“I don’t even know who I am!” laments Carol as she sits in my round comfy chair. Carol is experiencing what she would describe as her mid-life crisis. She’s tired all the time. Her kids are mostly independent. She has a job she’s not crazy about, more free time and no energy to do anything with it. On top of that, Carol feels guilty. Guilty for being tired, not wanting to ‘produce’ anything and no longer enjoying her roles as wife, mother, employee, etc.
It is Hard to Escape Roles and Labels
Our brains are set up to categorize and sort, firstly into life-threatening and non-life threatening, then other categories for the purpose of saving valuable time processing information. If we can quickly ‘file’ someone or something, we can get access to stored information that will help us navigate current situations.
Roles help us define our purpose and how to go about fulfilling those purposes. As with Carol, her role as wife and mother gave her her purpose for the last 25 years. But the thing with roles, they change. Our employers are in charge of their businesses, so our job descriptions can suddenly shift to suit whatever they mandate – not in our control. Our kids grow up and move out. Again, our job description is altered. There may be dramatic and sudden changes like divorce, death, sickness, and even retirement, all re-defining our ‘jobs.’
It is perfectly acceptable to feel overwhelmed. Change outside of our control sends us into fight or flight. We want things to stay the same because we know how to manage them, even if they’re not great. But the reality is, we have always been changing.
Our Superpower is Adaptability
Adapting is how we survived as a species thus far. Adapting is how we have created our current civilizations. Adapting is what you’ve been doing since birth. It is what we do best.
What Carol really means is things have changed. Her body’s changing, her roles are changing, and she’s not yet adapted. Carol’s body will no longer be ignored. Instead of denying its signals, we are working together to understand those signals and implement actions to restore energy to her physical being. Some of this work is emotional.
This is a process. It takes time. We are impatient. Rest and restoration is not something we are good at, yet. (Meditation, anyone?)
We Get to Define Ourselves Within Our Roles
The other good news is, besides being adaptation experts, we get to define ourselves within roles. Carol and I are working on defining her true self and then bringing ‘her’ to each of her roles. Women are getting better but have some way to go yet in standing up for themselves and saying what they will and won’t do in their jobs, in their homes and in their communities. We may willingly sign up for things, but it’s best for everyone when we bring our personalities and strengths to those things.
Carol will know she is rested and restored when she begins to see possibilities and opportunities where there was loss before. Carol will implement creative changes within her roles, re-define some roles and even create new ones.