I am currently spending a week alone at the ocean on Florida’s Panhandle. My husband and his dad have always reserved Labor Day week for father-son time, and with both of my kids away at college, I decided to spend the week at the ocean. All by myself! I did this last year also, and it was awesome, so decided to take the opportunity again. For me it’s a great time to think, pray, write and to grow.
I am reading a book my daughter gave me to enjoy during my week away, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift From the Sea“. I love the book, I treasure Anne’s wisdom. She took two weeks every year to be alone by the sea, to regroup, to soul-search, to reinvent herself. She did that even as the mother of 5 children. Cool thing is, she wrote her best-selling “Gifts From the Sea” after many years of ocean sabbaticals, when she was the age I am now, 49. She published several more books over the next two decades and lived to the age of 94…for her, middle age was just that, only the middle of her life with many more years to be productive, to grow, to make a difference.
Reading her book compelled me to read her biography. She was a great woman who was also, like her husband, an aviator. She won numerous awards and remained her own person with her own interests and goals in spite of her infant son being murdered, marital difficulties and raising 5 additional children.
I was reading today her chapter from Gifts, “The Oyster Bed” in which she contemplates the “middle age” portion of life. She talks about the growth pains of early adolescence….discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair and longing. But we accept those feelings as normal, knowing adolescence is a transition phase to growth, wisdom and to productive adulthood.
Some of those same feelings accompany middle age as children leave and our bodies age and our lives change. Maybe, she says, the feelings that accompany middle age also herald growth and new beginnings. As she states “Is it possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second-flowering, second growth, even a kind of second adolescence? One might be free for growth of mind, heart and talent; free at last for spiritual growth”.
Women I admire most are those I see who thrive and grow and accept new challenges in middle age. I loved examples of this in a Time Magazine article I read several years ago “Midlife Crisis? Bring it On“. Many middle-aged women have gained wisdom from adversity they’ve experienced in the first half of their life, adversity that has in the end given them new aspirations.
My best friend of 30 years, also a nurse, is my age and going back for a Master’s degree to start a new vocation as a licensed counselor based on her experience with her own daughter, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and successfully treated years ago. My neighbor, who told me she wanted to die when at age 60 she lost her husband, in the end became curious about her own ancestry; her husband’s family had been central to their lives during their marriage. That led her to learn to use a computer and genealogy software. She has since become a wizard at genealogy research, has published 2 genealogy books, has learned to drive on expressways all over the country to touch base with distant new-found relatives and has traveled to Germany and Russia to learn about her ancestry. She’s connected hundreds of people to their heritage and to each other. She also now manages real estate, has learned to operate the large farm equipment of relatives she located in the Dakota’s and even line dances with new friends for the first time at age of 72.
I see people now all of the time who use experiences that have brought them to middle age to reinvent themselves and their lives. I want to be like them. Maybe the hard events we overcome, like cancer, are gaitways to new beginnings, to new opportunities to reinvent ourselves, to new ways to make a difference.