…the most important things in life were love, peace of mind, and service to others, a triad that I believe characterizes the wisdom of the middle-aged woman, and which I call the midlife values triad. — Joan Borysenko Ph.D
In Dr. Borysenko’s book, A Woman’s Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle, she speaks of the many stages of life a woman passes through in her lifetime and the social, biological and spiritual effects of each. Dr. Borysenko breaks the stages down into seven year increments. She calls the years 42-49 the midlife metamorphosis.
Having just turned 50 in March, I felt a bit of a connection with this stage. The elements of love, peace and service strongly presented themselves over the last ten years.
The love of my mid to late forties was a more mature love. The mostly subconcsious search for passion and the glory of attracting a successful and handsome man diminished and was replaced by the desire for a mature, loving and interesting partner. I was not looking to improve my status. I wanted true companionship.
Love changed with regards to parenting as well. Looking back, I can see I was keen to create a family, particularly the perfect image of a family. As I grew into my 40s, my empathy and understanding of my children’s needs also grew. Responding to their needs in a caring and attentive way became more natural. I still missed opportunities to be a loving nurturer, but the awareness grew and my efforts increased.
Peace of mind
For many years my internal world and my external world did not jive. Many introverts experience this constant reconciling of our internal values with our external environment. We experience stress and anxiety when there is discord.
In my home there have been many years of focus on achievement and material wealth. This focus produced a fair amount of success, which brought me a level of security that I appreciate. One issue with this is that I value meaningful experiences and relationships more. I always have, but the more I mature the more I see and feel the value in leading an interesting life with many rich relationships.
An important lesson I’ve learned along the way is that we cannot count on others to reconcile our inner and outer worlds. They can influence our external environment but only we can know our inner thoughts. It is up to us to take action to bring the two worlds into alignment.
The closer my inner values resemble my outer experiences, the higher my integrity. I feel a sense of wholeness and peace.
Service to others
My early 40s brought a deep interest in helping others outside of my home. I felt limited and lifeless when only able to take care of my home and the people in it. There was the pull toward interesting experiences and relationships. Being a stay at home mom had its fulfilling moments but there was a craving for more. I felt I was made to do more.
I was willing to feel more stress to satisfy a need to feel useful in a bigger context. I took on a hefty volunteer position as a Guardian Ad Litem for the juvenile justice system even when my children were still young. I loved it. It got me out of the house, into court rooms and into the homes of children I advocated for. I met children, parents, social workers, therapists, foster parents, lawyers, judges, etc.
About the same time, I started space2live. My writing resonated with others and connections formed. I receive(d) notes from readers and coaching clients saying how I have helped them understand themselves and their partners more. There is nothing more gratifying than the feeling of contribution.
Making room for all three values is not easy
The challenge to reconcile the guilt I felt internally for not putting all of my attention into our household with the fulfillment I felt externally when I contributed to the community through volunteering and writing, wrangled and still wrangles with my serenity and integrity.
Dr. Borysenko says we gain the capacity to mother children as adolescents and we gain the capacity to mother the larger world in mid-life. During our midlife, children become less dependent, freeing us from some physical work of raising them. Hopefully, we have partners who value interdependence, allowing us to love and feel love as we venture from and return to, home.
As many of us wait to get married and have children, the midlife metamorphosis happens later and later. We are also living longer and becoming wiser about how to maintain our health and energy. May all of you have the chance to revel in the years of love, peace and service.
Have you experience the triad of midlife? Does is align with your values and experience?