Kathy* is an active mom of three with a successful career and, by all accounts, a good life.
Shortly after her 46th birthday, Kathy found a lump in her breast. A biopsy was done and she was waiting for the results. Kathy is one of my personal life coaching clients (her name has been changed to protect her privacy and keep our work confidential).
She came to me in the thick of midlife and, as many women her age do, was reassessing everything she'd done up until now.
The moment she walked through the door, Kathy announced, "It’s benign!" Her relief was palpable. As we sat down for our session, we got quiet. Soon, she began to cry.
"I am relieved, of course," she said," but all I could think about before they called me with the results was, 'What if this is it? I mean, my life — what am I really doing with my life? Am I really living it how my soul wants me to live it?!' And I answered, 'No, I’m not.'"
Here, I thought, is a woman about to gain clarity on what matters most to her.
Maybe you’ve had a health scare like Kathy. Maybe one evening, late at night, when everyone was asleep, you admitted to yourself that you aren’t satisfied — in the bedroom or the boardroom. Maybe you find yourself dreaming about going on a retreat or taking a vacation — by yourself. Maybe, one otherwise ordinary day, you had enough of being ignored and putting everyone’s needs before your own, and as you are unloading the dishwasher, you pick up a plate and smash it on the floor.
Image via iStock.
"It’s not a midlife crisis," my older and wiser friend once told me. "It’s a midlife awakening."
Women in midlife aren’t looking to "get back the joy" of their twenties. We are looking to name, claim, and embody authentic joy now as wise women, who want to live according to what is most sacred to us.
It's not an easy or neat process, but there are simple ways a woman can own her space as wise, independent, and happy. Here are seven suggestions:
1. She can practice radical self-responsibility.
She does away with the "blame game." Yes, she has been hurt, rejected, and dumped. The actions of others weren’t her fault, but she recognizes how she responds to what happens in life is her responsibility.
She owns her healing and thrives by treating herself with gentleness and kindness. She commits to self-regard.
2. She can clear out the clutter to enjoy empty space.
She might go through the whole house and ruthlessly get rid of anything that doesn’t bring joy. But beyond that, she starts to give up negative beliefs about her self-worth that have taken up too much space. She stops devoting time to relationships that don't nourish her and focuses on the people who do.
3. She can forgive her parents.
Her parents are human, and whether they're still alive or have passed away, she starts to let go of what she held against them.
Image via iStock.
4. She can set healthy boundaries.
She recognizes that it’s time to stop sacrificing her self-care and consider her needs — before work, family, and friends that might drain her. She starts to say "no" to what depletes her and "yes" to what is vital for her to thrive. She stops justifying her response.
5. She can stop comparing herself to other women.
When she sees another woman standing in her brilliance and power, she sees this as inspiration for her to risk living, loving, and expressing herself. She decides to be bold.
6. She can name her deeper longings.
She may go on retreat or check into a local hotel room so she can have space to listen to her heart. After decades, she knows that if she keeps pushing away her heart’s longings, she is going to turn bitter. She follows her gut and takes the "right steps" for her.
7. She can decide to honor her longings.
She is OK with others questioning her bold moves. She is no longer basing her life on what others think. She operates with wisdom and clarity.
Kathy’s health scare spurred her midlife awakening. She began to take responsibility for her joy and claim the second half of her life with boldness.
It was not a tidy process. Kathy’s journey of finding her joy — like all of ours — is ongoing and both messy and miraculous. As women in midlife, we claim our joy by being tender, clear, bold, and true to the longings of our heart. And we decide to thrive.
*The author works as a personal life coach and has permission to share stories of her clients under confidentiality agreements. For this reason, Kathy's name has been changed to ensure her privacy.