Deep inside the magical rainforest of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, you’ll find the largest flower in the world. The Corpse Plant, scientifically known as Amorphophallus Titanium, stands up to 20-feet tall, 16-feet across, and weighs hundreds of pounds. It’s also one of the rarest plants on Earth.
But what’s most fascinating about this giant creature of unmissable beauty is that it takes 40 years to form its grandest flower. Sure, it blossoms mini ones every decade or so, which may trick you into thinking that’s all it has to give. Then, it shows you it saved its best bloom for last.
This week, I’m done playing nice about midlife. As we continue our Global Life in the Hard series, I’ll confront the myths and sledgehammer bogus stereotypes about this supposed “crisis” life stage.
We’re not dead by 50 anymore, we’re only about halfway. So, instead of regarding these middle years with sorrow, regret, and trepidation, I’ll show you how to maximize, cherish, and view this phase as an opportunity to rebuild the life you’ve always wanted. (And still have decades ahead to enjoy it.)
Get ready to wave bye-bye to stale clichés, ditch the dread, reinvent midlife, and start saying “Now what?” with excitement. Because the second chapter of your story will be better than the first, and they haven’t seen the best of you yet.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Eeyore energy vs. Tigger Energy
- Barbara Waxman’s Middlescence concept
- Destroying a house you spent 20 years building
- Dumping the idea of forever
- Why crisis is a flawed word
Listen to the Full Episode
It’s not too late, but it will be soon. One veteran attendee said, “Sundae, this is some of your most helpful content ever.” There are still expert workshops ahead in the Global Life in the Hard series. PLUS, when you sign up right here, we’ll send you past recordings to watch at your leisure.
Featured on the Show:
- Global Life in the Hard
- Expat Coach Coalition
- Sundae’s Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
- Adapt & Succeed Abroad
- Join Year of Transformation
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Life is in the Transition
- Barbara Waxman
- Martha Beck
Catch These Podcasts / Articles:
- EP248: Rebelling Against Toxic positivity
- EP178: Midlife Marriage Meltdown with Vivian Chiona
- EP177: Mellowing Menopause with Jane Ordaz
We’re delighted by our nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 8:00 am in New York, 2:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 7:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-orientated coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations. I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
Before we kick off the theme of Midlife for our Global Life in the Hard series. I would love to take a moment to celebrate.
Today is Expat Happy Hour’s 250th episode!
You got it. That is 250 weeks in a row of uninterrupted episodes just for you, my listeners. So I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart, for being a listener of Expat Happy Hour and especially to those who have been with me for the last five years, a heartfelt: Thank You.
A big THANK YOU as well to my podcast producer Danielle*Insert cheering crowd audio!* for your support every day, every step of the way, Danielle.
All right. This is a labor of love and you listening means everything to me. So I just wanted to make sure that I paused for a moment and celebrated this milestone.
Okay. So let’s move on to the topic of midlife. Now, if you are not yet in midlife, this is also for you. Trust me, what I know from my work with intergenerational women is that there are so many things that those who are in their 20s and let’s say 30s wish they knew when they get to their 40s and 50s. And that means listening to the stories of women who are in midlife or later. There are so many things they wish they had known, that someone would have told them or ideas or paradigms that would have never been shoved down their throats because when they got to midlife it was like a rude awakening.
So we’re going to talk about midlife all this week inside Expat Happy Hour and inside my group, Expats on Purpose, to sort of smash some of those ideas around midlife and offer support, for those who are feeling some hard bits that come with midlife.
When you hear the term “midlife,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? You got it, midlife crisis. But we have to question this term, considering it’s origins. According to an article in the Atlantic, Pamela Druckerman explains that the term was invented in London in 1957 by 40-year-old Canadian, Elliott Jaques. He studied the lives of great artists from centuries prior and himself to draw his conclusion.
In recent year we are seeing the idea of a “Midlife crisis,” are being challenged when we focus on the real crises that are happening in people’s lives. There’s a book that I really love called Life is in the Transition – Mastering Change at Any Age. Bruce Feilder talks about “Life Quakes,” and life quakes can actually happen anytime in life, and they last three to five years. They can be from something internal or something external. This is what I call Transformation. I like to think about life quakes as an opportunity to leverage that transformation in a that make the most of it for you. Some transformations you don’t get to choose and others you can sort of support.
But we’re going to talk about some of the myths and things that we have around midlife. Some things have been sort of twirling in my mind that I want to just bring out to light and see whether you think they’re true or not. I also really adore the work of Barbara Waxman. She is a gerontologist and life coach and she talks about this term “Middlescence.” Middlescence, kind of like adolescents, but for mid-age, she said, “It’s a transitional period between the ages of about 45 to 65 marked by an increased desire to find or create greater meaning in one’s life.”
Right? I totally see that happening. A lot of my clients I work with are within this range, and that’s when they’re looking for more purpose and meaning. I love that it has this term “Middlescence” and I’ll say a little bit about that in a second because if we know it’s coming like adolescence, we know it’s coming. We understand what some of the bumps will be and we have strategies to sort of get through it.
This is why I have also brought in Dawn Fleming in the Global Life in the Hard series this week to talk about the desire for a midlife reset, and Jane Ordaz to talk about Menopause. If we know it is coming, we are more prepared.
What if we felt that equipped for middlescence? What if it was just as normal as adolescence and we treated it as such and we had strategies at our fingertips to work with it? Wouldn’t that be different? Wouldn’t this word of “crisis,” go away, right? It just bothers me because this is just being human. A human who happens to be in midlife. I digress.
Now. Let’s look at what’s going on with evolution for our population where this idea of middlescence in this period from 45 to 65 might be happening. When we look at the life expectancy of the world population, so life expectancy at birth and we’re checking on data from the United Nations population division estimates, I was shocked to see that life expectancy in the 1950s globally was 45.5 for men, and 48.5 for women. What? Right? That is amazing.
So, some of you are listening, are already older than that. I know that I’m heading towards that direction. What will we be doing differently if we knew that life was on its way out in a year or two? What would you be doing differently in terms of our planning and our goals?
Imagine when life expectancy, as in the mid-40s, how people behaved differently, right? My parents were born in 1950, so they were being raised by parents who expected life to be shorter than we expect now. So, imagine all of the things that we assumed that were being taught then are now inside of our bodies, but the actual reality of how long we’ll live is changing.
According to UN data, by 2060, our global life expectancy will reach 80 years of age. In the next 40 years, life expectancy in South Africa is projected to move from 64.38 to 71.11, in Canada from 82.57 to 87.57, in Spain from 83.69 to 88.42 and in Japan from 84.77 to 89.35. So that means as a population we are growing older. Thanks to advancements in medical technology, food security and more life is expected to last longer in both developing and highly industrialized countries. Due to these advances, in some areas of the world 100 is the new 80.
Put that in perspective. We’re raised with ideas that you’re already basically old while you’re in the 40s, right? We’re raised with those ideas, but now we’re living a life where we’ve extended our life by decades from the concepts that were held in the heads of those who are raising us when we were born. So there’s a paradigm shift that has to happen also in our thinking. And when I work with my clients, it’s important for us to think about that, too. To anticipate an extended life.
And now we see why it makes sense, middlescence, this desire for creating more meaning in one’s life.
Do the math, you’re in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s. Let’s say you’re going to live in your 80s. You’ve 40 years ahead, four decades of decent health. I know my parents, they’re in their early 70s and are in impressive health. My father is still working, right? My mother is running the show like she always has. I am in my early to mid-40s. So 44, 54, 64, so I have 30 years ahead of me.
That is important when we think about how we want to be showing up in our lives. What are we going to be doing next?
And this is what my clients often come to be in their 50s. They’re asking themselves, “Now what?” and I tell you what, when this happens in a call it is like the person is on the brink of either doing something dramatically different or giving up and just settling.
Really? Someone who says they’re happy but unsatisfied.
When I look at that person, I know what they’re capable of. There’s something inside of me that just goes, “You have 10, 20, 30 more years ahead of you to shift people’s lives. To make an impact, have joy. To engage in your day, in ways that delight you,” right? Not just like, “Oh, well, I’m 50. Okay, I guess this is my life.”
How many of you have thought that. Like, “Well, this is the life I built. And here I am and I should just accept it. All right, it’s okay. I’m happy. Yeah, I’m unsatisfied. But here I am.”
I see this all the time. But what I also see are people saying, “Actually, I am going to make the most of this. I am going to see what I can do.” And usually what I’ve watched is — it takes a good year of reflection and some old-fashioned hard work at discovering exactly how you’d like to shift things and on the other side of that, they are living a completely different life. And everybody benefits.
So I think it’s important for us when we are facing one, two, three or four decades more than we had planned for back when our parents were raising us is to ask that question, “Now what?” But with the energy of excitement. Not, “Ohhh… Now… What?” *laughter*
I’m thinking of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? “Nooow whaaat?” No, Eeyore energy. Tigger energy, right? “What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do? Now what?” We’ve got this time ahead of us. So my favorite example is Julia Child. She didn’t even start cooking until after 40. And what do you know it, shortly before her 50th birthday, Mastering the “Art of French Cooking” came out and the rest is history.
So what if we took, whatever is happening with you, if you want to call it a midlife crisis, be my guest, whatever you’re feeling right now. If you are in midlife and look at whether you have Eeyore energy or Tigger energy. What has to happen for you to shift from Eeyore energy to Tigger energy? And before I go into some of those shifts, I do really want to acknowledge the complexity that midlife does bring with it. So we talked in I think one episode ago about toxic positivity. So please, with all seriousness, this isn’t, “Change your attitude, and let’s be happy.” This is, “Let’s find our agency,” right? Because I understand in midlife, many, many people are dealing let’s say, with what they call the “Sandwich generation,” where you’re raising your kids, you either have middle schoolers or teenagers which is already probably challenging enough and you have aging parents.
Maybe you’re in a marriage and you’re asking yourself, “Is this still serving me?” All of those things can be happening at the same time. Maybe you’re feeling stretched by what’s going on with your limited job opportunity because people that are younger than you are being surpassed for promotion. And you’re asking yourself, “Why have I dedicated myself this long to my work to not be rewarded?”
Or maybe you’re facing your own health and how that’s changing. I want to acknowledge that, that is all true. And one of the things that I think is important is when all of those things are happening at one time, we do not have the luxury of being sloppy with our self-care. Taking excellent care of our health, I call that, “First-class self-care,” being amazing with our boundaries and I would also invite a little mind hygiene.
What stories are we telling ourselves that are helping us feel defeated in this phase of life and instead what could we be focusing on that would really help us reclaim some of our personal power and take charge of where we are in all of the complexity?
All right. So let’s go on. I want to talk about this: The problems with a midlife crisis framing and offer a few alternatives, just to see how that resonates with you. One, I think the problem with midlife crisis. The first is the cliches. Let’s just get that out of the way. I know you’re thinking of a sports car with a guy in a leather jacket, and a secretary in a red dress, right? I just know that’s what you’re thinking. And this is a really common cliche that I have been raised with, in the media. I’m curious across cultures what other cliches come up. But this idea of crisis is something that we kind of make fun of someone who is in that case. Like, “Oh, look at what they’re doing.” Right? And we look at that as if we’re better than them. And we look at those cliches and we say, “I am above a crisis,” right? When that is our standard of a midlife crisis. Which actually will then be bad news for you if something hits you that feels like a crisis because you weren’t owning the fact that you’re human and maybe you could go through some tough stuff.
The other thing I think is a problem with this idea of midlife crisis is the word crisis literally means danger. It’s a dangerous time of intense difficulty or danger. But what if this unraveling that’s happening for you. If you’re feeling that right now, if you do identify with that, what if that is, like, the best worst thing that ever happened to you? What if, what if something is shifting and on the other side even though it’s not comfortable, on the other side is a life you can’t wait to live?
That’s another problem when people are feeling like they’re in a crisis. It’s something dangerous, but what if it’s actually saving you from a life that feels unsatisfactory?
I think the other thing that happens when we talk about when people get into a space where they’re struggling with midlife is, there’s this idea of forever. When I work with people in midlife, they look at whatever job choices they made, where they live, or maybe how they live if they agreed to, let’s say, expat life, or maybe even some of their longtime friendships or relationships. This idea of forever is there and it sets up this emotion of, “If I change something, I’m breaking something,” right? It’s like positioning your life as a brick house that you built. There’s a foundation, there’s construction, you build with bricks and they’re cemented. And if you want, first you decorate it. And if you want something different, you just change the decorations, but you have the exact foundation, the size of the walls, and the size of the rooms stay the same. The layout stays the same.
So if you’re left unsatisfied and you’ll see your life as that brick house, what are your options? Break down the house that you built for the last 20 years. That sounds awful. It sounds like a loss of a huge investment. And this is something that I see happening over and over with my clients where they come to me, feeling almost shameful. They say, “I spent the last 20 years building a life that now, I don’t know if I want,” right? And it’s like they’re looking at the house they built, they’re seeing their life in terms of a brick house. And now they’re saying, “What do I do? Do I take a sledgehammer to this or do I just accept that these walls feel small and live with it?”
But what if we looked at it differently? What if, when we’re in midlife, we’re looking at the things we have created around us, instead of this brick house that should be built and stay the same forever. What if we sought differently? What if we let ourselves see what we’ve built in our life as way more organic?
Right. Let’s play with that a little bit. Let’s play with how that shifts our energy when we look at our life, midlife. Instead of that brick house, what if we saw ourselves in a garden?
We’ve got this process, planting seeds and then we have the fruits of our labor sometimes, bugs come along and destroy what we’ve built. Other times, we have the sweet fruit. Sometimes we like to shift depending on the season and change what we’re growing. It gives us so much more flexibility when we stop looking at our life, like a brick house. And we start looking at it like something, organic like a garden. Meaning, “Look at what I’ve been planting for years. Look at the soil, the fertile soil that I have nurtured, or maybe neglected. What do I do now? What do I do now to have this garden be a place that I want to be?”
That is, I think a shift that people can look at. And I’m sharing this because I see this come through a lot in coaching. And even when I share this with you, I have like tension in my shoulder where I feel like I have something heavy on my back. That’s the energy that clients will come to me with when they’re like, “I’m 50 and I’ve lived abroad for 12 years. I’ve been the accompanying partner. My partner has a career. I don’t have a lot of professional experience. I’ve been volunteering a lot. So do I just accept this and I ride this out until my husband retires?”
It’s like this heavyweight saying, “This is the house I built. And now it’s on my back,” instead of flinging open the gates of the garden going, “Let’s look at this soil. What’s fertile? What’s not? Let’s do something.” Right?
So that’s a shift I’d invite you to make.
There’s another one that really is connected to this idea of seeing our life in a more organic way. And that is something I really hold dearly from Dr. Martha Beck when she talks about transformation. And she talks about transformation most simply like a butterfly. So there’s this adorable cute chubby caterpillar who is rocking on the beautiful floor, the soil, and is an amazing caterpillar, right? Loves life as a caterpillar and one day, the caterpillar goes, “Hmm. Kind of done being a caterpillar.”
And it wakes up in the chrysalis, but it’s not a caterpillar in the chrysalis.
And there’s like this trust that somehow the DNA will know how to reform itself into something amazing, right? That’s that space of bug soup. And when that reformulation starts happening, can you imagine how frightened that little former caterpillar is. But this thing starts to form and shift and the same thing that happens often when I see my clients in midlife. It’s like, “Wait a minute, all the things I’ve been building in my caterpillar life was really amazing,” and something is shifting inside whether it’s internal or maybe something from the outside shifted and now you find yourself in the cocoon and bug soup and it can feel scary because you don’t know what’s next. And then over time, the shape starts to form and you fight your way out of this cocoon, out of the chrysalis. And it’s that hard work of the fight actually, that makes you strong enough to fly as a butterfly, right?
So again, if you’re feeling that midlife in the hard, what if you took this organic metaphor of the caterpillar and put yourself in this story? Where are you? Are you the caterpillar? Are you in bug soup? Are you fighting out of the cocoon? Or are you in full flight? Because that is transformation, that is closer to how life usually works. Much more accurate than the brick house, right? It’s living and breathing and changing all the time.
And I get it. Right now, personally, I’m going through some bug soup right now. There’s some stuff that is shifting in me and you’ll see it start shifting as well, my business and I find myself, they are in the soup going, “Uh, really? Am I going to make it out there? Am I strong enough to fight through and on the other side? Am I really going to be a butterfly?” And then I ask myself, “What if I’m really a moth?”
So self-doubt comes right when you’re in that phase.
When I got this self-doubt and I was asking myself, “Am I really a moth?” I just Googled cool moths and I saw these awesome pictures that me feel better.
So that’s it. What if we looked at Midlife in the Hard differently? What if instead we really focused on the belief that the best is yet to come? And we thought about the time that we have in terms of possibilities kind of like being a teenager, but just wiser.
What if we looked at midlife as a chance to reset and build a life that you can’t wait to get to in the morning?
I think those are more interesting questions than, “What will I do when I retire?” What can we do to place the power in our hands? A power that society tells us we don’t have. All the ramped at ageism and especially in youth-obsessed places like the US where we’re told the best is behind us. It’s like, “Oh no, no.” What if we believed what a woman told me when I turned 40, she said, “Life begins at 40.” That’s something.
I invite you to think about it differently with midlife in the hard. How do we hold the hard and still hold our own power?
This is just a taste to get us thinking about midlife in our Midlife in the Hard series this week. It’s part of a four-week series called Global Life in the Hard and I’m really excited for us to continue this conversation.
Alright, if you want more on midlife, you can check out my podcast episode 178: Midlife Marriage Meltdown with Vivian Chiona that took place last year on Expat Happy Hour. PLUS get inside my Facebook group Expats on Purpose
This week, we’re going to feature graduates of Expat Coach Coalition, and Dawn Fleming will be there to talk about Midlife Reset in the Hard. Jane Ordaz will be talking about Menopause in the Hard. You might recognize Jane from episode 177: Mellowing Menopause with Jane Ordaz.
All right. So join us and Expat Coach Coalition inside Expats on Purpose. If you haven’t signed up yet for Global Life in the hard do so that is in the show notes. But listen before you go, I have something important that I want to say because I’m celebrating my 250th episode. It’s like my birthday and I get to celebrate a little bit longer. I would love to just do a special call-out to anyone of you who are listening and you’ve ever felt for your next step in your life is to do more to serve expats or maybe you already work with expats and you want to elevate how you do it. If that is you. I would love for you to apply to Expat Coach Coalition.
If you haven’t heard about it already, you can see some of the amazing women who graduate from Expat Coach Coalition. It is a five-month program where we focus on, one part, the Art of Coaching, especially people in global mobility, tools that I have tested over a decade that I’ll place in your hands that you can use and share with other expats through the program Adapt & Succeed. And I’ll also pass down all the things that I’ve learned in my location independent business over the last 8 years, plus being in corporate in the industry over a decade. I want to be able to share that with you, and that’s how I do it through Expat Coach Coalition. Its industry-leading professionals united by our passion for serving expats.
Listen, things are hard right now. We are needed more than ever and that’s exactly what Expat Coach Coalition does
So join forces with me and these other amazing professionals because this is a way we can help and bring resources to our unique global community. And who doesn’t want to be surrounded by proven materials that will transform your business plus amplify how your clients get success. PLUS a wonderful community of people that get you.
All right, check it out. The link for Expat Coach Coalition is in the show notes. Thank you, everyone. You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour, our 250th episode. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening. I’ll leave you with the wonderful words of Jim Palmer: “There is one hundred percent of the rest of your life left.”
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