extremely challenging to stay peacefully rooted in the present. This is why we tend to constantly sway from mulling over our past to anticipating what is to come, if and when, eventually forgetting to experience, let alone enjoy what’s happening right now. Living in the present stresses the importance of ‘here’ and ‘now’. The more we live in the present the easier it is to survive the highs and the lows of this phase.
But, this is not easy especially for us who have a ‘monkey mind’—a Buddhist term describing the way our minds run like monkeys and swing from thought to thought. Until we calm our monkey mind, we will not be able to enjoy the present as it makes us unhappy, angry, restless and anxious. Practicing mindfulness and meditation is a wonderful way to focus on the present.
It is obvious to get restless and sometimes angry when we are stuck in traffic, it is normal to feel anxious about our future and it is okay to feel sad when people take us for granted. We experience such a myriad of emotions because it is impossible to be perfect. One thing which is possible for all irrespective of our circumstances is to transform and evolve. We evolve when we make joy/ happiness and not anger as our default state because what we practice grows stronger.
If we practice to accept our selves the way we are and embrace the moment we are living right now, we are practicing joy. Practicing joy will equip us with all the necessary tools to navigate the different phases of our lives.
When grey hair is what we see in the mirror when laugh lines occur and our waist is probably never going to be the same again, it is perfectly okay to get overwhelmed by the changes we see in ourselves. Though some of us feel that a hill has been climbed and the view over the other side is not so beautiful, there is little evidence that it is actually a period of crisis and despondency. In fact, the view on the other side depends on the type of lens we use to see it. Contrary to its reputation, people in middle age demonstrate decades of experience, are more matured, calmer and are more forgiving.
The transition we go through reinforces the belief that every thought, feeling, and situation we face is, in fact, temporary because with each phase we all have experienced a different set of changes. Therefore, let us all remember that patience is a virtue and like all other phases, this too shall pass.
The author, a freelancer based in New Delhi, is also a management expert at EMERGE, Nepal