So …I’m in California right now, smack in the middle of my 10-day residency for my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction at Antioch University, Los Angeles. It’s wonderful! There is so much learning and inspiration taking place here, and my program is filled with wonderful, eager writers of all shapes and sizes, all genders, ethnicities, races—and ages! I am so pleased to see that the brand new cohort has several students who are over 50!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading—and savoring—a book about midlife. I finished it on the plane ride over here, and I’m glad that it’s that time of the month again—the week where I share a book/article/TED Talk by or about an amazing woman.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty fits the bill. She is an award-winning journalist who worked for twenty years at NPR as a correspondent. She wrote the New York Times bestseller Fingerprints of God, which I have yet to read—but be assured it’s on “the list”!
The book I want to introduce to you this week, if you haven’t already discovered it, is called Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife. It was published in 2016, and I wish I had found it sooner!
Hagerty Asks Questions–Plenty of Them!
Hagerty invites us to come along with her on her journey of uncovering/discovering everything she can about midlife. The journalist in her does not let us down. Hagerty asks questions—plenty of them—and goes right to the experts for answers. She speaks at length with neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, and with more than a few people who are right in the throws and joys of midlife or later stages. They all share what they know from conducting research and what they have learned from experience.
Life Reimagined is part memoir, for Hagerty’s exploration is one that resonates deeply with her—she herself has “come of age,” and her quest for answers is both universal and personal. Thankfully… she brings us lots of good news!
The Well-Known Phenomenon Known as the “Midlife Crisis” is a Myth!
First, my friends, the well-known phenomenon known as the “midlife crisis” is a myth! Many of us will experience crises during this time, but they are not specific to midlife. What is specific to our particular place in the developmental cycle, however, is a shift in consciousness, a desire to reevaluate, to sort out what’s important, and to uncover or discover what comes next.
We Have Choice!
One of the great takeaways from Life Reimagined is that we have choice—and we will be well served if we make those choices—both of our actions and our thoughts—with intention!
Your Thoughts Have Great Power—Use Them Wisely!
We’re all familiar with the expression “be careful what you wish for,” but it is just as important to be careful what we think: “neuroplasticity involves the relatively recent discovery that your brain continues to change throughout your lifetime, shaped not only by your experiences but also by your thoughts and intentions.” In other words … your thoughts have great power—use them wisely!
“Aim for Meaning and Not Happiness, and You Will Find Both.”
Hagerty writes that it is in our best interest to make life choices based on meaning. Many of us feel drawn to choices that we imagine might make us happy and are disappointed when the fruits of those choices bring only a fleeting sense of elation—if that. True and lasting joy comes from the tougher stuff, the long-haul stuff—the stuff of meaning: “Aim for meaning and not happiness, and you will find both.” Amen to that!
Learn a New Skill!
Hagerty stresses the importance of learning new skills to keep our brains sharp. Midlife is a wonderful time to experiment, to try new things–a new language, a new instrument, writing poetry–or to take what we already know and apply a new slant. This is true for both work and pleasure. Encore.org is a non-profit Hagerty speaks highly of. It helps people over 50 discover how to use their skills in new and meaningful ways–or as the website states “second acts for the greater good.”
Our Experience More Than Makes Up the Gap
And … here’s another gem that Hagerty presents us with: while we may not be as quick at certain mental tasks as we were in our 20s and 30s, our experience most often more than makes up for gap. Hoorah!! (I intuitively sensed this—and wrote about it in last week’s blog– https://dianegottlieb.com/becoming-buddha/–but it’s always wonderful to get validation from science!)
You Got to Have Friends!
There are chapters in Life Reimagined devoted to the critical importance of friendship (YAY for BFFs!), devoted to marriage (and how to keep it alive–or bring it back to life), and to work.
And there are sections devoted to loss. We will all experience loss in our lives, and it is comforting to know that we become better equip to deal with those losses when we have experienced others in the past.
So …there is much to celebrate in midlife!
And much to learn from Life Reimagined. Barbara Bradley Hagerty is a wonderful guide.
(I even loved the neuroscience sections! Hats off to Hagerty for making those sections so compelling.)
Jump in and enjoy the ride—I think you will be happy you did!
Like always, I welcome your thoughts and your comments.
See you next Friday!