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the RELATIONSHIP dance WITH VICKI MINERVA Midlife: “It’s time!” “I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hand upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt -has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts…Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.” Brene Brown T here’s that point, after you’ve done the adult thing for a while, when a growing awareness comes into focus that you aren’t going to live forever. Exactly when, why or how, varies from one person to the next, but the rude reality that you are a mere mortal, hits. The sense that time is a limitless open road ahead of you gives way to the truth that there is a finite amount of time left. It begs the question, “What do you want to do with it?” Brene Brown is a researcher who has done work around shame (that sense of condemnation from the inside that makes you feel broken and unworthy of acceptance). Shame keeps you afraid of putting yourself out there for fear of being rejected. Brown’s research shows that the more you can accept those flaws and resist the pattern of giving other people the power to define your value, the healthier you’ll be. While there are multiple developmental stages in adulthood, the one that happens in midlife is the one that’s gotten all the bad press. It’s the one where an apparently stable person goes off the deep end and does irrational things. There doesn’t have to be such a volatile reaction to this new level of awareness. In fact, as in the Brown quote, it’s an incredible opportunity to examine what’s important to you and do it courageously. It can be helpful to imagine yourself at the end of your life. What do you expect you’ll be proud of? Are there things you’ll have regrets about? What is important from that perspective? Erik Erikson named this stage of life “Wisdom: Integrity versus Despair.” Trust me. Despair is brutal. The midlife transition is the opportunity to avoid that experience in the later years, when there’s so little time to make a change. Midlife is the time for you to make changes and to hit your stride. If you truly take up the challenge of self-examination during midlife, it may be painful; you may see things you’ve handled badly, or how your fear of failure has kept you from really stepping up. But it can also be incredibly freeing when you realize that coping mechanisms were generated at some point in your life (for a reason) but don’t fit anymore. In fact, they’ve been stifling. You’re an adult now. Wisdom, experience, autonomy, the legal right to make a decision for yourself all put you in a different place than you used to be. Now IS the time. Use all that good stuff to live your life well !!! Do an honest personal inventory about where you are in life (strengths and weaknesses) versus where you want to be. Acknowledge the fact that your experience has taught you some things. Trust that more. Realize that others have their own struggles and aren’t the ones who have the right, or the power, to define you. Examine what’s important to you at this point. Take your health; body, mind and spirit more seriously. It’s okay to rearrange your priorities. The stereotyped decision to buy the sports car and trade your spouse for a newer model likely comes when there hasn’t been enough reflection and honesty about things that have needed attention previously. Aging gracefully is an art. It allows you to accept yourself as you change and frees you to make a difference using your acquired wisdom and experience. You’ve been down the road of worrying about what other people think as a guide in your decisions. My guess is it left you feeling more anxious than satisfied. Give yourself the freedom to live your life by respecting yourself more. I think you’ll find yourself feeling satisfaction with a life well lived. Vicki Minerva has lived and worked in the South County area as a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 35 years. Her education includes a M.Div. degree from Fuller Seminary and a M.A. in Marriage, Family Counseling from Santa Clara University. You can contact her at 408.848.8793 or visit vickiminerva.com My goal is to provide you with some information and help you access tools that will help you live your life and manage your relationships in healthier ways. This information is not a substitute for personal counseling and should not be taken out of context. There are many reputable therapists in the South County area should you need additional help. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY/AUGUST 2017 gmhtoday.com 77