You have reached your mid to late forties or fifties and you take a hard look at yourself. You’re not happy. Things have not turned out as you expected and life has been hard. You don’t feel as if you have accomplished anything and crushing sense of your own immortality envelopes you. So much to do and so little time. So much that hasn’t been done and will never happen.
Things should be getting better but they aren’t. Your reactions to life’s difficulties should be easier now – but most of the time, you just can’t deal with the issues. Curve balls come out at all angles and dodging them is getting more and more wearing.
Your hair is getting grayer, your vision is failing and your waistline no longer exists. Blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems may be issues. You’ve never weighed so much in your life. It’s almost like another adolescence – only this one your mother didn’t prepare you for and no one taught a mandatory class on it with the boys in one room and the girls in the other. This transition time is preparing you for the last part of your life, not the beginning and that is probably what makes it so hard. There is an exercise many self-help experts suggest you do when you want to measure to what extent you have attained your life’s purpose. You pretend you are on your deathbed looking back on your life and examine your past and ask yourself if you are dying with “your music still in you.” Most would probably say yes and it would be an opportunity at that point to decide what you still want – and need – to do with what is left of your life – right up to that actual time you are lying on that bed taking your last breath with your life flashing before you.
I myself have done this exercise. I myself have reprimanded myself severely for not focusing on what is truly important to me – what I have to do before my life on this earth is done. I am a failure – a “wannabe” and a “should’ve been.” So many times I have beaten myself up over my procrastination, stagnation and lack of direction.
But just last spring, I seemed to be surrounded by friends, relatives, and employees that were graduating or had children graduating from both high school and college. Never have I seen so many fresh and eager faces ready to start new lives. It made me think back to when I was just getting out of high school, my uncertain future looming before me. .
I mentally put myself back in that time – in that place where I was a tall, skinny girl looking ahead – and not having a clue as what I would be doing with myself. A future that was very uncertain at that time due to the death of my father and the loss of his farm. As I put myself back into that young girl’s shoes, I imagined a stranger, a fortune teller, approaching her and telling her, that gawky, naïve farm girl, what direction her life was going to take.
I imagined the two of them sitting under an old tattered satin tent around an ancient rickety table with a crystal ball between them, knees almost touching and both staring deep into the unknown.
“You are going to graduate from college,” the old woman would begin and already I would have begun to doubt her because no one in my family had ever gone to college and I certainly didn’t want to go. A waste of time and four years, I had always said. Then my disbelief would grow as she would describe this wonderful job I was going to have in another part of the country, the three beautiful children I would bare, the different relationships and loves I would be involved in, and the cozy four-bedroom home I would buy and furnish on my own.
She would tell me how beautiful and confident this awkward child would grow up to be where even at the age of almost fifty, I would be tall, healthy and strong with only a touch of gray in my beautiful curly hair. Fifty to me at that time so long ago would seem almost dead.
I can see myself walking away from that fortune teller, muttering under my breath how really crazy she was – how what she described as my exotic, interesting life could never really happen to someone like me. I’d probably be shaking my head and laughing at the same time, her predictions would seem so surreal.
Softly, so she couldn’t hear me (I was such a sweet person back then), I would probably call her a damn liar.
Looking at your life from this direction can help you see how much you’ve grown and really accomplished. Maybe you haven’t done all you wanted to but you may have ended up on “the road not taken” and done things even more wonderful and far fetched than you have ever imagined.
Maybe looking at life from this angle will help you find your way because you have grown so much already and still have time to be that awkward naive woman looking ahead but not really knowing where she is going or what is out there for her.