The Midlife Metamorphosis
I love this metaphor as a way to describe the transition through midlife and into the second half of our lives – what I like to call our “Butterfly Years”!
It just sums up exactly how I feel about my own transition.
It’s as though the years leading up to my midlife metamorphosis were like those of a caterpillar, devouring life and eating up every experience with so much gusto that I never actually got to slow down enough to do much else than simply survive.
When I hit 50 it was like an awakening for me. It felt like I’d reached a fork in the road and I had some tough decisions to make. I realised that my caterpillar was stuffed full and needed to let go of some of the ‘junk’ it had consumed along the way.
Life felt heavy (I felt heavy!!) as though if I didn’t take stock and discard some of the emotional detritus I’d accumulated over the years I would not be able to move forward.
Looking back 3 years later it feels as though this was the start of my midlife metamorphosis. That fork in the road loomed large and I had to make a choice – whether to continue to remain safe but sorry or to take a few risks, step into the unknown and take the scary path.
Midlife seems to bring with it an inherent need to re-evaluate. I did some work on my physical appearance: lost weight, got fit and felt the ‘outer’ me had moved on, but the inner me, the real core of who I was, was still carrying all the weight of the Caterpillar Years.
My last 3 years have felt like a rebirth.
My time in my midlife chrysalis has been spent redesigning and redefining what I want from the rest of my life. It’s been a long process. Certainly not a sudden ‘aha’ moment. And the vision of my future has evolved and changed and is still evolving and changing. But now, rather than it feeling out of my control, it feels much more like a natural, organic growth and I’m learning to trust in the journey.
I don’t even know how I’ll know when this chrysalis stage is complete. Right now it feels like there are still so many things about myself I need to learn. Maybe I won’t know I’ve reached the ‘Butterfly Years’ until I’m able to look back. But for now, I’m just loving the process of change.
What I’ve learned is that in order to really change we have to be willing to confront and own everything that we currently are. We have to accept responsibility for every single thing that has happened to us during our lives. And this can feel hard.
I’m not talking about beating ourselves up and apportioning blame. Blame and responsibility are two very different beasts. Blame is a negative, guilt or anger ridden emotion. Blame is the antithesis of responsibility. Responsibility – the ability to respond – to our experiences and situations, is a positive, empowering attribute. Responsibility puts you in the driver’s seat, blame puts you in the dog house.
When you start to view experiences from a position of learning rather than regret it’s so much easier to let go of the negativity that surrounds them. We all have had experiences that felt outside of our control – my parents dying way too young, a violent and abusive marriage – I didn’t ask for these things in my life but they have made me the person I am – and who that person was then, who she is now and who she wants to be in the future is completely my responsibility.
The first and most important step in making change in our life is believing that change is possible. Believing that we are not set in stone and trusting that we have the power within us to be who we truly want to be. When I first grasped the concept that we get to choose what we think, it was a game changer for me. Realising that my thoughts created my feelings, and not the other way around put me firmly in control. If I could think bad things and make myself feel bad, then surely I could think good things and I’d also feel good.
Simple, yes. Easy? Not so much!
The emotional part of our brain, that bit that does all the feeling, is a giant compared to the thinking part. It takes conscious effort and continued work and energy to feed good thoughts into the brain when the mind is so well programmed to accept negative self-talk.
Much like increasing muscle mass in the gym through strength training, increasing a positive mindset takes time, patience, work and continuous commitment. Some days feel easier than others. And sometimes we just need a deload – I find a damn good cry works for me. Maybe others prefer to punch their fists into a pillow or scream at the top of their voice. What ever works for you. But just like a deload week you have to get back into training to see the gains. But you come back stronger and ready to take on the next challenge.
So, here’s to the Butterfly Years, whatever they may bring.
Bev Thorogood is a Midlife Transition Coach. A certified nutritionist, personal trainer and health coach specialising in helping women navigate their way through midlife and beyond. With a strong focus on mindset she offers personal and group coaching to help women remove the blocks that stop them from living their best midlife.
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