So color me surprised to find myself 52, and not only haven’t I arrived at a destination, I still don’t exactly know where I’m going!
Who Hid the Road Signs?
I’m not alone in my confusion. Many others in my midlife cohort are experiencing this same unexpected uncertainty.
With the economy the way it is, our kids aren’t launching with the greatest of ease. Our own careers are being blindsided by personal dissatisfaction or downsizing due to obsolescence and foreign outsourcing. Many of us are weighed down with concerns about our parents’ health problems, not to mention our own health problems we never planned on having. And some of our marriages aren’t as satisfying–or as permanent–as we thought they’d be when we said our I dos.
Most frightening of all, the blissful, carefree retirement we’ve been promised if only we work hard and play by the rules may not ever happen, especially for those of us on the tail end of the Boomer generation and after.
Turns out that middle-age–a time where many of us thought we’d be done struggling with confusion and uncertainty–is far more complicated than we expected.
Where can we turn for help?
Nope. Myth busted!
Today’s AARP is for people like you and me looking for help as we navigate these turbulent waters of modern middle-age. In fact, AARP has a project created just for people like you and me. It’s called Life Reimagined®.
What is Life Reimagined®?
Life Reimagined® is a website, a book, and an active community on Facebook. But most of all, Life Reimagined® is a practical process developed to help users map out midlife’s real possibilities.
In April, I wrote a post about being selected as a participant in a social media project to get the word out to my audience about AARP’s Life Reimagined®.
That post was written during a time of great personal sadness and loss. I hope my post ended on a hopeful note–because I was hopeful at the time–but it’s naïve at best, and dishonest at worst, to make it seem like creating a life worth living is cake.
It’s not cake.
Creating a life worth living demands courage and a willingness to take risks. It isn’t easy. If it were easy then everybody would be doing it. And you and I both know everybody isn’t doing it. Lots of folks out there are living lives of quiet desperation just biding their time until they take the long dirt nap.
Make Sure You Live Before You Die
In their book, Life Reimagined, authors Richard Leider and Alan Webber call this quiet desperation “Inner Kill”.
Leider and Webber describe inner kill this way:
You have inner kill when you’ve stopped growing, when you’ve given up on yourself, or when you find yourself always taking the easy, safe way. …Ultimately, inner kill is the death of self-respect.
I’m sure you know people who live their entire lives in a perpetual state of inner kill. I sure do! These are the miserable folks who give aging a bad name.
We didn’t know it, but after our kids left home, both my husband and I were experiencing inner kill. Living the “American Dream,” we weren’t exactly sure why we were miserable. We had it all. Weren’t we supposed to be happy? But we weren’t.
We didn’t even have the vocabulary to talk about it. So we didn’t. We just kept on carrying on, not dealing with mounting anxiety and frustration; living lives that weren’t bringing either of us the joy and contentment we longed for.
Pulling the Trigger
Leider and Webber also write about triggers. Triggers are those potentially life-altering moments of truth in our lives when we become conscious of our inner kill.
My trigger was pulled twice in 2012. First, in January, with a marriage crisis that turned our lives inside out, and then, in September, during an Advanced Cardiac Life Support class I have to take every two years as a requirement for my job as an RN.
For lunch, I went out with one of the other nurses from the hospital where I worked. As we were chomping on our salads and talking about our jobs, she remarked, offhandedly, “You are such a good nurse.”
A normal person would have smiled and thanked her or modestly brushed off the compliment. Me? I burst into tears.
See, for five years I’d worked under a manager who doesn’t believe in positive feedback. With her, it’s all stick, and no carrot.
No matter what I did, no matter how how hard I worked, according to her, I was always failing.
I remember one morning having two emergency cesarean sections within two hours (this was a tiny facility, and I was the ONLY RN in our department on duty that day). It was a crazy day, and I’d really given my patients 1000%.
My manager’s feedback the next day? A terse, handwritten note taped to the outside of a cupboard in the nurse’s station that I’d forgotten to check some box in my charting.
Nothing about the two babies who’d come out alive and healthy. No mention about the mothers and fathers who had expressed such gratitude over my excellent care under difficult circumstances. No thank you for skipping all of my meal breaks for 12+ hours(!) in order to care for these patients. Nothing positive whatsoever.
And I’d been living this way for FIVE YEARS! No wonder I was miserable and demoralized.
Living a Life that Defeats Inner Kill
That day at lunch I knew that I was done with that soul-sucking, inner-killing job. But it wasn’t just a matter of quitting.
Despite my awareness that I couldn’t go on like that, all the reasons I’d stayed in a state of inner kill for five years weren’t just going to magically disappear. I had to face my fears about my financial future, and the very real problem of the lack of other job opportunities for RNs in my rural community.
What it did mean though is that I was done letting my fears limit the solutions I was willing to consider.
Now I’m going to ask you:
Are you done letting your fears limit the solutions you are willing to consider? #LifeReimagined Tweet This!
There’s a great book discussion happening on Facebook where other readers and leaders in the Life Reimagined community discuss inner kill, triggers, and other topics Leider and Webber address in their book, Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities. I encourage you to buy the book, and invite you to join in the discussion happening on Facebook.
You are worthy of a life worth living.
Disclaimer: This post is supported by Life Reimagined (www.lifereimagined.org): your guide to rethinking what’s possible and seizing your “what’s next” in work, relationships, health, personal finance and more. All opinions are my own.