Last week I invited readers to share their thoughts about midlife. When dealing with this (or any) transition, it is good to know that others are doing so, too. Here are some of the notes I received. My thanks to everyone who wrote.
From Barbara in San Antonio:I read your column on one of the worst days ever of my midlife crisis. I am 42, a mother of two, and a schoolteacher. Stress abounds, but you hit the nail on the head with your point that "You are who you are, not who you thought you would be." I am happy with my life, despite its challenges, but lately I have been plagued with the what-ifs. Thank you for making me feel I am not alone and making me see the value in all that I have accomplished. I cannot express how much your words have helped me.From Renee in Miami:All my life, I taught literature and thought of myself as an intellectual. But when I hit middle age, I reassessed my life and found that I wanted to work with children. I quested for innocence and regrowth instead of desiring brilliance. I became a media specialist at an elementary school, where I see children grow from preschoolers to 5th graders. This has given me a new sense of direction that was missing in my cerebral stage. I know that I am better for it.From Brenda in Houston:At midlife, I realized that I had been someone's wife, mother, daughter, employee, punching bag, etc., since I was 16. It was hard to realize that my life was not turning out the way I wanted it to. I got professional help.Now, I feel more at ease with being me. I always took care of everyone else and now it is my turn to enjoy what I like. Regrets? None. The past is what it is and life is what we make it. Midlife looks restful and I can finaly exhale.From Sharon in Colorado:
My transition: From divorced at age 50 to remarried at age 54, with stepchildren, new husband's prostate cancer, grandkids and all that a second marriage brings. My method: A sense of humor and tremendous love. We thank God each day for our good fortune, our deep love for one another and our second chance at love and life.
From Linda in Rochester:
I am a wife and mother of four adult children. I work full-time as a medical secretary and am in my second year of Nursing School. I decided that I needed to fulfill my life's dream before it was too late. I have the support of my husband, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.My life had not come about as I have planned, but the trials and tribulations have made me a stronger and more confident woman. My husband and I had hoped to live our retirement years with less stress, but now we need to consider the medical and financial implications of Parkinson's disease. We have begun to prepare for the future. It is not easy, but it is necessary.
From Robert in Oregon:Is 40 really midlife anymore? I am 39 and don't feel like I'm at midlife. I can still do many of the things I could do 10 years ago. While I do have more "stuff" and therefore more to lose if I make a mistake, that doesn't stop me from taking chances. Maybe as I approach 50 I will think about slowing down, but not now!
From Patricia in Philadelphia:
What helped me keep my head above water when I realized I was no longer turning heads and that those stubborn 10 pounds were here to stay: My husband and his sense of humor about it and me. He reminds me to laugh — often, loud and long.From Elisa in Dallas:At 39, I've come to terms with not having gotten married and had children. I still struggle with others’ negative perception of my life and choices. I feel that I have earned my independence, and I very much enjoy my life as it is now.From Mark in Knoxville:In my late 30s, my wife and I started taking dance lessons. That became a social activity, then a pastime, and then we became amateur competitors. Early this year, we turned professional.
At 43, I am in the best shape ever. Midlife for my wife and me is a new beginning. Not satisfied with what we have, we want more: more from life, more from our day and more from every moment. My goals are much higher now, and my age is not going to determine when I will settle down.From Julia in Oregon:As a single parent without child support or an involved ex, now that my children are preparing to leave for college, I no longer have to stay in the dead-end job that allowed me kid flexibility and paid the bills but offered no room for growth.
I am exploring new career options. My boyfriend of two years suggests we'll get married when the kids are gone, but I like having my own home and my independence, and am not sure I need to get married at this point in my life.
I go to the gym at lunch, lift weights with the other "manly women" there (as our trainer calls us), and run four miles a few times a week. I have equity in my home. I dye my hair red. These things are good. On the other hand, I am sad to think of my children actually leaving home, and a dear friend is ill with cancer. My parents are both dead. So life does not stand still. I am 47. My younger, childless, 43-year-old sister refers to herself as middle aged! I say to her: You may be, but I am not. From Gerri in Ohio:
I am 47 and sometimes wish I had made different choices — but I have now taken almost complete control of my life. I lost 80 pounds and started a doctoral program, which I have always wanted to do. By the time I am 50, I will have my Ph.D. Midlife? In many ways my life is just beginning!Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book, "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts" (Penguin), helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2005 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.