Midlife is an interesting phase. It can be the best of times or the worst of times. More often than not, it’s both at the same time—angst-ridden but also laced with discovery and joy over strengths we never thought we possessed.
It’s also a time for deep reflection, knowing that when you get closer to hitting the half-century mark, you’ve only got 20 or 30 more years to live out your passions, dreams and goals.
For me, it’s been a great time of learning, surrender and coming to terms with many things, of facing truths and demons head-on. Of learning to dance in the midst of life’s storms, and, more importantly, of letting go.
Here are the 10 most important lessons I’ve learned so far.
One, truly strong people are kind people. When you are genuinely strong and sure of what you want, and, more importantly, of who you are, there is no room in your heart for bitchiness or for being unkind.
The strong person has tolerance, patience and understanding for mistakes. In the same breath, he or she can also tell you off in a gentle way. The strong person at midlife doesn’t put up or settle. He or she has learned to say no in a kind manner, and with such grace that the other party never feels offended.
Two, trust your gut. The stomach, scientific studies show, is actually the second brain. You know the expression “butterflies in the stomach”? Ulcers are often caused by stress, and indigestion takes place when we are saddled with worries or anger while eating.
It’s been those times when I did not pay attention to my gut that I got into trouble. Intuition is highest in women past the age of 40. If you are intuitive, harness it. Although intuition isn’t foolproof, I’ve trained myself to heed it when it’s strong.
Three, the skin is the best window to your health. After a certain age, sunblock and moisturizer become your best friends. You just can’t leave home without them. Eyeliner, and lipstick, too.
Losing sleep over a problem? Careful. That quickly manifests itself on your skin.
Eating too much junk food due to stress—that, too, immediately shows up either as water retention, dehydration or, worse, breakouts.
Four, dress your age. After 50, the mini should be a no-no, no matter how toned your legs are. Shorts, worn appropriately, in the proper venue, and in taste, are a totally different matter. Keep your legs in good shape, and shorts, more so in the perimenopausal years, can become your best friend, too.
My dad used to say, “Hide your flaws!” If you don’t have Michelle Obama’s arms, ditch the tank tops and the shift dresses.
Five, after 45 it’s all about cut, color and, yes, draping. For many years, 70 percent of my wardrobe was made up of black pieces. Last week, I was sitting in Techie Hagedorn’s shop, looking at the clothes I had just bought, happy with my purchase, and marveling at the color palette I had chosen. It dawned on me that none of the dresses I had bought were in black.
I suddenly remembered how, a month ago, my son had taken photographs of me wearing a black dress, and he wasn’t happy with the outcome.
“It’s not you, mom,” he said, and so I changed.
Yesterday, when I walked out of the building where I live, the doorman said, “Ma’am, lagi kayong bright!”
Not sure whether he meant my disposition or my dress, so I smiled back and said, “Oo nga…”
I drove off that morning with a happy heart, knowing that black was no longer a major part of my story.
Six, home is what you make it. A few days after the Bohol quake, I was seated in my dining room early in the morning, feeling a little blue over many things, mostly about all the displaced families who now had nowhere to go.
From out of nowhere, in the middle of the concrete jungle, I heard birds singing. Their music was one of the things I missed the most from my old home. Curious, I climbed the ledge to see where the birds were, fearful that they were trapped.
What I saw warmed my heart—a mama bird feeding her young. She had made a nest among the rafters on the 10th floor of the building. We locked eyes momentarily, and then I let her be. My wise friend said that if a bird chooses to build a nest in your abode, then your home will always be a refuge, no matter how small.
Never be a doormat
Seven, don’t cross oceans for people who won’t even skip puddles for you. I don’t mean the people who aren’t able to pay you back or don’t have the capacity to return the kindness, but rather those who are on equal footing with you. Martyrs are shot, and when you truly love yourself, you will not allow yourself to be a doormat.
Eight, know when to leave. Know when you are no longer needed or wanted. Endings, in whatever form they take, are always just portals to something new.
Nine, learn how to be alone. It’s worse to be in a relationship where you aren’t alone but you feel terribly lonely. Seeing old couples in restaurants, those who can keep the laughter and the conversation, whose love is palpable even after all those years, never fails to make me smile.
It’s those who sit across one another, simply in tolerance, with knitted brows and hearts so heavy, that make me think that solitude might be a better option, and that one can actually be alone and not be lonely.
Ten, surrender the outcome; it’s His plan and His timetable, never yours. I always tell my children that, in order to succeed or fulfill our dreams, we must strive to accomplish goals and give them all we’ve got, whether at work or in relationships. But the outcome is always best left to Him.
Cease to struggle, stay in the nook of His protection, and every perfect plan, no matter how long it takes, unfolds in His time.
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