Have you ever been at that point where you know SOMETHING has GOT to CHANGE?
Maybe your menopausal hormones are making you hyper-sensitive to criticism, and your formerly sweet teenager has just started acting like he’s nauseated by your presence.
Maybe it’s something at work that has you saying to yourself, “I’m too damn old to put up with this shit anymore!”
Or maybe it’s your spouse who you are so fed up with that you just want to scream because you are so tired of having the same destructive power struggle over and over again for the past 15 years??
Maybe you’re even sick and tired of yourself for being in the same self-defeating pattern for years that you just can’t get out of no matter how hard you try.
Maybe it’s time to make a run for it!
That’s what I decided to do back at the beginning of summer. I was in a rut. I think many of us have been. It’s like we got through the crisis of the pandemic, and now that life is going back to normal, there’s been a backlash. Everyone seems to be struggling right now. I was too.
So to shake things up, I started running. I found a killer race to train for in Canada the same weekend my oldest turns 22. It’s a half marathon on an island off the shores of Vancouver. Small race, beautiful. I figured it would give me something to focus on and maybe help me feel stronger.
I got way more than I bargained for!
Now a BIG side note here: I’m not trying to get you to start running. I don’t even advocate hard training. My motto is usually “no pain, no pain.” I’m not one of those competitive, go-getter types. In fact, I’ve spent the past several years really working on my inner game through mindfulness, self-acceptance, “non-striving,” and being focused on the present moment as much as I can. But that has drawbacks too. I decided I needed to switch it up!
I feel like this is a theme of midlife. Many of us feel a need to switch things up and sometimes do the opposite of what you have been doing. Our midlife changes are based on where we’ve been as much as where we want to go.
Your “half marathon” can be starting a YouTube Channel or starting to paint, signing up for a pickleball league, or a new course of study. It could be learning to cook Polynesian food or starting a meditation practice, or starting to write your memoir. It doesn’t matter what you do.
The reality is that when we hit midlife, we’ve gotta make some changes. Each of us has to make different changes. As I said before, if you’ve been stressed out, over-scheduled and perfectionistic, yoga and meditation might be your thing. If you’re Serena Williams, maybe your midlife challenge is to STOP competing and focus on your family (which it is, I just read the Vogue article about her, and she’s having a rough time with this!) If you’re an intellectual, it may mean finding new ways to play. If you’re supermom, maybe it’s taking a vacation by yourself. You get the idea.
Whatever your thing is, somewhere between the ages of 40-60, we come to a place where what we are doing is no longer working, and we have to “make a run” for its opposite.
By the time you read this on Sunday, my BIG race will be over, and either I will have finished orrrrrrr something else. My biggest fear is actually finishing last. I have had visions of the last volunteer sweeping the street and looking at her watch as I huff and puff across a deserted finish line, dying! I AM pretty slow, but I don’t think it’s going to be like that.
If you’re asking why I’m doing this, you wouldn’t be wrong. I ask myself the same thing. Especially at 4 am, when I’m getting up before dawn to be ready to run by 5:30. I also ask myself when I feel like I’m running through molasses and I can’t get my body to go any faster and when the pain in my knee or ankle is driving me batty, but I still have six more miles to go!
Training has been rough.
I’ve cried on the trail, been super pissed off on the trail (usually at myself, sometimes at my poor boyfriend), felt strong, felt confident, felt absolutely ELATED, felt runner’s high, felt runner’s low. Running is the best of times and the worst of times. But there are a few things I’ve learned about life from running this summer, and it’s convinced me to keep doing it even though it sometimes really sucks.
I’m sharing this because we’ve been taught that following our soul’s path should feel easy and be “in flow.” I’ve actually found the opposite to be true.
What Training for a Half Marathon Taught Me:
- Anything worth doing is preceded by a sense of dread. I don’t think I ever really realized this before in the same way. But when I thought about it, pretty much everything I want to do that is important to me is preceded by this same feeling! DREAD! Even writing this blog right now, I have it! Steven Pressfield, author of “The War of Art,” calls it “resistance,” and I think that is an accurate description. It’s that feeling of “Ugh, I really don’t want to do it!” But then afterward, you feel amazing. Nothing is better than the feeling you get AFTER a run. But before it is the WORST feeling. Running and blogging are the same for me in a lot of ways. I feel compelled to do both, but I don’t really WANT to do either. They are both on my list of “soul path” activities. Do you think it’s a coincidence that since I started training for this half marathon, my blog has also been WAY more consistent?? It’s because running has built my capacity to tolerate discomfort and do the thing anyway. After I write a blog or do a run, I feel much better. Like I did something important to my soul’s path….like I’m making progress.
- Being with discomfort is a muscle you can build. This muscle is resilience. In its most basic sense, resilience is being able to tolerate being really uncomfortable. Running makes you REALLY uncomfortable; let’s face it. As I learned to tolerate greater levels of discomfort by trying different techniques, I could then begin to apply them to other areas of my life that are uncomfortable too.
- Exercise really boosts your mood! Everybody knows this, but there are always times in my life when I don’t do it! WHY?? Because when we are depressed and feel stuck, it is 100x harder to get your body moving! As the laws of physics say, a body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest. Inertia is a real thing! Training for this race has really made me see once again that without enough vigorous exercise, I tend to be a grouchy old bitch! When I first started training back in June, there was a real honeymoon period where I thought I had discovered the key to the universe with running, but then that tapered off a bit after a while. I guess we develop a tolerance even to the high we get from running! Who would’ve thought? Do I now have to start training for a whole marathon to get the same effect?? I don’t know. I’ll keep you posted on that. That seems like a LOT.
- Committing to one thing creates a ripple effect in the rest of your life. I started training for the race, but all these other areas started to get better too. As I mentioned before, I found myself more able to stick to the plans I set for myself. My blogging has been more consistent, for example, and I’ve been more “on top of” unpleasant things I normally avoid. Like cleaning! Studies validate this fact. Try committing to one thing (like maybe drinking enough water or a gratitude practice) and watch the rest of your life up level and get more consistent too.
- Running long distances (or taking on any other midlife challenge) allows you to connect with ALL your parts. As a trauma therapist, I tend to think of things in terms of parts “getting activated by triggers.” The discomfort of running really triggers ALL the parts and lets you see them more clearly. These are often parts we don’t want to see because they are immature and unhealed. These are known as our shadow, and we’ll do anything to protect ourselves from seeing these undesirable parts. But when we can acknowledge them and even embrace them, life gets a whole lot better.
It’s in connecting with all of your parts that true power lies. Your shadow holds the key that unlocks your deepest gifts. It’s in trying new things outside our comfort zone that we can find these parts and heal them, but man, it sure can be uncomfortable!
If you have realized that you need to make big changes in your life because what you have been doing up to now is no longer working, reach out. I can help you to find what changes you need to make. But even more importantly, I can help you to use what comes up in the process of making those changes as an opportunity for deeper healing. If any of this resonates, it can’t hurt to reach out for a free 20 min consult. I do have a spot or two available for the fall, and I’d love to be a part of your midlife rebirth process!