By BARBARA BOVA
Scripps Howard News Service
September 20, 2005
One day we look in the mirror and suddenly see the span of years on our faces and in our eyes. We're struck with the thought that the dreams we had 20 years ago remain largely unrealized. We look into the future and see nothing more than the same old things.
We're often bored and discontented but we don't know how to change our lives to fulfill our desires. In fact, we find it difficult to define just what it is we want.
Midlife crises used to happen when we reached our 40s. But these days of good health and longer lives have made the midpoint of our lives move up into our 50s. It often comes with the feeling that life has let us down. We begin to mourn for what we can't have back: our youth, our energy and our dreams.
Discontent fills our lives and surrounds us. Our behavior changes as does our attitudes about all those we have held dear. We begin to look at our mates as part of our problem. We feel they have started taking us for granted. We feel unappreciated. We go to work with less enthusiasm each succeeding day. The familiar is no long desirable or comforting. We want some excitement, something that can bring us back to life. We think about running away from it all.
This awful malaise was once thought to be a male disease. Today it hits us all, men and women. There's the empty-nest syndrome, another form of midlife crisis. There are women who become overworked and overstressed even when they have achieved success.
We all begin to realize that life might be passing us by. We need new goals to reach and yet we want to unwind and stop pushing ourselves. It's almost as though we've returned to the confusion and turmoil of adolescence.
Solving even personal problems is easier when we can talk it out with others. With that in mind, I invited two women friends, both of whom are going through their share of midlife worries, to lunch with me. Both are very successful. One is a well-known artist whose works are highly prized. The other owns and runs a very popular restaurant. Both are overachievers who have begun to question their lifestyles.
They have reached a place in their careers where they want more than what they have achieved. They feel they have been concentrating so intensely on their careers that life has passed them by and they are asking themselves why they are still working so hard. Success hasn't brought them the happiness they thought it would. They seek change, a relief from the pressure they put upon themselves, but they don't know how to go about it.
As the oldest one at the table, I could understand their bewilderment. I'd been there, done that only a few years before. I, too, came to a place in my business where I could either expand or close the doors to a successful 30-year-old business. My path out of this dilemma became clear when I expressed my discontent to a younger friend. She helped me to find a way to refresh my outlook and make my business exciting for me again.
The luncheon was so beneficial to all of us that we decided to meet once a week. If all goes well, my friends will be able to help each other discover new goals that will make them feel young again. As for me, I'm having a blast listening to and encouraging them. They're still young enough to change and grow. When they realize that, their crises will have passed.