A problem adequately stated is a problem well on its way to being solved. R. Buckminster Fuller
Last weekend, I sat in the lazy Spring evening with a dear friend to say goodbye. We all gathered outside on the genteel front porch, surrounded by splashes of outrageous colors in wafting fragrance from their lovely- tended perennial gardens. All of us either ex-hippies or on the early at baby boomer hood. Now mainstream and highly accomplished. Some of us parents with adolescent kids, other brand new or seasonal empty-nesters. Coupled and single along with a recent widower. All of us hunkering into midlife and beyond.
Our conversations floated from one thing to another finally to what’s next? Each of us piping to our two cents.
So typical of midlife and beyond: the biological clock keeps ticking! Each of us want to beat that clock… or remove its hands! Like Ulysses’ sirens all our ‘I wants’ shrill shrews demanding attention right now! The consensus: everything looks so risky and getting more so every day! We all laughingly agreed that it would be so great to just float away. Take a cruise and come back when everything is all decided. Isn’t that what holiday escapes for?
The reality is that most of us are asking the same life altering questions as we find ourselves standing at the precipice of change: How do I make decisions now since I don’t know who I’m going to be by then… or what the world will like by then?! The “then” timeframe has some encompasses the next 2-5 years, and for others of us, 10-15. But what is the same for all is that these midlife and beyond questions range from the more profound: why am I here? Is this all there is? The more fundamental practice decision about where to go from here both in career and life planning terms. On the midlife career front for instance: where do I step down and pass the baton? What’s my new passion? Should I join some company boards, or rev up and start a new business? Combine with more personal ones which muddy the choice even further: can I afford to downshift? Is this the spouse I want now? Do I want City living, the country or both?
Living Betwixt & Between
Just as in adolescence, most of us are teetering between “in control” and “out of control”. Each what if? Required a multitude of compromises and leads to more complicated scenarios without obvious answers. Like a child ride, around and around go. It’s dizzying. Lots of questions. Too many choices. Plenty of obstacles to traverse.
Caught in the middle zone, although reluctant to admit it out loud, we all confronted what day tremendous terror of not knowing, the Million-dollar jackpot question is: How do we live in between?
The only answer: In the center of tension! Somehow we have to find another ground. And wait it out!
This is the place I know so very well. As a self-proclaimed midlife and beyond diva, I enter this space as a matter of course as clients seek new on-ramp, change lanes and shift gears on the road to midlife greatness and new destinations.
Life is Good
My own visits to the center of the maelstrom remind me that each new life cycling brings us back into the Life is Good phase. But once there, it’s so easy to get comfy. Too much so. In my youth, the inflation of success was so intoxicating. I love the adrenaline high fueling my surety that I’ve got this nailed. I am on top of the world. This phrase’s arrogance blindside us. Once again we fall totally out of touch with the other end of the continuum: where things may look like there’s no way out…apathy reigns… you may want to give up… can’t find your way. The other side of ignorance can be excruciating self-doubt, emptiness, disconnection from life’s greater mysteries.
Caught in the throes of an inner life-death struggle, we prefer not to take the curves, but rather hold on to what we know and have. So many of us take the slow lane, driving within the speed zone. Only to find ourselves stuck in first gear, heading right smack into mediocrity. Stagnation. Entropy.
Just like the lifecycle of a business, our lives follow a recurring pattern: one phase follows the next, in time. We either have to change- recycle- or die on the side of the road.
Recently I found myself like a deer in headlights, not sure which way to go. My husband and I our grappling with where to live and work next. So many directions fascinate. We all want to be with kids, who are spreading across the country from east to west. I craved the country needing to be in nature, yet the” action” is in the city. New doors are opening to take my work to the next level. I’m pregnant with possibilities.
Fortunately, I know better: I have to stay in the center of the maelstrom and wait it out. And I have to sit in my worst fears. I know that if I resist, my fears of manifest even more. Instead of staving off the fear of not knowing with my favorite numbing trick, (filling myself with extra help of carbs, obsessing over roads not taken, buying something I probably don’t need) I must instead find a safe middle ground. A place within, where it’s okay to NOT KNOW…yet. That’s where real clarity is birthed.
Lots of opportunities that appear to be right up my alley are beginning to show up. It would be so easy to speed ahead. Any premature movement towards resolution, e.g., rushing the process…is a “subtle self-violation”, as Richard Moss would say.
As is true for all of us, as I get closer to a breakthrough, (the aha! Moments,) the ante gets upped. I need a fix! Just the time to outsource for support and objectivity. I call a dear friend or colleague, and she reminds me to be delicate with myself. And to make friends with my fear of not knowing just yet.
Thankfully, I am forced to acknowledge my own hunger for ready answers and unease with not knowing. I remind myself that this too will pass. Clarity will return. But while I wait, my task is to keep striving for greater consciousness…stretching to unleash my greatness.
Detours or Destinies?
Now more than ever, it is critical that we remain flexible and adaptable…making friends with change and not knowing. This is our time to resource, preparing for a new phase or a totally new cycle. Each of us must be extra vigilant now to be personally accountable. Now is the time to invite change and embrace transformation.
All we have to do is stay in motion. That’s the key to longevity! But we must remember us that heading into action without clarity is dangerous. Otherwise we may miss the gift of what Bucky Fuller, (one of our country’s greatest 20th century Visionaries,) coined as a right-angle precession. Tracing patterns in nature, fuller uncovered a new truth: we must stay open to what shows up although it may look like a detour. It may very well be our destiny honking.
For instance, using the Bumble Bee as an example in nature: It flies parallel to the flowers below heading in a determined direction. Then, its turns perpendicular to its original path, only to find the nectar it was seeking. As we all know, it’s so easy to be totally focused on the goal in front of us, so wary of being sidetracked, that we miss the most important side roads. These show up as messengers pointing the way to our desired destination.
Tools for the Road
I expect to spend the rest of my life in the future so I want to be reasonably sure what kind of future it’s going to be. That’s is my reason for planning.
To avoid making the wrong turn or aborting the trip altogether, we need proper assessment tools, knowledge and experience to make distinctions. And if we are really savvy travelers, we can take the hairpin turns without destroying what matters most by studying with a master. With seasoned objective and wisdom, a master will help us turn on our headlights again.