Sunday, September 19, 2010

What is Middle Age – part two

"Middle-aged" has been culturally and socially invested with a lot of baggage. It isn't just a biological time frame in the life of the average human – it represents a time in the life that is characterized by certain traits and life style choices that have to do with being 'over the hill' or past one's prime. We hear the term 'mid-life crisis' and about marital affairs; trading in the old models for younger, non-sagging versions. Cougars, pot bellies, menopause, wrinkles, hair dye and changes in sexual drive. True or false, these are just to name a few issues that percolate around the midlife verbiage.
Here's what I know: as a woman who has stepped onto the perimenopausal path and who no longer has young children, I see myself definitely standing in my middle years. I am closer to fifty than I am to forty. Being middle aged only bothers me when I feel that twinge of time that tells me I am not twenty and immortal anymore. Okay, and honestly, when I step on the scale and am reminded that my metabolism is not going to revert to what it was twenty years ago.
This is a time of developmental change, a transitional phase where Jungian analyst and author Murray Stein says we are experiencing a liminal shift or as Jean Shinoda Bolen describes it – the "In between zone, a state in which we are neither who we used to be, nor who we are becoming." We could describe adolescence in the same way.
It isn't an easy task to figure out what to think about Midlife, despite how many books are being written on how the forties are the new thirties; fifties are the new forties. Human beings are living longer – not because we've evolved into a longer living life form but because we have a basic understanding of disease that gives us all a fighting chance for long life. It wasn't that long ago that I, as a forty something woman, would be lucky to have lived this long of a life already. We are not that far away from a time when human life span averaged 30 years of age (Medieval Britain). At the turn of the 20th century, the average life expectancy was 30-45 years of age. (link – WHO: pg 7).
So what do we collectively know as a society about being middle aged?

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