What's it like navigating growing a business while in midlife crisis? Read on!
Saturday was 75 degrees and sunny in the Bay Area. It was February 3rd so for a Chicago native, choosing to stay at home and clean the house was not an appealing option, but sadly, it was kind of a tough decision for me. The last time I wrote I mentioned I'm reading a book called "Hidden Blessings". This time in its entirety. I'm definitely in midlife crisis and have been for about ten years. According to the book, a typical midlife crisis can last 10-12 years. Some are less, some are more. In any case, I've been vacillating between several of the middle stages (according to the book) between the ages of 48 and my current age which is 51. It's been hard, but as I've moved into and through Stages 6-8 and am currently learning the process of stage 9, I've been learning to navigate the process. The past couple of weeks have been a down stage and as much as I try to pick myself up by the bootstraps (something I've always been able to do in the past), it's just not working this time. I decided to give myself a couple of days to rest and reflect and read the rest of the book, but the couple of days has turned into almost two weeks (I’m also doing the exercises that are part of the process of reading the book) and I'm starting to get the guilts.
Stage 9 of the book is about "cultivating soul-fullness". While in stage 9, one is presumably still moving through and vacillating between other stages, but in this stage you’re starting to see some glimmers and soul stirrings. I realized that I've been getting these stirrings for about a year now and am trying to grasp at them and move into "doing" which is something I'm always trying to do - pulling myself up by the bootstraps by trying to embrace, solve and act on my "soul stirrings". But the author gently tells us to let the stirrings go for now. Not to act, but just to observe and listen and let the seed cultivate and grow on it's own. Some seeds will take and others may not.
Saturday I was feeling guilty that I had taken so much "me time" in the last month and I knew I needed to clean the house, but as I read my book in bed with a cup of coffee and felt the warm breeze come through the window, I had a strong and sudden desire to be at the ocean. I needed to be there listening to nothing but waves and birds. To walk, to meditate, to lay on a blanket and feel the sun on my face. My initial thought was that I wanted to go on my own and bring my book and music and reflect on my own. Plus my husband is a bit of a homebody these days and hates to go out in Bay Area traffic in any situation so I only half-heartedly asked him if he wanted to go with me. He said yes and we started making a plan. Instead of feeling disappointed that I couldn't have my "me" time, I decided to embrace his willingness to go with me and even to his revisions of what beach we should go to. He has been my rock the past couple of years. He's been incredibly supportive during my midlife crisis (as I’ve been with his) and I needed to let go of my control-freak nature so I didn’t get bummed out that my plans were altered. We packed up and got a much later start than I had anticipated. Again, my initial thought was dread that we were going to be in traffic, that his choice of going to Half Moon Bay would suck because the traffic by the time we got there would be horrendous. that there was NO WAY we were going to find a peaceful beach with EVERYONE in the bay area going to the ocean on such a nice day. But I let all these thoughts go and decided to live in the moment and trust that somehow it would work out.
This is where the rope comes in. Brennan had read about a beach south of Half Moon Bay which required a 1/2 mile walk in. He figured not a lot of people would be willing to walk the half mile with all their crap, so that's where we headed. After sitting in traffic, but chatting and listening to good music to get us through and stopping at a market to pick up a packed lunch we arrived so late that cars were parked lining the highway at the trailhead. It wasn't a good sign. Again, I decided not to get upset, kept the faith and we moved further south on Hwy 1. We got to a dirt parking lot which had very few cars, but a sign for the beach so we parked and started hiking down the steep trail. And then we got to the rope. The trail was so steep that you couldn’t go down on your own so someone had put in a rope so you could scale the cliffside. I'm terrified of heights but again didn't give in to my fears and doubts. I watched some people climb up the rope and asked them how far it went down (that was the other thing - your couldn't see where the rope led and how long it was). With Brennan's encouragement I grabbed onto the rope and started scaling/repelling down. I was scared but I took it slow. And I made it.
The reward was being on a gorgeous beach with only a couple of handfuls of other brave souls who were willing to scale the cliffside. The beach was huge so we found a spot far from everyone else, set up our blanket and had about four hours until sunset to chat, walk, sleep, eat, meditate and feel the sun and smell the air and hear the ocean and birds and the occasional distant screams of very happy children (yes, there were two young kids that made it down the rope). It was better than I could have ever imagined. I didn't read the book. I didn't write in my journal. I just let myself fill with joy and it was wonderful. As usual, when I let life happen - even if it takes me to a challenging spot which I'm afraid I might not be able to navigate - if I choose that path and take the risk it usually ends up being an experience I'll never forget. As I sat on the beach, there were some moments I started worrying about scaling that rope back up the cliff, but I let go of the fear and didn't let it ruin my afternoon - and I made it back up that darned rope without a problem. It was actually easier than the route down - and it was all so much better than cleaning the house. How did letting go turn out for me? I am writing about it right now. It inspired me to reach back into myself and write which I would say is a pretty good ROI.
It's Monday and I was trying not to panic as I went to sleep last night. I know that I need to get back to work. I need to pay bills no matter what happens so I didn't really want to wake up today because I was scared about what steps I needed to take this week to continue on my path. It's such a long and hard process, but I'm learning to trust those inner vibrations and callings, but also starting to understand the process of letting them germinate on their own and not forcing anything and do you know what? I had two of the craziest things happen. I woke up this morning and knew that I had to remember a dream that I was having when I woke. I don't usually try to remember dreams, but I was feeling like I should remember this one. I dreamt that I was trying to get to a class. The classroom was on the second floor of a building and there wasn't an elevator or a staircase. I looked around and I found a rickety tower someone had built of old chairs. I looked up at it and knew I had to climb it in order to get to that classroom and I wasn’t sure if I should take the risk. I wasn’t sure if the chairs would hold. Then I was standing there with someone who was in my business plan writing class (from which I recently graduated). I asked her if she was going to attempt the climb. She just looked at me with love, smiled and shook her head but indicated I should climb. I climbed the tower of chairs and at the top was this gorgeous classroom with walls of windows and I had a sense that I belonged there. I looked back down at my friend below. She was still looking up at me and smiling. I knew she was choosing not to take the risk I just took, but that she was going to find her own way and we were both proud of ourselves. I know my dream moved in a different direction after that but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get that part of the dream back, but it didn't matter. I saw what I needed to see.
I have ropes to climb down. I have ropes to climb up. I have rickety piles of things I still have to scale to get to that place where I learn who I truly am and how I'm going to move forward, but I'm going to trust my inner soul more to lead the way. Almost every day I start the day by making the bed (a habit I just built into my routine to feel like I have control and completion over one thing in my life), then while the coffee brews I pray, then meditate and then do my gratitude practice. I've also decided in the past year to try not to read the news on weekdays. It's not a good way to start the day since it depresses me. Instead I use my coffee time to read or listen to something that is going to inspire me. Then I do my NYT Seven Minute workout and my stretches and by then I'm usually ready to go to work. The last two weeks I gave myself permission to let work slide. I am thankful I am self-employed and this is my slow season so I can do that. It's something I really needed to do for myself, but today I needed to revive myself and I think that dream and the vastness of the ocean experience and rope climbing helped me to do so.
Last but not least, the other thing that popped up this morning is that while I was doing a little research for this blog post, I went to Jett Psaris' site (the author of “Hidden Blessings”) and randomly clicked on "workshops". Esalen Institute is a place I've always wanted to check out - especially since I started The Healing Farm | Retreats. It's a business that has inspired me for years and guess what? Jett Psaris is doing a weekend workshop there in March and I'm actually available that weekend! I can't really afford it and put myself on the waiting list for a sleeping bag space, but I thought it was such an important sign for me that I signed up for a standard room just to get into the workshop. It’s beyond my budget, but it's something that's calling to me so strongly I need to listen.
We need to listen to our bodies and souls. Midlife crisis is hard. Starting a new business is hard. Switching careers is hard. Illness is hard. Finding your true path is hard. Watching our childhood fade as our parents age is hard. Giving up ego is hard. Not everyone will take the time to go through this process and I think that’s ok. I wish everyone could do it but sometimes is probably fine if you’re content with life as is - or maybe you were lucky enough to find your true self early in life and your midlife crisis might not get to you as deeply as it has me, but it’s still a good time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go. I’ve chosen to do the work and sometimes I still want to throw in the towel and as I always say - “want to become the bartender on the amtrak train” - but so far I’m learning to navigate the path and the glimpses I see of the daydreamer Julie that I left behind so long ago in childhood are exciting to watch emerge. Scary and overwhelming at times? Yes. But I’ve learned in life that scaling ropes and sometimes even something as rickety as a pile of chairs is worth it in the end.
I still have some work to do and some stages to complete, but I’ll learn during this stage to not try too hard to “act” and just listen for a while. That’s what I’ve done in the past two weeks and when I was beating myself up a bit (during my Sunday evening (slight) panic attack) for taking that time and not “accomplishing” anything in the last two weeks I decided to write down all of the good things and accomplishments of the past week while I thought I wasn’t “accomplishing” anything and here’s what I came up with:
I booked two weddings (for my wedding business)
I had a good and informative review of my business plan from my class advisor
I went to my graduation for my business plan writing class, had some of the closest people in my life there cheering me on and much to my surprise, ended up sharing the “best business plan” award with another classmate
Was invited to an organic farm to talk about a possible partnership or working relationship
Was invited to propose an idea to help support another retreat property development
Made a few healthy dinners and put on a batch of bone broth
Had a joyful ride on my bike
Posted on Instagram when I was inspired (social media is not my thing and something I’ve been ignoring for a while)
Worked on my self growth through reading and doing the exercises in the Hidden Blessings book
Went to the farmer’s market, bought healthy food and listened to a local musician
Hiked with a friend
Had three incredible sexual experiences with my husband
Scaled a cliffside
Not bad for a time when I thought I was slacking off. I’ll try to not "try” a little more - bit by bit.