That’s a very subjective statement. I don’t feel old. And I do subscribe to the adage “You’re only as old as you feel.” So I guess I’m not really old. But passing middle age still feels uncomfortable.
But more than half a century has passed since I first came on the scene. It’s almost certain there are fewer pages left to write than have already been written, at least as far as simple years is concerned. Rather than scheduling vaccinations or PTA meetings, I’m now getting to enjoy grandchildren – and then send them home. Seniority has its benefits!
As a gynecologist I speak with many middle-aged women about very personal things. Passing through the menopause transition is sometimes very emotionally challenging. Although freedom from the risks of pregnancy is usually a welcome change, issues of body image, desirability, mental and physical health, and multiple life pressures are difficult for many of them to manage.
The joke about renaming hot flashes “power surges” is a small way of saying something very important. At this time in our lives there may be fewer years left to do, experience, and accomplish what we desire. But we’ve never been in a better position to make a difference in the world than where we are right now. And to do it with wisdom.
If you’ve been in any way a learner throughout your life, think of some things you may have come to know:
- How to managing change
- How to manage conflicting needs
- Raising children
- Surviving conflict
- How little other people’s opinion matters
- How much your actions affect others
- The temporary nature of life – and trouble
- How to take care of yourself
I don’t care how brilliant you are, or how much money you pay for an education: those things cannot be taught academically. But they are perhaps the most valuable parts of one’s personality. And they’re priceless.
We all gain wisdom at different rates, in different ways, and about different things. If I had my life to live over again I most certainly would NOT want to do it without the wisdom I’ve gained just by going through stuff.
Pressure CAN make us stronger. Trouble CAN make us wiser. Life offers plenty of both, if we choose to manage it and learn from it.
So what am I and my fellow middle-aged life-travelers to do with all of this?
Certainly not give up. I may not have the energy to work 90 hours a week as I did during my medical training. But the hours I DO have each day I can use much more effectively. Here’s three points to help us “power surgers” move forward:
1. Realize where our value comes from. The impact you and I leave on the world, on other people, will not come from the hours we work or the material things we do. It will come from how other people – our spouse, children, grandchildren, co-workers, friends – are affected by us.
Do they feel safe around us? Do we make them feel valuable and special? Have we given generously of our time, love, and wisdom?
2. Leverage our wisdom. There’s something specific about our life experience that can benefit others. The wisdom we have accumulated can change the life of someone – or many someones.
Think through who else might benefit from what you’ve already experienced and learned. And then find a way to offer your wisdom to them.
3. Enjoy the journey. It’s easy to remain trapped in the rush longer than necessary. What do you have to prove? Does it really matter what “they” think? Live generously, and enjoy every moment that you can.
I am now happier than I have ever been. And I believe my best years are still to come. Want to enjoy them with me?
And who cares about one more grey hair?
Your turn: How does your aging concern you? Have you found ways to use your wisdom to help others? I’d love to hear from you.