The way we think about midlife is broken.
No, really. I hate these end-of-the-road, time-to-pack-it-in, tropes about midlife, and I know you do, too.
The dirty little secret that no one will tell you about midlife (no, not even your mother) is that this is the best time of your life. Here’s why:
The Fuck-it Factor Is Way High
You may have cared about your back-acne, skirt-length, boyfriend’s mother’s opinion of you in your twenties. Or your parenting, career dead-ends, and lack of goals in your thirties. You may have pondered your saggy breasts, the dessert menu at the Cheesecake Factory, and whether to eye-liner or not in your forties. But not at midlife! At fifty, you keep your gaze resolutely forward (chin up if you happen to be standing in front of mirror) and carry on carrying on. I never wonder if I should say yes to the bread basket anymore (it’s free, right?). I care a whit that I have no titles (I can still pay my bills, right?), and the last time I threw my shoulders back when walking past a construction site was . . . well, I can’t quite remember. The important thing is that with each passing year, the distance between “I care” and “fuck it” narrows, to the point that many days they just run one into the other–Icarefuckit–like that. Should I put a bra on to make a quick late-night run to the grocery store? Fuck it. Did I drink too much at the office party? Fuck it. Dusting? Fuck it.
Your Time is Your Own
Remember your twenties? When you could wake up at noon on a Sunday and stagger out to the bagel shop for breakfast, I mean, dunch? Remember how the only pressing decision to be made was should I take the spin class at 5:00 or Pilates at 6:30? (Okay, so I’m lying, for my generation it was more like aerobics at 5:00 and Jazzercize at 6:30, but whatever. You do remember, right?). Well, midlife is the renaissance of time. Sure, you may be working two jobs and 12-hour days, but when you’re not, you’re time is your own. No soccer tournaments. No piano recitals. Not even any book clubs or women’s groups or bunco–not unless you want them. You can read or paint or . . . do absolutely nothing. Your choice. You can get a manicure after work and not have to worry about dashing back in time to make dinner. In fact, you don’t have to have dinner. A bowl of cereal will do nicely.
You Don’t Have to Talk to Anyone–Ever
Silence, that sweet sound of nothingness and no-one-ness! You may not remember what it was like to be in your mother’s womb, but I’m pretty sure this is it. Now that your kids are grown and out of the house, you can reclaim silence as your favorite channel on the radio. No more incessant quibbling from the back seat of the car. No more Miley Cyrus. No more what-shall-we-have-for-dinners or even where-shall-we-go-for-dinners. Just silence. It’s like driving out onto the mesa in New Mexico on a moonless night and looking up at the stars–woah! that’s a whole lotta stars! Who knew!
Partnership 2.0 – Love Is Revisionist
Of course, new love is thrilling, but midlife love can be surprisingly good, too. Without the distractions of home and career building, you and your partner can come together with very little strife, the kind of strife that comes from mismatched expectations and conflicting demands. You don’t have to resent her ambition because your own is languishing beneath a pile of unwashed laundry, and she doesn’t have to resent sports tournaments and fix-it Sundays that eat up her free time. And guess what folks, no resentment = happy marriage! You can also spend as little time with each other as you wish. You are no longer bound by romance-novel tropes of togetherness and riding off into the sunset. You may get to that comfy place in your relationship where touching base a couple of times a day to share a meal or watch a show might be just enough.
So shut off the commentary. Turn up the silence. Step out into your own midlife, primelife, freelife, wiselife and don’t buy the bullshit!