Parents

There's More to Life Than Laundry: Finding Your Spark in Middle Age

In the throes of motherhood and marriage, I’d left my passions behind.
02/13/2017 12:06am ET | Updated February 13, 2017

A few months ago, on a mundane weekday morning in my 40s, my husband sent me a text.

“What’s on your agenda today?” he asked.

I stared at my phone and mustered the energy to type a response.

“Laundry,” I said.

I studied this simple word on my iPhone screen, suddenly paralyzed with fear. In my past life as an attorney, my calendar was overflowing with business lunches and client meetings and community engagements.

When I gave up my career for parenthood, these items gave way to play-dates and pre-school programs and well-child visits and Mommy-and-Me classes.

As time pressed on, the flurry of weekday activities dwindled. And as a 40-something mother with kids in school full-time, the dates were often blank, except for an occasional girls’ coffee or lunch. I worried that laundry was the only thing I’d ever really accomplish again, that my time had come and gone, and that there was truly nothing left to coerce me out of bed each morning. Midlife had indeed brought a crisis.

As we women reach middle age, our hearts have been filled with many blessings, and shredded by things beyond our control and understanding. We’ve savored and survived—some of us enduring the most unimaginable of circumstances.

In the four years prior to the text exchange I described above, life had almost defeated me. Cancer had brutally stolen my mother—my very best friend in the world. My first marriage had ended in divorce, leaving me in mental ruins. The promise of my youth had been usurped by days filled with tedious tasks like unloading dishes and buying groceries and making dinner and shuttling the kids around to their respective extracurriculars. And of course, the laundry. All thankless, non-paying jobs.

I remember thinking, I can’t accept this. Surely there’s light ahead.

Trust me, there is. And it comes in the form of a spark.

I recently wrote an article on the importance of encouraging your child’s passion and the tremendous benefits of doing so. Today, I’m writing to encourage my midlife colleagues to find their own passions (if they haven’t already) and pursue them vehemently.

Why? Because I believe this is the spark that can reignite us in middle age and power us on to the future. Yes, there’s light ahead.

In my case, it appeared after the scary laundry text from my husband. I began to think about my own passions. The things that truly make me tick, the tools I was given to leave my imprint on this great big world before my time here is through.

I thought about the way I’d always longed to write a book and how my mother had given me a journal right before she died and encouraged me to write in it. I knew that at my very core, I was a writer.

But somewhere in the thick of life—in the throes of motherhood and marriage and change and grueling loss—I’d left this passion behind. I’d lost the will to write and couldn’t get it back. Until the day of that life-altering text.

On that day, I’d moped to my laptop and opened it, almost too depressed to type anything. But I did. And now look. Here I am on the Huffington Post. I’ve been published a few times on different websites, and I’ve had opportunities that I never dreamed I’d have.

I’m currently working on a book idea. Even if it doesn’t come to fruition, it’s transformed me in countless ways. I’m a better mom, wife, and friend. I’m re-energized and looking forward to the future—for the first time in a long time. Just by sitting down to write for a few hours a day.

Midlife friends, if you have a passion that you’ve lost somewhere along life’s winding road, I implore you to find it again and chase it fervently. I’m not telling you to avoid your responsibilities, I’m telling you to identify what you love to do and incorporate it into your life each day, somehow. Believe me, it’s possible. Here are three things to help you begin:

1. Evaluate yourself. You may already have a passion that you’ve identified and are able to pursue frequently. If so, I applaud you. If not, I challenge you to find one. Analyze your midlife self. What is it that makes you who you are?

2. Seek out family and friends who will encourage you. Have you ever gone to dinner with a friend and left feeling deflated and unworthy? In midlife especially, we must surround ourselves with people who “get” us and will support us in what we love to do. We need those who will speak the truth in love and lift us up, not those who constantly criticize and tear us down.

My sweet husband has read every piece that I’ve written and given me his loving feedback. He positions criticism in positive ways. For this, I am beyond thankful. Find those who will support your passion by pushing you forward in healthy ways.

3. Ignore the naysayers. My writing has been rejected. It’s been criticized in social media comments. But I’m a writer, and it comes with the territory. As my kids would say, don’t let the haters stop you. Don’t give up. Press on.

I smile now, remembering that I’m a writer. Those who truly love me also love my desire to write; no rejection letter or cruel Facebook comment will ever take that away.

And today, I did the laundry. But I did it a little more enthusiastically. Because I knew that when it was done, I could sit down and write.

I’m not sure where this writing journey will take me, but it has certainly ignited a spark in my midlife soul that has illuminated the path forward. There is light ahead; I can finally see it. I hope you’ll find your own spark, and that you’ll see it too.