I’m aware of the irony behind an online life coach taking part in a digital detox, but after realising my anxieties in the last couple of months are directly correlated with my time spent online, I decided it was time to press the reset button on my relationship with technology.
Midlife crisis survey
First, a massive thank you to all who filled in the midlife crisis survey. I’m still collating responses, so if you have three minutes to spare, you can still share your experiences (anonymously).
What’s already clear from your answers is that when it comes to acting out your midlife, meaningless sex wins pants down over red Maseratis.
It looks like you’re one hell of a promiscuous bunch, and I love all you for it.
In all seriousness though, and a few notable exceptions aside, a midlife crisis has been – or continues to be – a thoroughly unpleasant experience for the majority of those who responded.
The more I study it and talk to clients, the more a picture emerges of a necessary – perhaps unavoidable – rite of passage towards emotional maturity. That's certainly been my own messy experience of it too.
For most of us, the midlife point is when we crave being part of something more significant, and a desire emerges to create things that will outlast us.
It often coincides with a broader identity crisis which makes us question some of the core values we've been spoon-fed by our respective tribes, families and societies.
Instead of “What will people think?”, we start asking “What will make me feel good?”.
If we're brave, we allow ourselves to distinguish between what our experience of the world is and what we’re told that experience should be.
But if we cringe, we get stuck in a loop of endless hedonism which only comes to a halt when an external event forces our ego to face a hard, unavoidable truth.
The truth that our time here is finite – too finite to squander our capacity for romance on a relationship that's run it's course or wasting our career capital on an uninspiring status job.
How to deal with it
When this identity crisis hits, you have a choice. You can either anaesthetise yourself with boys, girls, bumps or Amazon Prime.
Or you can start showing up as the person you really are and as best as you can.
To quote James Hollis: “Our life begins twice: the day we are born, and the day we accept the radical existential fact that our life, for all its delimiting factors, is essentially ours to choose’.
And that realisation, my friends, is one big giant pot of gold at the end of a very bumpy midlife rainbow.
I recently read a quote which described the first half of life as one giant, unavoidable mistake.
That simple, liberating truth nearly made me choke on my vegan matcha smoothie – the hippie equivalent of vintage hard liquor.
Whether male or female, it highlights a theme which often repeats itself with clients – that of a presumed midlife crisis.
Define existential crisis
The ‘midlife’ bit is often neither here nor there. We experience it not as a result of our chronological age, but because of our maturity levels.
Midlife marks the point when we realise that if we don’t start taking care of ourselves, the people and the world around us, we’ll end up as stagnant and unhappy Peter (or Petra) Pans.
The ‘crisis’ bit is usually caused by a lack of meaning. For some, it takes the shape of personal tragedy, turmoil and confusion. For others, it’s merely a slump characterised by aimlessness and boredom.
For many of us, however, it’s the equivalent of sticking our heads outside the window and finally being able to breathe in the fresh, crisp air of new possibilities.
I’m intrigued to hear some of your own midlife experiences, which is why I’ve put together a short (anonymous) questionnaire.
If you’ve gone through those feelings – and particularly if you’re going through them right now – I’d love it if you shared them with me in confidence as part of this survey or by email.
And whether you’ve added meaning to your life by becoming a yoga teacher, driving around town in a Maserati, going on a shamanic journey in Peru, or indulging in a series of new lovers – no judgement whatsoever.
I’m the Eat, Pray, Love cliché personified after all, having started a new life as a coach and writer in Bali in my late thirties.
Except that I have better hair than Julia Roberts.