Before last March, most of us were not very concerned with questions in the realm of Who am I? What’s my purpose? What’s my life all about? After all, when you work, care for dependents, shop, cook, volunteer, work out, clean the house, walk the dog, etc.… entertaining questions of existence is downright luxurious. The topic may not be especially timely to our midlife rapid pace. That was the case for 2/3 of the 134 survey respondents at the beginning of March. And then came Covid and everything changed. The busyness of our lives came to an unexpected and screeching halt. And for some, this unusual pause, triggered those bigger life questions.
The results of my Midlife Concerns’ Survey (survey description), found that significantly more women were concerned with existential issues after Covid emerged than before. What the data shows is that existential concerns moved up from number 8 to number 5 in ranking of concerns. This makes perfect sense to me. My own existential explorations were triggered in times of big change and transition – decade birthdays, 9-11, when my mom passed away, and then my dad, too. These transitions caused me to pause and re-examine my life, my values, my contributions to society, and my relationships.
Covid, much like other big transitions, shook up the foundation of our lives. One day things were “normal” and the next day our jobs, income, comfortable routines and physical safety are in question. So, it is not surprising that Covid propelled some of us into questioning our lives.
The Survey results also revealed that issues that were “very concerning” (i.e., welfare of kids, money, care-taking issues) before Covid became significantly more concerning during Covid. Similarly, areas that were of lesser concern before Covid (i.e., physical appearance and hormone related issues) dropped even further in significance during Covid. This also makes sense as we focus more intensely on what’s important to us when we feel vulnerable and uncertain.
One of the principles of Embrace the Middle is that midlife is a perfect and necessary time to re-examine our lives. Covid is beckoning us to take a look. So much change happens in the middle – our bodies, our nests, our parents, our relationships, our interests, and more. It’s a great time to examine if we are living in alignment with our current values, and to explore whether we’re doing things that bring us joy. This is the time to ask if we’re living authentically, or if we are living by the momentum of habits. Midlife is a bounty of gifts of wisdom and self-knowledge; we can use these gifts to clarify what we want, and to enjoy fulfilling and authentic decades to come. We just have to do it.
I hope that within the many, many challenges of Covid, you have also received a potential gift of a pause – knowing yourself more deeply.
Wishing us all health, compassion and curiosity as we continue to weather this weird time of our lives together.