You were on a path and now you’re not.
You knew your route and had a plan but somehow, somewhere, the trail’s been obscured.
You’re too deep in the woods to see where you started and where you’re going has become muddled.
Much, you may realize, like waking up and being middle-aged.
You find yourself surrounded by a “forest” of any of the following;
a long marriage
an empty nest
no longer young but not yet old
parents who have passed
geographically scattered family members
the need or desire to downsize
a desire for spiritual awakening
career questions – too late to begin one? tired of the one you have?
time to change course?
dreams to pursue
wondering who that is staring back at you in the mirror
These can swirl about you and feel like they’re closing in on you – much like the darkness and sounds that can haunt you when surrounded by trees and brush and snapping twigs underfoot.
But I’m from Colorado and I’ve spent some time in the woods. I’ve learned a thing or two about finding your way safely out of a deep forest if lost in one. They apply, I found, to mid-life disorientation as well.
1. Get the right mindset. If you are lost in a forest, you may start to feel frantic. Try your best to remain calm.
Same with mid-life. For me, it’s been, do I have enough time to do the things I need and want to do? I can almost hear a tick-tock, tick-tock in my mind. It can be paralyzing. I fear I’ll make the wrong choice. I imagine doors closing. There’s no longer an endless succession of days ahead in my life. It’s no wonder frantic feelings ensue.
Until I remember that I can only live and enjoy, all I can ever live and enjoy, is right now. So whether we have 70 years ahead of us, 30, 10, or merely two months – to be calm and present is wisdom and brings peace.
2. Clearly mark the location where you discovered you were lost. This way if you’re walking around, you’ll be able to tell if you’re covering the same ground over and over again.
Learn, if you haven’t already, what works for you and what doesn’t.
Try new things. Remember Julia Child trying bridge and language classes and hat making, until she stumbled onto cooking in her pursuit of a passion and then had the crazy idea of starting a cooking show?
Don your Girl Scout cap and be adventurous. Cover new ground. Go explore.
3. Use a make-shift compass to help you maintain your direction.
Prayer? Solitude? Meditation? Vision boards? Written goals?
Use whatever helps you follow your own north star and keeps you from counterfeit destinations.
4. Follow water – creeks and rivers usually lead you out of the forest.
Water is clean and cold and it flows – carving its course. It’s life sustaining.
Dispose of toxic relationships. Life is too short for those.
Forgive yourself and forgive others.
Follow the flow of the river of your life.
5. Carry a whistle.
Sound the alarm so someone can hear it and come to your aid. Get someone’s attention.
So it is if you’re feeling lost at this stage of life. Reach out – to a friend, to a sister, to a partner. They can be a lifeline. It’s so comforting to hear, “What? You too?”
You’re not alone and certainly not the first to get lost for a time in the middle of the middle of the middle.
6. Lastly – and this is important – stay put if it’s dark or you’re hurt. It’s easier to find you if you stay in one spot.
Have the experience of being lost. Tough it out by working through the darkness. This is particularly important if you feel a large void in your life. Don’t make the mistake of rushing in an attempt to avoid the inner work you may need to find your bearings again.
Stay put until the light shines again.
Wonders await us on the rest of our journey.
Of that I’m sure.