We all have wrinkles. We can choose to hide or get rid of them, or we can choose to embrace them. Here is why I am in love with some of my favorite wrinkles, and why I invite you to fall in love with yours.
I got my very first wrinkle at 19. I was an only child of doting Jewish parents, both a mama’s and daddy’s girl at the same time. I was protected and taken care of. Our family had attempted to leave communist Russia for 13 years (since I was 6) and the government consistently refused. Twice a year we applied for exit visas, and twice a year we were denied. Then, at 19, I was unexpectedly given permission to leave Russia… but on my own, without my parents.
Fast forward three months, and I find myself on a plane leaving Leningrad. I was 19, feeling desperately alone in the world, terrified, and not knowing if I would ever, EVER see my parents again.
That is how I obtained my first wrinkle. What I got with it was the gift that, at 19, I learned how strong I really was: that I was capable beyond my own imagination, that I could do anything. I received THAT learning and lifelong insight out of the most devastating experience of my teenage years.
I am definitely keeping that wrinkle.
More favorite wrinkles formed when my 20-year-old daughter was planning to travel to Israel right in the middle of a war. Everyone in my family questioned me as a mother for allowing her to go, and demanded that I stop her.
I did a lot of soul searching. How would I live with myself if I didn’t stop her from going and yet…? I could not even let myself think beyond the yet. Scary. What if everyone was right, and I was wrong, and it was my job as a mother to stop her? What if…?
Yes, of course, I wanted my daughter to be safe, and yet I also wanted her to know that she is free – given our family fought so hard for our freedom. What lesson would my daughter be learning if someone else (even her mother) had more power over her choice than she did? After all, I had been given the gift of a tough choice myself at about her age. Then I made a decision: I told my daughter that I trusted her to choose for herself and that I would support her in that choice. My daughter chose to go.
This sweet basket of wrinkles revealed themselves when I took that stand for my daughter and her right and ability to make choices in her own life.
Because of those wrinkles, my daughter went to Israel and had the most profound experience of her life. It formed within her a passion for travel that now has her just returning from her second summer-long backpacking trip to Europe, writing a travel blog, and making spectacular travel videos.
At age 20, my daughter learned that she can trust herself with life-impacting decisions… and, more importantly, that she has a voice and a choice.
That is a bunch of wrinkles I wouldn’t trade for anything.
They say ignorance is bliss, but we chide that remark because nobody seeks to be ignorant. Of course, it is simply bestowed upon some, but not because they sought it out. And because they aren’t even aware – they don’t know what they don’t know – bliss could be said to be the result.
Confucious said “Those who are meant to hear will understand. Those who are not meant to understand will not hear.”
Yet, for those of us who seek the antithesis of ignorance, we do everything in our power to gain intelligence and wisdom. We get degrees, advanced degrees, attend seminars, read books, listen to podcasts and audios, participate in workshops, engage in online learning…and, oh yes, there are also the schools of “life” and “hard knocks”.
The only issue with wisdom is if and when it becomes the limiting factor to otherwise inspired action. We may call our “been there, done that” or “that’s just the way I am” statements those of wisdom and yet, in their shrinking-of-the-all-things-possible-world effect, they can limit our experience, joy and even bliss.
The eastern philosophies speak to this a great deal. “Shoshin” is a term in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when approaching anything, even if engaging in something you already “know”, just as a beginner would. Also, Laozi (Lao Tzu), ancient Chinese founder of philosophical Taoism, said “To know that you do not know is the best.”
In our Back Forty, though we may do many great works in mentoring and guiding earlier generations (as practiced in an organization we support, Encore.org), it’s important to do a double-take on ourselves and look to see where our supposed “wisdom” is limiting our own continued growth and development.
If, as we say in The Back Forty, you have YET to do what you came here to do, then we can’t afford the luxury of thinking that WE ALONE know what is or isn’t possible for us or what we can or can’t do.
The Back Forty community is founded on the principle that, together, we can keep re-MIND-ing ourselves to open our minds as to what this second half has in store for us when we treat everything in the first half as simply R & D (research and development).
If you didn’t know that you couldn’t do or be something at any age — no matter what you’ve done or been before — what does your first half of R & D tell you to go do or be now?
“It takes a very long time to become young.”
Today’s post isn’t the “norm”. I’m not going to share with you different insights into midlife as I normally do. Instead, I wanted to share with you some exciting news!
Over the past week The Back Forty has been featured three times through various media outlets. Alexandra was featured on the podcast Wow! Wednesday and featured in an article by Business to Community. Darrell and Alexandra were also featured on a webisode of The Passion Point!
Dress your age. It’s a phrase that I’m sure you’ve heard before. Either you are saying that someone else should really dress their age, or people are saying it about you. When you go online, there are countless articles about “dressing your age”. Bazaar says, “the older you get, the less you can do prim, girlish, preppy, and cute.” According to the Huffington Post, “You never show your arms when you’re over a certain age and you don’t wear shorts”. Even GQ Magazine suggests that once you hit your 50s you should be buying loafers, knitwear, blazers, ties, and thickening shampoo!
Can I say yikes? There seem to be more and more rules as you keep aging about what you can and cannot wear. Often the advice comes from good intentions. These articles are meant to help you look your best, but using age as the standard for when you can and cannot wear certain types of clothing is ridiculous.
Why is it that when you hit the age of 40 you magically are no longer allowed to wear jeans with holes or skinny jeans or leggings? Why do people think that once you are in your 50s you can no longer wear sleeveless shirts or shorts? There is no reason that this fashion advice should be tied to your age at all. So what should this advice be tied to? Well, let me tell you.
This advice should be tied to your health. And I don’t mean specific aspects of your health like just your fitness level, I mean your health overall. For example, a 45-year-old woman who goes to the gym three times a week, avoids eating unhealthy foods, and has a clean bill of health from her doctor should feel free to wear a completely different wardrobe than a 45-year-old woman who hasn’t exercised in years, eats junk food in lieu of healthier options, and was just diagnosed with diabetes. How you treat your body matters and shows! There is absolutely zero reason these two women should have similar wardrobes simply because they are both 45.
So don’t “dress your age“, dress your lifestyle!
Often when we step off the non-thinking train that’s been running since…
…we started in a particular career that we never left
…we had kids and then spent 18yrs giving them wings
…we began a relationship or marriage that got caught up in the swirl of the items above
…we developed financial security that disappeared in some recession, depression, transgression or repossession…
…there’s a questioning period of what we coulda/shoulda/woulda done had we been more aware and alert. Along with that questioning can come a seeming lack of confidence to step out, take a risk and/or play big again.
The adage “youth is wasted on the young” doesn’t necessarily apply to daring because young folks have no real experience of “failure” yet…and therefore they swing boldly (and sometimes blindly) at balls coming over their plate, making each new swing a learning experience (whether they would call it that or not). They are “daring” if simply by the lack of knowledge of what can and can’t be done.
In The Back Forty, however, there can be so much protective gear weighing us down that our ability to swing is hampered…if we’re brave enough to even get up to the plate again at all. After a few fast balls clocking us in the head or heart, we can become skittish to stretch out and unprotect ourselves for a good, honest swing. Relationships, careers, building businesses – taking risks in all of these can get over-thought to the point of inaction.
For example, having built a home and family in my late 20’s, two-car garage with Mercedes, backyard with hot-tub, and extra room with crib, I experienced the non-thought of simply doing what people do as they get married and settle down.
Yet, within 10 years of such natural, life progressions, a divorced-and-co-parenting relationship had been in place for years, the house was owned by another, and a two-year custody suit was just starting.
I doubt I’m the only one who has seen the “little pink houses for you and me” picture burn to ashes.
In the wake-up call that gets termed “midlife crisis”, however, we have an opportunity to actually begin thinking vs. being scared to move or make a mistake (again).
One new way of thinking is to reframe all of it as having been for our highest and greatest good and to look for and see our evolution possibilities that arose from it. What have I been through that I can help others with? What gifts, talents, abilities, new superpowers did I develop as I went through the crucible and/or chrysalis of all that stuff? How can I consciously use daring to grow and no longer be weighed down by victim stories of what he/she/they did to me?
Perhaps it’s this second wind of evolution – our Re-Evolution – that is the real game to be played in this span of time called a life…and what if, at midlife, it’s only beginning?
The late Alvin Toffler, futurist and author of FutureShock, The Third Wave, and Powershift said:
“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”
Throughout our day, we are making lots of little choices that we can mostly fall unconscious to. Yet those choices start to add up to a direction we’re headed that – once we get there – we wonder how we got here! The culmination of our unconscious choices only becomes visible above the surface once they’ve built upon themselves outside of our watching.
There are both big and small choices we make every day which it might pay for us to become conscious of…so as to wake ourselves up to why we end up where we do.
For example, I can see a homeless person and feel the sadness of wanting to help but being busy on my way and/or then the guilt of not stopping long enough or giving enough to help them. Or, I can see this feeling coming over me as a choice I’m making and choose a different direction: to give something if I’m so inclined as well as send a silent blessing their way and see them attracting what they need.
Was that just a rationalization? Did I say that blessing just to make myself feel better? Yes, maybe! Yet, at the end of my day, having made those similar types of choices throughout, I will likely have a state of mind that is of better service, liveliness and happy disposition than if I make more of the contrary choices.
We can relate this to Law of Attraction if we want, which says you get more of whatever you think about. Yet it’s really only an active mind-management exercise of conscious directionality during the day.
I faced a big financial decision recently to either wait “until the perfect time” (do those ever come?) to invest in a new home or – with tons of planning and consultation with caring supporters already under our belt, loan approvals assured, and clarity around numbers solidified – to go for it even though we don’t know what tomorrow will bring (who does??).
I realized that, though this was a “big” decision, I make smaller ones multiple times every day as to whether I trust that the Universe is going to keep giving and supporting me or whether I need to horde and cover my nuts (so to speak) because the flow might stop.
In The Back Forty, we have the opportunity to choose what direction we’re going to head – toward aliveness and what esteemed psychologist Erik Erikson calls “generativity” or whether we’re going to head toward safety and what he calls “stagnation”.
We are about generativity…because, IF, just IF have yet to do what you came here to do, how will you do it unless you keep playing bigger than you are now?
I admit that sometimes my blog topics don’t come to me right away, and this morning I was calling on help from the almighty internet. I searched and searched for different topics and then different bloggers, anything to give me a spark of inspiration. Suddenly I saw it.
I saw the difference between men in midlife and women in midlife, and I was shocked that I had never noticed it before.
What did I notice? As I was scrolling through all of these blogs, articles, and websites devoted to midlife I noticed one shocking truth. There were no men blogging about their midlife journey! I saw countless examples of women talking about their midlife struggles, sharing their beauty hacks, talking about how they are finding themselves, but there was absolutely nothing from the other half of the population. Occasionally I find a man in midlife who has a blog, sometimes even a blog about midlife. But what are his topics? Finances, business, retirement planning – not once have I found a male blogger who is talking about his midlife experience.
Although this may be relatively isolated, I feel it supports an overarching theory. Women in midlife are often searching to better themselves, and what better way to succeed at bettering yourself than to reach out to others who are also going through midlife? This is why there are so many women with blogs, websites, and articles devoted to their journey through midlife. Men on the other hand, although they often want to better themselves as well, are far less likely to share their personal journey. The idea of someone judging your failures can be crippling.
This is why I feel that The Back Forty is so revolutionary. First of all, the original idea of The Back Forty came from a man. Darrell Gurney was wading his way through midlife and had an epiphany. He realized that your second half of life is where you have the chance to truly achieve what you are on this earth to achieve. As his idea evolved from a book to a program, to a movement – his mission began to become clear.
Not to say that he did all of this alone, there was a woman in the background, Alexandra Levin (who is now the Co-Founder of The Back Forty INFUSE Program). In many ways, Alexandra helped Darrell push the idea of The Back Forty toward the program and movement that it is becoming today.
So, if you are currently working your way through midlife alone, don’t! Check out The Back Forty. It might just be the community you are searching for. After all, as Darrell always says:
I’ve been called a good sport, agreeable, and easy-going. All good things, right?
Wrong. For me, they are not.
I have been accommodating my entire life, starting when I was 2 or 3. I was a good girl – in fact the best behaved child around (my mom’s friends always told her so). Being a “good girl” became my instrument for being liked by others, and getting my family’s approval and love.
I’ve been a people pleaser. With a smile. Happy to oblige. I’ve thought others know better, are smarter, and that I should just do what is wanted of me. To keep this thinking in place, I’ve subconsciously surrounded myself with plenty of people to accommodate.
One example is my ex-husband of 15 years, who was scary-smart, headstrong, and had a temper. It was much easier to say “yes” and do things his way than to say “no” and stand my ground. So I went the easy route. Except it only looked easy.
The very hard costs were my respect for myself, my self-expression, and the absence of a stand for who I am and what I believe. I was lost to my Self. In the end, the marriage ended and I decided that the only way to break that accommodation pattern and allow for my self-expression was to stay away from relationships. That changed when another way of thinking and being came along, called The Back Forty.
In my Back Forty, I have no interest in being an accommodating, people-pleasing, agreeable good girl.
Change is not easy after being a people-pleaser and accommodator for 48 years. It is still much easier for me to agree (with you, them or whomever) than to stand my ground for my perspective, values and desires. Patterns of behaving and thinking are deep and well-established.
My brain has been trained for a lifetime to perceive failure to accommodate as a threat to my survival. The temptation to agree and accommodate is high. Yet I am learning to stand for my Self and my full Self-expression.
It can be messy, like a child first learning to feed herself. And while it can be easier to err on the side of continuing to accommodate and agree, I choose to err on the side of my stand, even if disagreeable. I’m ready, willing and fully able to make mistakes, clean up the mess, and move on. Change can and will only come this way.
I do this because being accommodating is deadly. It kills who I am, it kills my joy, and it kills my relationships and, interestingly, it kills other people… because it doesn’t require them to learn and deal with what they need to figure out or improve about themselves.
I choose to be a stand for my Self, as a way to honor those I love, those I care about, those relationships I treasure, and what is possible for me when I am fully Self-expressed. I choose to be disagreeable and unaccommodating when my Self is at stake and to risk argument and disapproval.
After many years of first-half-of-life research, I’ve learned that being a good girl is overrated. For my Back Forty, I choose ME – and the difference I can make – when I am true to my Self.
At what age does the idea of solid, supportive mentoring first catch us?
As a career/executive coach and spiritual counselor for over 30 years, I watch as so many young folks go out into life just shooting from the hip with whatever moods, whims or impulses hit them…unaware that there is a world of wisdom out there which they could tap into to gain information and make better decisions for themselves. Much less gain access to thought leaders and opportunities that could open doors.
But they say youth is wasted on the young.
I also see many people tied into careers, industries, relationships in life who either never learned the power of supportive mentoring and/or they have grown to an age where they think they “should know by now” and, if they don’t, surely don’t want to advertise it.
However, in The Back Forty, we say that, no matter what your age or what you have accomplished (or not) thus far in life, you have YET to do what you came here to do.
Therefore, life and growth and becoming and fulfilling our purposeful reason for being on the planet is an ongoing game that doesn’t have a time-limit or age-marker on it.
I personally didn’t understand the power of mentoring early in life. Frankly, due to some perceptions from my childhood, I was actually afraid of strong, powerful men. Not like men are the only ones who can mentor a young man, and yet I didn’t at all tap into this very valuable and available aspect of life until much later…when I did the work to release the fear of strong, powerful men.
Those of us playing the second half of life could find many and varied reasons for not tapping into the wealth of wisdom and knowledge out there in the areas that we are passionate about. “I’m too old to try something new” or “Well, this is the way I’ve always done or seen things, and I’m pretty ok with things as they are”…and yet those statements are all-but-too-close to complacency and mediocre living.
IF, just IF you have YET to do what you CAME here to do, what could be possible for you to take on and explore for yourself: in your work, in a relationship, in your interests, in your community impact?
In The Back Forty, we invite you, as well as ourselves, to take on that “the best is yet to come, and babe won’t it be fine”. Therefore, gaining the supportive mentoring and wise Yoda-ship of those who won’t buy your stories but, instead, will invest in your possibility – this is where to build.
Got your Yoda?
“There is no lack of knowledge out there…just a shortage of asking for help.”
A middle aged man leaves work one day and decides to buy his dream car on his way home. This is the classic story everyone thinks of when they hear the term “midlife crisis”. But what if I was to tell you that midlife crises aren’t even real? I already feel the skepticism from some of you, but give me a chance to explain.
Over the past five years, research on midlife crises has been growing and growing. The shocking insight from all of this new knowledge? The story of the midlife crisis is based largely in fiction.
According to a national study of midlife funded by the National Institute on Aging, only 26% of adults between the ages of 25 and 75 have reported having a midlife crisis. Also, only about half of the people who said they have had a midlife crisis said it was triggered by the turmoil surrounding the aging process. It turns out, half of the people who have said they experienced a midlife crisis, the crisis was related to something that has nothing to do with midlife!
So next time you wonder when your midlife crisis will hit, realize that chances are you will never have a midlife crisis at all.