North-of-49: Mid-life

Newborn maple leaves in spring.

In our previous post, we talked about the first component of our home page’s “north-of-49” proclamation: we’re Canadian!  Here’s a well worn joke that didn’t make it into that post: How do you get a Canadian to apologize? Step on their foot. 😉

The second component of being “north-of-49” refers to our age.  We’ve both surpassed our 49th birthdays. You can probably tell from our posts that we are looking at life and our experiences from the point of view of a couple of folks straddling the baby boomer and generation x divide.

Tim’s new job – good news for the cruising kitty! – is bad news for his writing time, so this post, and likely many of our posts in the upcoming couple months, will be Shirley reflections. Some day, when we’re anchored in the translucent blue/green waters of a quiet white sand and palm fringed bay in the Caribbean, Tim might decide to share his take on mid-life.

Sailing past Devil’s Rock, Lake Temiskaming.

For me, this mid-life point doesn’t feel like a crisis period. That came a few years ago, thanks to my now ex-husband’s crisis spill-over! It definitely does feel like a transition period, though. No prove-I’m-still-young actions for me … not even sure what the female equivalent is of the buying a red Corvette cliché, but whatever it is, it’s not for me. I know I’m aging and generally, I’m okay with that. Better than the alternative. On good days, I feel grateful for where I am at in life. I’ve earned the lines that are beginning to accentuate my face, and the silver hair that is extending its range are highlights to life lived. I could do without the loud complaints from my knees when I over exert them, though. Other days I mourn the younger me. When did my hands transform into my mothers’? When did my father’s age spots emerge on my skin? How is it that photos are capturing my grandmother’s chins in my profile?

Existential issues have been creeping into my thoughts. In the “About Shirley” page and “About our Cruising”, I shared the impact on me of turning 50 a couple years ago, and that I was caught a little off-guard. Life and death, meaning, my choices … these have become inescapable. Not that I am consumed by this struggle, but it seems like a fitting time to re-evaluate my goals and priorities, to follow-up on abandoned dreams, maybe even to shape my identity to a more authentic fit.

Several years ago (when I was in the midst of the aforementioned crisis!), I read “Passages”. This seminal book by Gail Sheehy was considered groundbreaking when she wrote it in the mid-70s. She talks about mid-life being as pivotal a developmental stage as adolescence, albeit less recognized. She describes it as a time when we become conscious of our mortality, if we weren’t already, and we are faced with the option of refreshing ourselves (pursuing dreams, renewed roles, and such) or resigning ourselves to the limitations we and society have set on us. Although in my work in the mental health field, I’ve always recognized, and at times have been guilty of preaching, that crises along life’s road are really opportunities for growth, it was this book that provided a helpful mirror for my own experience.

I have not been blessed by any recent crises, thank goodness, but I still see lots of opportunity to grow. I have so much in my life in terms of resources, relationships, abilities. I am at a point where others’ expectations no longer need to drive my decisions. Over the last few years, I have been in the process of intentionally disassembling many of my accomplishments that I had spent so much of my adult life aquiring: a long-term, poorly fitting marriage ended, my children are off pursuing their own interesting lives, I’ve sold my house of 20 years, what’s left of what used to feel like my precious belongings are secured away in a shipping container, and recently, I left my job and resigned from my profession as an occupational therapist.

IMG_3839_2I now have more freedom than I have ever had. For the first time in life, though, I have no clear road map directing where I am going. What’s that I feel? Whatever it is, it encompasses equal parts fear and invigoration. I am nudging myself to focus, rather than on what do I stand to lose when I consider options, but on what do I stand to gain. I’m learning to live with the tension between the comfort but stagnation that security offers and the anxiety and exhilaration of change.

So this seems like the ideal time of life to cast off. In our “About our Cruising” page, we’ve included a recording of Tim & I sharing the appeal cruising has for us. The things that appeal to us likely cross age categories, but somehow, have a special attraction at this mid-point of life. The fear of future regret for choices not made, a life not lived as fully as hoped, not coming face to face with who I am and want to be … that adds intensity to pursuing dreams at this stage.

Maple leaves with life experience.

One purpose of our blog is to force us to reflect, to take note of life, to not let the present slip by only to fade from future memory. Does this mean our sharings will be full of mid-life angst? Hopefully not. That sounds painful, if not for the writers, certainly for the readers! Our writings will probably be peppered with a few exciting tidbits of adventure among lots of the more mundane but real day-to-day details of our experiences. Do forgive us, though, if mid-life musings do rear themselves from time to time.

If you are interested in knowing a more about the two of us, we’ve created a couple “About” pages to share a bit more biographical detail. Quite a bit more, we’re afraid. If you’re interested, take a look (here’s links:  Tim  /  Shirley). We suggest you pour yourself your favourite beverage first to make it a little easier to get through the ramblings of a couple of north-of-49 mid-life Canadians.

4 thoughts on “North-of-49: Mid-life”

  1. Always a pleasure to indulge in your wonderfully creative masterpieces! We miss you…..LOTS! xo

    1. That’s kind, Deb … I imagine part of the “indulgence” comes from no longer being force fed Shirley-writings everyday! Miss you and the rest of the crew too.

  2. Just so that we don’t confuse some readers, as I’m sure you are aware, that the ‘maple leaves’ in the beginning of this post are red maple (Acer rubrum) and the ‘aging maple leaves’ at the end are the ubiquitous and well-loved Sugar maple (Acer saccharum), of maple syrup fame! (although, red maple often forms a very minor component of that lovely golden goodness).

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