It's the tail of summer, and you've had a vacation, lifted by family, sun and sea. I'm surprised at the abundance of recent letters I'm getting about feeling dark and grumpy. While the laments run a large range, the binding theme is a malaise that is not due to clinical depression but to a gnawing angst, that you deserve better and more -- that you just aren't happy..
You love to dance and haven't danced since your son's Bar Mitzvah -- 20 years ago. You are gaining weight and instead of exercising you have developed an addiction to Pringles, which now come in seductive flavors like "Loaded Baked Potato". You are too dependent on your spouse. You miss your grown kids.
You are uninspired, blasé, or as one woman expressed in her email subject line: "Disappointed With Life."
Over the decades of compiling books on building healthy relationships and self-exploration, I've learned successful strategies on how to find fulfillment at every stage, and weather difficult passages.
Here are my top three to share:
1. Resurrect youthful passions
Resurrecting a past hobby or profession not only bolsters self-esteem it can also fortify a relationship. A 55-year-old woman wrote me that she was "drinking and crying too much" with her children living across the country and a spouse that travels for work.
"My family was my anchor," she explained. Feeling adrift when alone is a signal to find a passion within that anchors you. It's a goad to reclaim a beloved, abandoned skill, an abandoned self.
While the emptying of a nest can be debilitating it can also be energizing, as you make the sharp turn from the woman at the center of family life to a woman who must re-discover -- or re-create -- her own center. A hauntingly vacant house sparks these crucial questions: "Who was I before my kids came along? Who do I want to be now? What did I once love to do that I left behind?"
I have interviewed joyful empty nesters who loved art in high school and take up pottery in their sixties, sopranos who stopped singing in college who are now in community chorale groups, CPAs who left big firms to start families and in later years start their own tax consulting businesses. One of my closest friends just turned 60 and is completing her last year of law school, a goal she has had for 40 years.
It's never too late to start over on a path you loved, or create a new one -- especially since women in their 90s are the fastest growing segment of the aging population. With these promising statistics, at 50 you are just hitting midlife!
2. Press "Delete" on Poisonous People
When I turned 60 I realized a lot of things, for one I would never have the bikini body of my 20s. But more importantly I vowed that any persons who made me feel less-than and not more-than would be deleted from my life.
I know this isn't easy when you have toxic colleagues you must interact with daily. I'm talking about neighbors and so-called friends who drag you down.
We cannot control our hair or in-laws or the weather. We can control the flow of people we allow into our lives. And if someone makes you feel smaller, denting your sense of self-worth, that is a person that needs to be deleted.
One 59-year-old told me about troubling competition she felt with her best friend, an "exercise fanatic who had lots of work done and still fits into her high school jeans." The "best friend," this woman said, "makes me feel old and fat" -- with her biting remarks, like "Pilates will fix that stomach of yours."
I suggested that she cultivate a new group of kind friends that embrace her at every age and weight. Here's the rub on people who tell you how "sexy and young" they feel as they inch closer to 60 and 70. Sexy and young are not the right states to aspire toward as we age. If we are forever seeking sexy and young we will be forever steeped in frustration and not the deep sense of gratitude and acceptance essential for a grounded and happy life.
Birthdays past 50 likely mean we have less time ahead than the years already spent. Those remaining days and decades need to be filled with people we love, and love us back -- unconditionally.
3. Get moving!
My husband's grandmother who died two months before her 105th birthday used to tell me that her secret to longevity was that she never stopped moving, bending and pulling in her garden, strolling around the block. "My friends who stopped moving aren't around any more," Granny Mattie would say with a hoarse chuckle.
Staying on the couch, lulled by TV, amplifies the compulsion to dwell on negativity. When you sit still -- and I'm not talking about a relaxing meditation -- you are living in your head and thrust into past troubles and fears of the future. The power of the present is lost. Even a brisk walk transports you to a different place, the physical movement propels the mind onward and not on rewind.
Walking to a sweat has been my own salvation when a personal problem seems insurmountable or I hit a professional hump. I walked through agonizing grief after the loss of both parents, the craziness of four teenagers in one house, the heartbreak when their bedrooms were emptied, writer's blocks, past regrets.
A body in motion, forging into new terrain, leaves the old stuff that saddles and saddens dispersed in the dust.
Talk to Iris at iriskrasnow.com, where you can also find information on her six books that chronicle the many passages of a woman's life.