Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

Fertile void

So what exactly is a midlife crisis these days?

Self Developmentphoenixarttally
So what exactly is a midlife crisis these days?
Double page art journal spread created in Jane Davenport's online class 'Create Emotion'

It seems to me that a midlife crisis is one of those first world problems (not a bad kind to have...) I'm not sure it's actually a 'crisis', and I don't think you have to be 'midlife' to have one. I came to art courtesy of a midlife crisis. It was something I tossed out in witty (obviously) conversation one day without much thought. Then I got home. OMG, am I actually having a midlife crisis? (Well, I said 'OMG' so I can't be that old.... or is a compulsion to say things like 'OMG' a few steps away from the cliched red sports car?) Apparently, a midlife crisis is more appropriately termed a midlife transformation these days. Yes, I do like that better. And, it turns out you don't need to be mid-life, to find yourself facing a bit of a crisis.  Essentially it is just a transition point. The space between one phase and the next. I'd like to think that means that some longer term goals have been realised, and new longer term goals are ready to be made. In the best light it is a chance to surrender to the fertile void between these life phases and be open to possibility. It is a chance to let go of trying to fulfill the 'shoulds' which probably arise from the expectations of others rather than your own. Time to reassess what is actually important to you. Marcia Reynolds explains in Psychology Today that these transition points often occur in the transition into a new decade, when you turn 30, 40 and 50. At each of these points the questions that arise are different. At 30 it's probably career choices; at 40, life purpose and from 50 it's most likely to be about legacy. There is a lot of truth in that for me, although I reserve the right to another 'crisis' regardless of whether there is a zero in my birthday! Google will turn up countless lists of symptoms of a midlife crisis. Most, if not all of these include some creative compulsion, like the desire to learn a musical instrument, paint, draw or write. This makes perfect sense to me. If you are at one of life's transition points, you are probably asking a lot of questions. What do I really want out of life?  What matters most?  What is the best way to spend my time?  These are really just some new problems to solve. And creativity is our problem solving equipment. Doing something creative gets that 'right brain' going. It's a chance to play, explore, experiment and discover in a low risk environment. We encourage kids to do this all the time. Don't we deserve the same?

The Fertile Void

Self Developmentphoenixarttally

"How are you?" asks Wise Friend, a fellow mum, at school pickup.

Erm...I know this is not supposed to be a difficult question. A myriad of one-word answers burst like bubbles in my head. Confused. Elated. Panicked. Insane. Fuzzy. I blurt out, "I just applied for a career break. So..... I'm not sure.... I cant really tell up from down at the moment..."

"Oh, that's brilliant!" says Wise Friend.
"Is it...?" I smile weakly, hoping my eyes aren't looking too manic.
"Yes", she says, "you're in the fertile void - its a great place to be."

The chattering monkeys in my head hush for awhile. They seem to be thinking about this. Their momentary silence is quite refreshing. The Fertile Void... its a Thing. Its amazing how comforting a label can be. No longer am I in limbo - I'm not flotsam being buffeted about in a swirling mass of uncertainty. In fact, I'm in the fertile void, a place of infinite possibility.

As I reflect on the impact of this more positive re-framing of my choice, I realise how much weight I have accorded the various titles or labels I have assumed with each job I have undertaken.

I started out on a 'sensible' career path in part to appease my parents and in part because of the absence of any obvious life-purpose (which I think seems fair enough at age 18). Stepping onto that path is more like stepping onto a treadmill or a conveyor belt. You are on your way to becoming a.... (insert label here). You must be successful if you are now a ..... (insert label here). When people ask, 'what do you do?', you have a glib, instant answer, "Oh, I'm a .... (insert label here)"

And there you are, before you know it, you are what you do. Part of your self worth is attached to the institution that employs you. How curious, if this was not something that you necessarily chose, consciously, all those years ago....

So, absent this affiliation to the lofty institution to whom I have given my most recent ten years of service, who am I, I wonder?

What a fascinating question to explore.

And how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do so.

"Leap, and the net will appear" John Burroughs