I happened upon an article in the New York Times this morning during my leisurely stroll through the internet. The article written by Patricia Cohen entitled Get a Midlife, made me stop and think about how “I” view midlife now that I am in the throes of it. How did I get here? Why it seems like just yesterday I was taking kids to football and basketball practice, swimming lessons and music lessons. But in reality that was a while ago. I think my memory is being affected.
The article suggests that with middle age we emphasize the losses that come with middle age rather than the positive gains that might occur. You know–the disappearing waistline, decreased energy, saggy skin, achey joints, the list goes on and on and on. Some of the new research is focusing on the other end of the spectrum. It fits well with my glass half full mentality that I live by. I would prefer to look at this subject this way.
To identify the things that contribute to feeling fulfilled and purposeful, Carol Ryff, the director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, developed a list of questions to measure well-being and divided them into six broad categories: personal growth (having new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself); autonomy (having confidence in your opinions even if they are contrary to the general consensus); supportive social relationships; self-regard (liking most aspects of your personality); control of your life and a sense of purpose.
So what did they find??? What I have found to be true in my own life. That those who are in the middle part of their life are truly more happy and content with life. Maybe it is because we have “figured it out” a bit more than we had when we were younger. Maybe the worries and stresses are less prevalent. Perhaps it is because we have more developed social networks and support systems that allow us to handle things a bit better when life gets thrown at us.
The areas that were highlighted in this article as being better at 50 included sex (blush blush), judgment, creative abilities and the fact that there is actually more time to live out their dreams and aspirations than previous generations had.
So I have been thinking since reading this article—am I happy with being 50+? A resounding YES! Though I can no longer practice my ninja skills due to creaky knees, can most likely not fit into that wedding dress I found last week that I wore almost 30 years ago or will be able to keep up with most 20 year olds in a walking/running exercise I am happy and content. I have more maturity (ha!) and wisdom that is gained from life experiences. I have a close relationship with our sons that is far different than it was when I was younger. I have been allowed to explore the creative side of me and enjoy that to the fullest. So yes—I am happy and content with middle age. I do not want to go back. Well….maybe I would like to go back to being able to eat anything I wanted with no consequences but hey—I can get that part under control with a little bit of that middle age wisdom and self control, right?
The author of the article, Patricia Cohen concludes by writing:
So, 50 is 50. Be thankful for it.