Midlife Women After the Wham

personal property in carton on office desk
personal property in carton on office desk

As a woman in midlife we possess a particular depth of experience, a sense of hard-earned cultivated wisdom -- and we certainly deserve that distinction. We've raised kids, managed households, lead careers, engaged in marriages and relationships, cared for our aging parents and then -- wham.

In 2008, I ran up against my wham. I was a 22-year veteran exec of a Wall Street firm who was unceremoniously shown the door. I was faced with a real conundrum. My identity was tightly woven around and through the walls of that tall, shining office tower. It may as well have been a long-term marriage. It was what I knew. And I achieved, full out. I was earning in the top tier, raising my kids in Manhattan, married 15 years -- plenty to be proud of.

However, my intrinsically rewarding life was instantly obliterated when I was forced out. My identity was shattered. Five days later, I lost my father of 92 years. He was my hero. He raised me from age 6 by himself, along with my two older brothers after we lost our mother tragically. I was no stranger to sudden loss -- it coursed through me all my life.

Practice in loss doesn't make one a pro at grief. It does, however, serve as a point of deep reflection. Choosing to positively incorporate the recognition of mind-blowing loss initiates the road to recovery and honors the blessings of that person or experience gone by.

Through the darkness of personal collapse I slowly evolved, finally realizing that softening into gratitude beats the vulnerability of grief to the punch. Gratitude for the six years I had with my radiant and extraordinary mother. Gratitude for my loving and heroic father who inspired me to be the resilient survivor that I am today. Gratitude for my two older brothers who loved and protected me as the three of us grew up motherless. Gratitude for being alive today to watch my sparkling children grow.

And ultimately, gratitude to the firm for showing me the door, offering me the gateway to the best chapter of my life. Once I got up off the floor and the shock subsided, and I finally stopped feeling like a victimized, washed-up old troll, I realized they gave me the gift of liberation: the golden opportunity to create a life I love. A life fully expressed.

Once I made my way out of the hollows of despair, my mind's eye saw a fresh, clean, white canvas. I reached for the most vibrant colors and began my dazzling re-creation, etched in my divine signature, as my authentic self, and all on my own terms. Today, there is no delineation between my professional and personal life; it is together, all a clear reflection of who I am essentially.

Identity loss is to rebirth as change is to evolution. Both painful, both bursting with opportunity. I created A Zestful Life as a place to serve women motivated to reclaim, recreate and rejuvenate through big life changes; a place to support women crafting their own customized and artfully blended life. Because there is no such thing as a balanced life in today's world.

It takes more than optimism, hope and future-mindedness to revitalize a shattered identity. It takes being deliberate, staying committed and creating a plan. First, we identify who we are essentially vs. who we've become socially to satisfy our personal "board of directors." We also engage in the energizing exploration of identifying our passions and character strengths. Using our natural talents and strengths in new ways serves as the critical underpinnings of recreating a wholehearted life, a life well-lived. Overall, the deeper we understand how to create our personalized recipe of the elements of well-being -- positive emotion, engagement, relationships with others, meaning and purpose, and achievement -- the better positioned we are to thrive.

I believe the power of coaching is a pre-eminent catalyst for human change. Funny enough, I did not choose coaching. It called me. In his book "Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being," Martin Seligman cited sociologists distinguishing between jobs, careers and callings. Jobs are for the money; careers are for promotions, benefits, and the hope of longer-term security. A calling is different. Seligman describes a calling as "a passionate commitment to work for its own sake."

What called me to coaching? As I became a student of my own well-being, coaching was presented with distinct clarity. What better way to spend my days than exercising the best parts of myself? Ask yourself: What are you doing when you're at your best? What's your secret sauce that people can count on you for? It's time to create a life around that.

Do what you love. And do what you do best. Get deliberate. Get inspired. Get going.

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