By Candy Crawford
I turned the big 50 this year and have been reflecting more than usual. I am taken back by how profound my entire life has felt and how numinous the future appears… (read more)
By Candy Crawford
More people contact therapists for the first time in December than any other month. I’m beginning to understand why. As for me December has always been difficult on many levels. Aside from creating to-do lists and actually “doing” the things on the lists like gathering presents, recipes and decorating the house there is an unspoken expectation looming to experience Hallmark-quality memories. Amazing how something unspoken can carry such a weight, producing a dense cloud that hangs over one’s view and invades moments. Throw in dealing with the loss of someone who died in the last year and facing the holidays without him or her. Turn it up a notch and attempt to live December knowing your loved one died in December.
December fifteenth will mark the three-year date of my Dad’s death. In a way it feels like only yesterday he was working in my yard. I don’t know where three years disappeared to but I do know they are stuffed with many moments of disbelief, sobbing, palpable longings and rummaging through details of my entire life. It’s been a journey unlike any other, the pathways of grief and healing. I never signed up for this but it’s true, pain is an excellent teacher.
I’ve learned that I cannot view loss without love anymore. In time and with intention, the love that was shared between two souls does not die when the person dies. Instead of departing it actually shows up in the one grieving and presents as a gift to be consumed and carried. I’ve learned there are not only pain and suffering that one confronts but also that it’s necessary to bring one through the natural cycle of grief and healing. I’ve learned grief and isolation can be a deadly combination. I’ve learned that no one is truly alone in his or her grief. One doesn’t have to search far to find someone else walking a similar path. The community of those suffering is both plentiful and powerful and can offer deep nourishment to one’s distraught soul.
My grief still shows itself when least expected. December is still loaded although the love that my Dad instilled in me is part of each December day. I used to think I was the only one dreading the holidays and looking to fast-forward to January. Now I feel less dread and have realized I am part of a greater community called humankind, who know and thrive with both pain and love not only in December but every other month. This same love carries us through and brings meaning and color to moments and memories.
Why To Plan a Midlife Crisis
By Candy Crawford
When I was younger I perceived people in their forties and fifties as living boring, monotonous and conservative lives. Most seemed to wear glasses and were thick around the waist. I believed the dreaming, risk taking, and adventurous parts of life were reserved for the young. After all, wasn’t this why people had mid-life crises? You’d hear of a man suddenly replacing his full size sedan for a red convertible or a housewife ditching her husband to go “find” herself? Could there be some reality within this reality? Could these real life experiences be the result of a true crisis? If so, what is a crisis? Webster’s defines crisis as: a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person’s life. What is going on here that a man feels the need for a sports car* and a wife feels the need for a new mate*? (*We know there are exceptions that don’t need an explanation.) Stay with this for a moment.
Research confirms that for the majority, this is true. Something happens during this time where one begins to feel they’ve “done it all,” routine has taken over their life, and this realization produces inner havoc and often, depression. As a therapist and mid-lifer myself I am suggesting this type of crisis is not only necessary, but often times, beneficial in the long run.
A therapist recommending a crisis? Well yes and no. I don’t want anyone to experience any more heartache than life inevitably brings but there are numerous and life altering “benefits” to embracing and working within the crisis. For many of us loss of a loved one or significant pain of any kind can initiate this process.
Let me explain. Sometimes our pain is so great we find ourselves being “sifted” to such an extent many things we once thought valuable suddenly appear frivolous. We witness this in those grieving as they begin to ask questions never considered before: Why am I here? What do I really want to do with my life? Am I living my own life or an imitation? Who am I without this other person? Am I making choices from within or simply reacting to the environment or code of ethics around me?
For others, this requires a jump start on their own. In this case I am suggesting being intentional and before heading to the car dealer or exiting your marriage, orchestrate a personal mid-life evaluation/reflection time. Mark this time as critical to your well being (and those around you) and get alone for a day or two to reflect on the following pieces of your life. Note your roles, responsibilities, areas of joy and pain, even delights and dreams you held as a child. Think about your health, body, heart, and relationships. What has been life giving? What has been life depleting? Do you have a spiritual life? Are there wounds that could benefit from attention and care? For those who struggle to engage in this type of an exercise, I suggest calling upon someone who knows you well and can support your reflective efforts. For those who find this too difficult or intimidating, contact me as someone who is trained and passionate at facilitating these important processes and can help you realize both what is blocking your personal growth and help discover new possibilities. Typically individuals who neglect themselves and live reactive lives (from outside in) end up emotionally and even physically barren and with additional stress and pain. This does not have to be the case.
Feeling something flat or ferocious in your forties or fifties? Don’t ignore it. Consider being intentional and using this time as a springboard to explore new adventures, develop a deeper awareness of who you are and who you were meant to be, and begin making decisions from a place of inner cohesiveness and strength.
Or, you always have the option to search for the “remedy” outside of yourself…just don’t forget to count the cost!