As I’ve reached mid-life, I recognize the patterns eventually, if generally later than I should. Every day, every year is different, but some common themes emerge, and so I adjust based on what I’ve learned from the times before. Then there are the “mega shifts”, the really big shifts that happen every decade or so, at the most. Sometimes the trigger is obvious, like having a child. But some are just the cumulation of everything that’s happened in life until then: age, relationships, deep wounds, personal growth. These tend to sneak up on me. For a long time, I only know that everything’s “off”, but I can’t put my finger on why. Eventually, I realize that I’m the one who’s off, and that something has to change.
It’s in the middle of this realization process that people make radical, ill-advised decisions. It’s a temptingly obvious thought: when things aren’t working, change them. But we’ve all seen people we care about run from their problems, only to realize that they were carrying their problems with them to their new destination. Running doesn’t work for me. A reason to make a change may eventually become crystal clear, but I find that I have to first work to change me. Life hands all of us our share of disappointments and curve balls. If I assume that my old perspective and approach will still work in a new, permanently changed situation, I’m setting myself up for unhappiness. Even though things have changed, somehow in the middle of it, I become the frog which will allow itself to be boiled, if only the heat is turned up gradually enough. The trick, as always, is to notice the rising heat before it’s too late.
The changes in my life have cumulated enough again that it’s time for me to adjust. I must focus on not losing any important part of myself in that process and on protecting my relationships with those important in my life. But I must find a new thought process, I must adjust to my new reality. Most importantly, I must choose happiness.
“Life is the continual adjustment of internal relations to external relations.” –Herbert Spencer