Dear President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama,
I write to you not as President and First Lady but as two middlescent adults with 8 years of wisdom gleaned from your rarified roles serving our country. You are so different from the rest of us in so many ways: you have lived a 'role' perhaps even more than living your authentic life. Yet you are also so very much like us. You been courageous, you've fallen, you've willed yourself back up; you've tried to balance the insurmountable demands of work and have not wanted to give your family short-shrift; you've tried to attend to your loving relationship but have had to promise more of that in the years to come.
The challenges you face as you transition from your pinnacle roles to--who knows what-- may make you feel alone but you aren't. You are middlescents--part of the heretofore unnamed stage that more than 82 million Americans are now experiencing.
As a middlescent you are living through a time of growth and change--you may complain to one another that your body is morphing -it takes more time, energy and attention to cultivate your vitality. You know you aren't young anymore and you also aren't old in any way shape or form. Your relationships will certainly be shifting...sound anything like the life stage of your daughters--adolescence?
No surprise. The stage you are in, Middlescence, may be best understood as something akin to a second adolescence, but with wisdom. Between the ages of about 45-65, middlescence is marked by an increased ambition to find or create meaning in your life. Often accompanied by physical, social and economic changes, it is a turning point from which you continue to develop and grow--yes there is so much life to be had and learning to come!
With gratitude for your service I'd like to offer 4 tips to help you launch to perhaps your even more fulfilling next stage:
1. Take time to reflect.
By now you know that all things come in time. Be kind to yourselves and allow the lessons learned to unfold. People will demand pearls of your wisdom -these things can't be rushed. Don't expect to know how to live life 'the old way' but have a beginner's mind (link here to a definition of beginner's mind). Take the time you need to figure it out.
2. Know what makes you thrive.
Your lives have been largely prescribed so that time has probably been out of your control. Don't fool yourselves into thinking that time management will be the answer to your ability to powerfully engage with those things and people you care about. Rather, it will be the energy you have to bring to those efforts that will make all the difference.
3. Plant your guideposts deeply.
I'll never forget Michelle's finely tuned and finely timed words: "When they go low, we go high".
This is an example of a guidepost. Co-create your short list and live by these. By marrying your inner values with your choices and actions your guideposts will help you and all those you touch to live a life of meaning.
4. Experiment, reflect, have mandatory fun.
You will still be in the public eye but my wish for you is that you don't carry the weightiness of your former roles with you. Take the steps above and play with them. Have a lightness in your heart in a way you could not have before; laugh and don't underestimate the power of play to clarify even the thorniest challenges.
5. Hold your family close.
I know that thinking about your legacy will be on your mind. Don't fall into the trap of getting stuck in the present to try to ensure just how your impact will be remembered. Remember what you two already know--it's ALL about relationships.
Look deeply into Malia and Sasha's eyes--the answers you seek surely lie there.