I can hear it clearly now… the low rumble of the distant thunder as it approaches us swaddled in swirly winds, drenched in shotgun showers shooting through the evening sky.
These are the winters of nowadays influenced by years of cronich climate change.
The skies infuriated by our lack of caring; exploding into gushing winds of weeping downpour, fiercely flooding fields nearby and way afar.
As Mother Nature tries to warn us of our fate, we look around and wonder why the snowy days of this cold season are so late. Why winter’s lost its cheerful chill and frosty bite.
Naive in hope the people say: “it may freeze tomorrow, or soon again some day“.
I see it all play out in front of us, praying we have taught our children better for their sake. For if we’ve not, the brontides will become much louder, rumbling more and more like hungry bowels in desperate need of nourishment, until we realise, that what we willfully un-hear we’ll end up feeling furiously as weathered storms take over winters past.
It seems I’ve been riding the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime these past two years. What started out as a crash – where I sunk into meaningless grayness that left me numb for many months until I started digging my way out of there through talks with my psychologist – has turned into the most transformative time of my life. That being said, I still hiccup along the way. I struggle and often cry for many or no reason(s) at all. Yes dear friends, I’m fifty and not only have I uncovered my deeply hidden childhood trauma’s that, after years of neglect and denial, threw me into an unexpected burn-out, but my peri-menopause has decided to enhance the experience by adding quite a few aches and pains of her own to this stage of my life.
So, maybe I should start with a more proper introduction, before you leave my substack, never to return. I go by Mies, short for Michèle a name no one can spell properly, so my easier to spell Dutch nickname ‘Mies’ serves me well. (It’s pronounced ‘Mee’s’ for those of you who might be wondering.)
I have three wonderful, young adult children, who help me see the world through their wide-scoped eyes whenever mine are shortsighted. Their father and I divorced when they were very young and however much I would have liked to have spared them the pain of it all, it instilled an extra dose of sensitivity and compassion into their already kind souls. They are empaths in a, sometimes, harsh world looking for their own path in life. I am extremely proud of them.
Midlife, in a nutshell, has made me insecure about my life and myself. I feel vulnerable, suddenly unseen and unattractive. The latter is of course due to all the changes going on in my body. I’m only slowly getting used to this new version of me. This new stage in my life feels a bit like the ‘still-in-my-cocoon-phase-but-slowly-on-my-way-out’. I have no idea how I’ll turn out once I’m ready to maybe spread my wings again. I’m sure many other nearly-fifty-year-old women can relate to this.
The peri-menopause is full of twists and turns, aches and pains and mood swings that would make anyone run away from you at times, including yourself. Having said that, it is also a time of intimately getting to know yourself like never before.
I’ve been confronted with the darkest corners of my mind, the ones where the scars frantically hide away from the light of day. The ones where grief and heartache hold each other tight in fear of letting go and standing alone. The ones where nothing makes sense and where life itself is forever questioned. I used to avoid those dark nooks, but I find solace in them now. They are a part of me that needs to exist, if only there.
I’ve been confronted with the darkest corners of my mind, the ones where the scars frantically hide away from the light of day.
Meaningful purpose, seems to be the loudest and strongest phrase that swirls around my mind non stop. Whatever the second half of my life brings, it must bring meaning and purpose! I no longer just want to survive my days, or merely exist. I need more, much more. And however loud it calls me, it asks no greatness in its fulfillment. A mere act of kindness or service is enough. Enough is another key word.
So what are 5 new things that I’m trying out at midlife?
SELF COMPASSION – After years of lovingly taking care of my kids, family and others around me, it’s time to take care of myself too. I was always at the end of the list but my breakdown has forced me to understand why I need to be at the top of the list and that it’s NOT a selfish act, but purely a necessity. To use the most common example ever: ‘you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you’re able to help others’. After years of travel and hearing cabin crew repeat this before every take-off – who knew this valuable advice applies to life itself!
GENTLENESS – It’s okay that I am no longer able (or willing) to do everything planned on a given day. I try to not carry around the guilt or shame of no longer running myself mad in the rat race. It’s totally fine to do what I can and just be. I am enough and what I do is enough too.
BREATHING – This may sound strange, because we all breathe, day in day out, but I’ve realised that breathing is more than just simply letting air in and out of our lungs. It’s a gift of life. It’s about taking the time to breathe properly in order to help calm ourselves and our nervous system, especially but not only, in times of stress as well as properly fueling vital organs with a more conscientious supply of oxygen. Every breath is a gift, treasure it.
READING – Yes, reading! I have devoured books like I used to fanatically read my Nancy Drew’s, Enid Blyton’s and Roald Dahl’s under the duvet covers in the soft light of my flashlight back in the day. The more I read, the more my world opens up. Each time I read I step into someone else’s adventures, experiences, thoughts and fantasies and these have paved a path into my own imagination expanding it’s borders and flushing it with never before seen fragments of stories, colours and possibilities. I love escaping into a book to find a part of me that I never knew existed.
WRITING – Thanks to my favourite writer and best-selling author Beth Kempton who – unbeknownst to her – helped me discover the healing power of writing through her many books (yes, I have them all!), courses as well as free writing sparks shared on her instagram and across all her social media platforms – including Substack lately (the main reason I dare to write and share this post today). Her writing prompts have been life savers for me these past two years and I encourage anyone who is struggling to not only find professional help – if needed – but to join this years Winter Writing Sanctuary to experience Beth’s magical way with words and to find your own magic. Thank you Beth!
This old blog has been seducing me for a while now. It feels like I’m stepping back into my head and heart by returning to this place. I guess that means I might have taken a long enough stroll to the outside world looking to find different aspects of myself as well as my purpose in life.
I haven’t quite succeeded in either of those endeavors but I do feel I’ve gotten closer than I’ve ever been before. I guess that’s the most we can hope for as each step leads to the next and every experience offers us growth if we allow it.
I miss the times when I used to share my thoughts and adventures with others through my writing. I felt connected to so many of you, if only by the string of words that I wrote and you read.
My blog fell to the background these past few years, not because I didn’t have the opportunity to write, but because I felt there was nothing left to say on a personal level. As if my inner being had dried up, expired and sold out. As I write it down it seems odd to think that at a time when I was actually most productive (or so I thought) my writer’s soul quietly took a seat in the corner, patiently waiting for a new chapter to start.
And a new chapter it is! It may not be filled with exciting new plans, hot dates left and right or even an actual idea of what lies ahead, but I feel – now more than ever – thrilled to enjoy this moment.
The past few years were packed full of action and creativity. I co-wrote two books that were not only published but sold more copies than ever expected. I created my own online platform: Mies; a place where people in divorce situations can find solid advice and read other people’s experiences to find relief and recognition. I co-created another online platform: de Wereldwijven – for and by Dutch women all over the world to connect and share their stories to inspire others across the globe. And I translated so much interesting content that I feel I was schooled all over again.
Two of my children (the girls – who are now actual adults) have gone off to college and my son inhabits the ‘west wing’ of our house whilst I enjoy living in the girly pink side of our home. We get together for dinner talks and laundry quarrels. My parents have moved closer by and my dad was lucky enough to receive a donor kidney at the age of 75. He’s healthy and fit, but to quote his own dry sense of humor: the new kidney will probably outlive him. I keep insisting it will give him another 75 years, or so.
There has not been another great love in my life since I last blogged and I think that I’ve kept busy if only not to notice it missing. Life has a way of offering that what you need, when you need it and not when you don’t. My heart took a long break to heal and I can only hope that it grew back a bit more resilient this time.
This year has been a true eyeopener for me, in many ways. It has brought me patience, self-reflection, rest, calm and an even bigger sense of gratitude. It has brought us together as a family and taught us that we don’t have to like each other every day to know that we love each other always.
For the very first time I planted a seed and watched it grow. Radishes, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, raspberries, blueberries, fresh herbs, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, parsnips, you name it – I reaped it! I never realized what it would feel like to be a part of nature’s natural cycle of life, from beginning to end. All of a sudden life made sense. It made me more appreciative, of the taste, the smell and even the effort it took for a seed to become the food we ate.
Joy is the seed that grew within me this year. After years of rushing about, stressing out, trying hard not to fail, fearing the future, not knowing if the road I was on was the right one, I was hit by the pauze button. But like a long high-speed train, it took a little while for it all to come to a complete standstill, it screeched and bolted for some time before there was an absolute silence. It was this silence that stated the obvious: I needed to make some changes that were long overdue. How is it that you can be so stuck in something that you don’t see the signs? Or maybe I purposely ignored them to avoid the disappointment of yet another possible let down? And how right my gut feeling was to know that some things in life are what they are.
Suddenly there is time to ponder again. To imagine a different life, a new road with brighter horizons. That’s where I’m at. I’m taking it in, breathing it through and making it mine to explore. This new leap of faith with no definite destination or direction is bound to go somewhere. All that is clear is that it comes from within and it’s on its way out. Let’s see where it goes….
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