My sincere appreciation to the many readers who called to identify with the first part of this subject and for their kind words!
Yes o! No one is immune to the crisis. Difference if how well we handle it. In my book Nigeria’s Men of God, there are many examples of people who were made to turn to God by one problem or another. There, they found peace and growth.
Growth and Destruction
Poor handling of the crisis results in some of the bizarre stories, such as suicides, murder of relations, we read in the media.
When midlife crisis hits you, it is like the dawn of reality. Reality check! You are likely to panic on the realization that all your efforts have failed to earn you the desired growth in life or buy you peace and happiness, or, as in many cases these days, you married the wrong person.
This is the time for a rethink, which, of course, cannot be done with a fussy head. Two ways to go from here! With careful examination of the causes of your unhappiness and unfulfilled life for thoughtful decisions, you grow. The other way, which is worrying and taking impulsive decisions, leads to destruction.
It is the reason, I like Dr Vivian Diller,Psychologist and author, call this phase of life Emerging Maturity. And she says, like most psychological problems, acknowledgement of the truth is the first step for the required growth.
Dr Diller: “I suggest starting this process by substituting a new image to replace the old one associated with the midlife crisis. Picture this: You have been driving along a familiar road and you hit an unexpected traffic circle. Taken by surprise, you are not sure which way to go. You have several options. You can go around and around the circle, feeling confused, getting nowhere (like when someone says, “Oh, no, this can’t be all there is!”). You can simply go straight, just because it’s what you know and have done before (it’s what we call “going through the motions”). You can make a turn, just any turn, and hope it all turns out all right (these are those reflexive, reckless reactions). You can retrace your steps and start again (we know what turning back the clock can look like!).
“Or you can pull over, look at a map, discuss the options with whomever else is in the car, get out and ask for help. The key is, you are willing to stop long enough to figure out how to proceed. You acknowledge that you have hit an unexpected turning point and that you are potentially lost, that you need to take a moment that you need to think and feel before making the next step. This is the first step toward finding your way.”
Moments or days of rethinking and re-planning life for growth involve some the following.
The God factor: At least in Nigeria, many people facing mid-life crisis, turn to God. The reason is simple. Manufacturers of products have manuals for them. God created you and He alone has your manual. Hit by crisis from wrong decisions, bad habits, or poverty, you go to God for direction.
The good and the bad: While listing the bad decisions that require changes, be thankful for achievements, favours and blessing and the parts of your life that have made you happy. Ask yourself how you’d feel if you took an action that caused you to lose them.
Reality time: This period is reality time. Days of fantasy and castles in the air are over. Dreams must be realistic. Decisions should be weighed realistically. New goals should be practical and within your grasp. Don’t be like the politician who cannot win local government elections but thinks he will be elected a president. Many of them live that life of delusion!
Feelings aren’t commands: Don’t take what you feel as commands. The feeling that your spouse is not good enough is not a command to hack them to death as we read in the papers these days. Of course, she or he would be gone, and you will also be gone in a maximum security prison for a long time or forever. Do such people ever think about the fate of the children left behind? Nobody treats children better than their parents. Blood is far thicker than water! Just because you feel like you have to escape your home, job, or marriage doesn’t mean you have to actually do it, an expert, Dr Lynn Margolies says. These feelings may indeed point to problems that need solving. But they may also fade or change over time.
Talk it over: Experts advise that before you make major decisions, discuss them with someone whose advice you’ll trust. A friend (be careful here because many people are selfish, or are full of hidden envy), pastor, or mental health professional can give you another opinion on whether you’re making wise choices.
The list of tips from experts is long. I take some from the book Best Knickers Always by Rebecca Perkins.
Change something in your life: Make one small, positive change to your life today and see what happens: drive a different way to work, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier so you’re not rushing. There’s something exhilarating about little changes – and all of a sudden you turn round and see how far you’ve come.
Stop standing in your own way: We often blame others – it’s our husband, parents or boss stopping us making choices in life. But we are the ones self-sabotaging our efforts: pouring a glass of wine ‘to unwind’ even when we’ve said we won’t, or doing the ironing rather than applying for a new job.
The voice we hear is, “I don’t deserve it, I’m not worth it.” Ask yourself: what if I were to stop the excuses and get out of my own way?
Decide what you are prepared to tolerate: What are you putting up with? I had a long list – no light bulb in the oven, receipts overflowing in my purse, kids leaving stuff on the stairs, only me unloading the dishwasher – it went on and on. But it’s you who allows this in your life – nobody does it to you without permission.
Decide what you will put up with, so it’s your choice – then stop moaning.
Learn to listen: Most people don’t listen – they are simply waiting to talk. You see it in their eyes and their body language. Don’t be one of those people. Stop and listen and others will always remember how you made them feel.
We all have a choice: We always have a choice in our attitude towards a situation. If we say we don’t, we become a victim of our circumstances. Choose your response to a situation and leave the role of victim to be played by others.
Do something that scares you: Life in a comfort zone is OK: it is safe, easy and risk-free – but in all honesty it wasn’t joyful, exciting or that enjoyable. We grow when we move out of our comfort zone, so take a risk: write that letter, go for that job.
You’ll feel strong and alive for that little stretch.
Edit your friendship list: It’s time to let friends who don’t add value to your life go – it’s usually the ones who don’t accept or welcome your growth.
Friendships should be enriching, not draining, and those that have faded become exhausting. Perhaps it’s time to reassess some of your friendships and decide whether your values coincide any longer.
Tackle a fear head-on: I used to feel physically sick when I thought about looking at my bank statements, which were always left in a pile on the kitchen table. But when I became a single parent I needed to take responsibility so I faced it head-on.
Now I open my post and check my finances online – and my life is less stressful as a result.
Surprise yourself: What could you do that’s a little different and out of character? Learn a musical instrument or the samba? Volunteer for something you’re passionate about? I still haven’t ruled out a tattoo. What would you like to do?
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