Authenticity, values, being true to ourselves

While working out this morning I was pondering the female midlife crisis. This came up on Monday during training with J and has been an ongoing, informal survey the last few days with me asking other friends in the age range of susceptibility to such things.

The responses have been interesting. The friends I asked are divorced and dating, in steady or serious relationships, married with kids, empty nesters, and even ladies who have never married or have been married and are without children. Everyone had their own versions of having gone through it or projecting what that would or will do if and when that time arrives for them.

Those who felt they went a little crazy between mid-40s and mid-50s said it was because of relationship breakdown – boredom, break-up, infidelity on one or both sides, issues with their young adult children or aging parents. If they had been long-term caretakers, i.e., kids and/or other family members and those situations had resolved, it was as if they had been set adrift and lost purpose in their lives. Perhaps triggered by a job loss or a breakdown in the romantic relationships. It is as if they have been avoiding the mirror for a quarter century and suddenly realize they are thicker, middle aged, unattractive, and boring (common phrases I heard from several). Suddenly it’s all about going blond or covering gray, getting into shape, getting tan, finding their inner slut and getting laid. A couple of them – I admit to thinking about that period with a wincing grin. It was a bit like crazy town for awhile, until the crisis passed and they settled down into who they are now. Some reinvented themselves, got new careers or restarted ones they had abandoned to raise their families. Many changed their hair – went blonde or red or dark or all of the above – and/or reshaped their shapes with diet and exercise.

I am not sure if I have had mine yet or if some of us just bypass it completely. My reasons for with training with J, altering my diet with RD, elevating my self-esteem and confidence with TM – all these things are related to better health and improving outlook that regaining lost youth or the “hotness” that gradually fades with aging and maturity. I think, anyway; I was never hot in the first place and cannot comprehend what that might mean in middle age. Besides, the current definition of sexy has never been my style. A cougar or MILF is not something I have ever aspired to be, and I would be truly horrified to be characterized as either.

But anyway, my ponderings about the stuff I have learned from other friends has made me consider what makes a woman feel the need to try and completely reinvent herself when she hits some age-related milestone. Thinking about it, a midlife crisis need not be a bad thing, either. Losing some weight, eating better, doing things that make us feel better about ourselves is good and healthy behavior in the right context. But again, managing our expectations and keeping it real should also be part of any sort of undertaking.

From my informal and completely unscientific discussions, consensus is that the female midlife crisis is spurned by life events that may inspire feelings of insecurity or drops in self-esteem or simply feeling the weight of our ages. Divorces, relationships ending, kids moving out of the house or getting married or having babies. More than anything, though, there is little graceful about aging. I remember being offended 10 years ago when a young woman at the local pizza parlor wanted to give me the senior discount, apparently believing I was over 62. I was so upset, and M was truly unsympathetic in telling me that I should not be so angry and upset, that this young girl saw gray hair and assumed I was in my 60s. (That I was then really angry with M after that is another story for another day, a teachable moment for why men should evaluate and put their practical pragmatism aside before opening their mouths when their partners are genuinely upset about a vanity-related situation.)

However fuzzy I am about my self-esteem and baseline netball crazy, I am pretty certain about who I am, the content of my character and what I value and hold dear. My vanity is nearly non-existent, but I am greatly bothered by being thought 15+ years older by some brainless teenager. I have been underestimated, thought of as dumber than the average bear by my parents and family, and I have fought hard to rise above that particular brand of family lore. These days I hope to be bright enough to recognize what is real, what is important, what is worth caring about, what is worth fighting over and fighting for. For much of my life I questioned my personal integrity because of how I grew up, the ways I raised myself, events completely beyond my control. It took years and thousands of hours of therapy to make me realize that as damaged as I am by those events, it shaped and hardened my own vision and judgment of good personhood.

I dislike deception and strive for painful honesty whenever possible. I hate cruelty in any form. My sense of justice is strong, and I bend over backwards trying to be fair in my judgments and try to weigh my own biases. Deliberately harming a child is a crime against all humanity, yet I believe very strongly in discipline, am not against spanking in certain well defined situations, and believe that as parents and responsible adults we should train children to appropriate behaviors. I believe in sincerity and genuineness; fake is a horrible quality to foist off onto other people.

My view is that there is a fixation of physical appearance and beauty, yet I wonder if it is because I am not typical or mainstream sort of pretty, even as a much younger woman. I am not saying I am blind to appearances, I know there are physical attributes that draw me in and others that repel me completely. As I march onward through my life I find myself recognizing the signs of what I thought, how I felt about my parents’ thoughts and ideas and how generational differences manifest. I do not necessarily believe the next generations are better or worse; they are living their own lives and times with their particular circumstances with all its advantages and problems.

The entitlement I hear about, read about, see wafting in and out of my own life is difficult to cope with if I have to work with those holding onto such ideals. But I’m not one to paint entire groups with that sort of wide brush, nor am I naive enough to say it does not happen and is not an evident quality in the emerging generation. That said, there is a flaw in the parenting that happened there as well, and since I know some of those parents raising some of those entitlement kids, I feel pretty comfortable in saying the kids’ attitude was not necessarily something from nature’s kitchen.

If and when I have a midlife crisis, I suspect it will look very much like my anxiety and gym crazy attacks. I do not imagine myself going blonde or buying a sports car or even telling J to write workouts that will alter my shape and make me into a size 0 someone else. I am realistic – I am not ever going to be nor do I aspire to be the tiniest, skeletoria version of myself. I’d like to be a better, healthier, and happier woman, and if that’s the result of a midlife crisis, more power to me.

But I’m learning to like the woman I am, right here, right now. With my crazy brain and all its baggage, I have people who care for and about me, who support me in my endeavors and think my pursuits are worthwhile and something they can get behind 110% with me. I’m never going to be a head-turning beauty, and there is no way to turn back the clock or roll back the years. I can disguise it – continue to color my hair, continue my pursuit of consistent exercise and healthier eating and be my best self in the present day. That’s authentic me, not the me marketing says it is possible for me to evolve into for some of my time and lots of money for products and plastic surgeries.

I value my family, my friends, my tribe more than beauty or money or possessions. They are the important pillars of my life, and a huge part of the why I am pursuing better health in the first place. I want to be here to enjoy the next chapters with them, explore the undiscovered country, and I most certainly do not want to be doing that from a wheelchair or dependent upon oxygen to get through my days.

Maybe I will miss the midlife crisis. Or maybe being true to myself, my authentic self, means embracing who I am right now as well as the woman I will become as the days and the months and the years of the rest of my life pass into history.

It has not always been this way, but right this minute, I truly believe I am preparing well and can look forward to all the adventures ahead.

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