I see a 'midlife crisis' as a time when we realize that life is finite. It's often something that does indeed follow a 'crisis' in our lives. We might have faced redundancy, have seen a younger colleague promoted over us. We might be dealing with the emotions of an empty nest, a divorce or ending of a relationship.
Forty is a time contradiction and complexity, a.k.a. horrifying reality and inner turmoil. It's realizing that these are the days of questioning every decision, wondering about regrets, and realizing that life is short, and getting shorter every freaking day. It's when the terrifying reality sets in that yeah, THIS is life.
I believe that those of us who are called into a mid-life crisis and those who accept the honor of moving through it thoroughly and with grace are the lucky ones. Now that I am on the other side, I see my mid-life crisis as a true breakthrough, an awakening, and the path to the peaceful, joyful, and loving life I am living now.
The reasons for the myth's persistence continue to fascinate me. Partly it's because people are such poor statisticians. We remember the two or three cases of people we know who prove the myth to be true and disregard the dozens, if not hundreds, of others in our acquaintance who continue steadfastly through the middle decades of life. There's also a fascination and allure to the midlife crisis.