When Does Midlife Begin?
by Richard P. Johnson, Ph.D.
Joan took another sip of coffee, and asked herself how she should react to her surprise 45th birthday party tomorrow. Her husband Brian had planned it well, but one of her friends 'let it slip out.' "Forty-five seems so much older than 44 for some reason," she mused. "Losing my father six months ago has somehow shifted my thinking. Strangely enough, I'm looking ahead more now, wondering what's coming up next."
Human developmentalists tell us that middle age begins when we stop measuring our lives in terms of time since birth, and begin measuring our lives in terms of time until death. Normally, this shift in time perspective occurs in our mid-40s. For some of us it happens with a thud, usually with the death of a parent, or especially the death of a contemporary. For others, this shift happens gently, very gradually; it walks softly into our lives as on kitten's paws. Whichever way it enters our lives, it ushers in a new way of thinking about ourselves, and about life. As time is now perceived as exhaustible, a new restlessness about making life-priorities, shows its face. An evolving sense of urgency invades our thinking, causing us to look more carefully at what genuinely matters to us.
Questions about the meaning of life take on a new importance: Who am I at my core? Where am I going? How am I doing as a person? A spouse? A parent? A worker? A Catholic? All these questions, and many more, swirl around our minds and tug at our souls in ways not felt before. Some of us simply repress, deny, or otherwise sidestep these mammoth questions about life's meaning. Others react to the questions by moving toward "more"—more productivity, more achievement, more power, more status, more fame, etc., repeating what they did before, only more so.
Midlife is about finding a new yardstick for life's meaning; it's for looking deeper into ourselves, and opting for new life enrichment though faith development ... it's about looking ahead into the eternal NOW of God.
As we mature our spiritual pace quickens!
For more on this topic, look at course 109: www.SeniorAdultMinistry.com
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