This weekend I joined the many masses and went to see the movie Wild. Great book, OK movie. The book left me feeling that I need to find my passion, set new goals, get out there and explore. The movie left me feeling that I want blonde hair and skinny legs just like Reese Witherspoon. It left me longing for the days when I too, could leave the house without applying make up and drawing on my eyebrows. Kudos to Cheryl Strayed though, an amazing accomplishment on all fronts.
Cheryl decided to hike the Pacific Coast Trail after the death of her beloved mother sent her into a downward spiral of drugs and infidelities, until she finally hit rock bottom. Rock bottom is a hideous place and at some point in our lives we have all been there. Some of us face it sooner as in Cheryl's case, and some a little later in life. Midlife rock bottoms can be REALLY devastating. Perhaps it is the death of a parent, a financial tragedy, a cancer diagnosis, a troubled child, or, as in my case: a divorce.
After 27 years of marriage, my husband decided it was time to move on, greener pastures, younger ass, blonder hair, you get it. I hit MY rock bottom. My children lived on McDonalds and Velveeta Microwave Mac and Cheese, as I holed up in my room, cloaked in my blue Snuggie unable to fathom a life beyond those days. And then finally, finally -- I pulled myself up and out and began to live again.
Hitting rock bottom at 47 is much different than hitting it in your twenties. In your twenties, you can disappear, go find yourself, climb mountains, accomplish major feats of strength. There was no way I could hike the PCT -- me -- a person who brings a gel seat and a clip on fan to spin class. My knees are pretty much chalk dust now. Plus, I would need an extra pack just for my various meds, anti anxiety, anti-diarrheal, anti-aging, anti-hunger, anti-heart disease, anti high cholesterol, well, I mean the list goes on. Plus, at this time in our lives, it may not be possible to just take off for three months and leave our jobs, our children, our significant other, our Tivo. It begs the question, where can those of us midlife folks find OUR wild?
Here are some of the ways I found MY Wild, perhaps they may work for you as well:
1. Go back to school: When I was half way through my junior year of college I made a life changing decision: I was on my way to a Spanish test that I didn't study for, I mean really, like THAT would ever come in handy. I turned around, headed to the admissions office where I dropped out. I then called my boyfriend, told him I wanted to get married and three weeks later was an Army wife. Fast forward almost 30 years later -- I went back to college and I loved it. Sure I was the oldest one in the class and no one wanted to be my project partner, but so what? My mind opened up and I found my voice. It changed my life.
2. Take a trip--alone: Now don't go all "Easy for you to say!" on me. I am not talking about pulling an Eat Pray Love, traveling the world eating pasta and meditating. I'm talking about a journey where you go someplace that intrigues you or offers you a sense of peace and happiness. It could mean just a long weekend at a nearby beach, or city. There's something about the planning, anticipating and then living it that is very freeing and makes you feel competent and alive.
3. Get a job: This of course pertains to those of us who up until now were not working. When I had my final meeting with my divorce attorney she suggested that, "Hey, you may want to think about finding employment," because for some reason, during mediation I had agreed to temporary alimony. It's easy to be lulled into an agreeable mood when being plied with Keurig espressos and free Tootsie Rolls at a glass conference table. I freaked. The last time I held a job, I was wearing Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers and stepping all over my bell-bottoms. But I did it. I found a job at a local holistic spa for $8 an hour, greeting customers and folding linens. Guess what? I loved it, and met some great people while mastering folding the fitted sheet. It also brought me new opportunities and fodder for my writing.
4. Downsize: At this point in life we have accumulated a lot of stuff. Has that little glass ashtray been sitting on your coffee table since the early 80's? Do you even smoke anymore? Are you REALLY going to re-read all those books that line your shelves, coffee tables, and night stands? You can download them on Kindle, you know. Purge. Maybe even think of selling your home where most of the bedrooms are now guestrooms, and that Wolfe gas range where you created hundreds of family dinners, is now basically used to boil your tea water. A condo in the city may be a huge leap, but a whole new way of living, with an exciting dynamic. Something to think about? A small home by the beach? A back yard of sand and ocean? How bad could that be?
5. Stop saying "I could never do that"--YOU CAN: "I could never write a book," "I could never run a marathon," "I could never learn to make home made pasta." Yes you can. It's now or never folks. We ain't getting any younger.
Finding your WILD in midlife doesn't mean walking hundreds of miles alone with a tent. It means finding peace, confidence, a sense of self and happiness. It means finding YOU. Dig deep. Figure it out and then...go wild.