Recently in one of my study groups, we were working on defining new niches for books and deciding on a specific genre or topic of focus. To help narrow down category searches and pinpoint the target audience for profitability research.
The brainstorming and creative thinking that came through the session was followed by some self-reflection, which is never bad.
Cheers, middle age! You really are here. On reflection, my teenage years were pretty relaxed in comparison; my twenties – loads of fun and a little experimental; my thirties were truly romantic and spontaneous, and my forties focused on creating a family and raising small children. And now, my fifties are here. At the time of writing, I’m edging toward the later end of this decade. I’d say I’m right in the middle of the middle and that the years between 50 and 57 have challenged me in every possible way. They have also made me more of who I am today.
Middle age has brought devastation and enormous personal growth and given me no choice but to develop an inner strength of steel. There have also been vast amounts of joy, many things to be grateful for, and adventures were undertaken that I am proud to have taken on and enjoyed in a way I did not think would ever be possible again.
Having crossed the midlife threshold, I can tell those who will follow firsthand, it has not been all sagging body parts, new wrinkles and plucking chin hairs. There has been that too, but so much more besides. Sure, I’ve looked in the mirror and wondered when my smile lines turned into crow’s feet. Still, I’m mostly just grateful to be here, functioning in a world that might have broken me without the wisdom gained up to this point in my life.
I turned fifty on May 22nd 2015 and celebrated at my husband’s bedside. He was two days into a radical three-day chemotherapy infusion at the time. Trying and beat a rare and aggressive cancer he’d been fighting for almost a year. He wasn’t winning. We didn’t know that at the time.
In August 2017, Brendan died at home at the age of forty-five. I had not long turned fifty-two. He tried everything to stay. In the last two years of his life, he underwent the removal of half of his right lung, femour bone replacement, amputation of his right leg, and too many aggressive chemotherapy regimens, the last of which were seven-day infusions, followed by 2 weeks off and repeated over three months. When this didn’t work, he tried immunotherapy, radiation, and finally, palliative care at home. Bren died peacefully in my arms and those of our 13-year-old twins and his mum on the last day of winter under a clear blue sky. The day ended with a rainbow larger and brighter than I have ever seen. My husband loved a blue sky, and rainbows were our symbol of hope.
By November 2017, deep in grief and guiding our children through theirs, I started a home and lifestyle business with my two sisters from the younger’s pool shed. By February 2018, our venture had gained popularity and needed a new space. I purchased a small cottage, my younger sister renovated it, and it became our Shedquarters. As we approached the end of the year, we needed a retail space and moved into our town’s main retail precinct. The Shed Luxe had arrived.
On September 1st 2019, a day after the 2nd anniversary of my husband’s death, my mum died after her own heroic cancer battle. I was 54. Grief deepened. Between 2019 and 2022, my kids continued to grow through their sorrow; my son left school and started an apprenticeship, I taught both to drive, and my daughter graduated high school. We have also celebrated weddings and welcomed new babies into our extended family, with another on the way.
In February 2022, the kids and I sold our cottage, and in August/September ’22, we spent a month in Italy. I was 57. This trip was a bucket list adventure for me. I had always promised myself a trip to Italy before retirement. Now maybe I’ll get there at least twice before. Or I won’t retire at all and go whenever I can. By December 2022, my sisters and I had finished scaling up our business and happily sold our newly renovated larger store two doors up from the original. We are now all pursuing new dreams and enjoying simply being sisters again.
January 2023 heralded a new beginning. After a well-earned gap year, my daughter has started University in Sydney, 3 hours away. I am still studying while working on projects I am passionate about from home. My son and our dog Otis are at home with me. The last 6 years have flown by in a blur of getting through the day. Midlife has been hectic so far – with no room for crisis. Life supplied that bountifully; my imagination didn’t have to create one based on age. Although tough, my middle has been a time of strength, wisdom, and resilience. Now I’m choosing to slow down, take a minute and breathe.
My story, to this point, is not uncommon. Many middle-agers have their version of similar ups and downs, great love, devastating loss, unspeakable pain and immeasurable joy. And I look at my kids and know these experiences can happen at any age. I would add, however, that more of the good and not-so-good can be expected as we move through the years. I understand now, with wisdom gained, without any doubt, that we are not defined by the things we do or go through in life but by how we have tackled them and will continue to.
I like to think by midlife, we have had our entrée, are making our way through the main course and looking forward to the desert of life. Enjoying dolce far niente as often as we like! We all deserve to be here and to be seen and heard. To live in peace and with passion. In midlife, I choose to be as vital and as necessary as I have ever been and will ever be. Above all else, I choose to be a very visible Me. Unapologetically.
Here’s to La Dolce Vita always.
Life is good. And hope is limitless.
Self Portrait, taken Feb ’23. The lighing was good 😀
4 Comments Add yours
So beautifully written Cal… sounds like the middle is where wisdom lies. Cheers, cheers to living with peace, passion, vitality and visibilty xx
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I think so, Al. I’m glad we’re doing in together xx
A word of wisdom for those who worry about their looks or how they dress. If you look someone in the eye they are very rarely worried about smile lines becoming crows feet. That is not to say we should not look after ourselves, but we should not have to worry about it.
I know your story Callie although we not met, and we share one thing. I too lost a partner, and despite pressure I/she wanted her to pass at home. Until someone has held and been with their loved one whilst they pass, they have no idea of the the feelings and emotions you go through. My partner took a different view to Brendan in that she settled for Kismet and just wanted to enjoy what time she had left. Whatever the route, it is theirs to choose.
You clearly had support, and having met both Deb and Sue in The Shed Luxe I can appreciate and understand the support you had. That support is so important. I don’t know about you, but I have nothing but the highest praise for the Palliative Care team in Taree for their support and care.
I know from personal experience kids are tougher than you think. No-one can prepare you for the love and fear when they are born, and similarly how well they handle tough times.
You have done well mid-life and I congratulate you, but on the positive side you must realise having survived what you have, you should have absolute confidence in facing the future, knowing you can handle whatever life throws at you.
As you say, life is good. And hope is limitless.
Be happy and stay safe.
What a nice message, thank you. I am so sorry for your loss.