The unceremonious arrival of Autumn in Berlin makes me retreat indoors and surround myself with candles and gentle music. Unless I happen to come across an exquisite example of Fall light, even the camera will go into hibernation until I travel again. Yet, there is no shortage of triggers for introspection, in an attempt to find answers to the never-ending questions I ask myself these days, hoping to find validation and affirmation at this stage in life. The wind and rain are no longer strangers, and I have learned to whisper to them while I sit on the bus on my commute home, or watch from my balcony.
This week, I am flooded with moments when I feel as though my world has just imploded and was left out in the storm without any protection. A series of unfortunate events can easily push me off the track that I considered thought was safe and predictable for the time-being. Life just doesn’t always work the way I would prefer it to, and seems to be constantly testing my inner strength, faith, courage, and emotional well-being.
Midlife has a funny way of catapulting me into taking stock of my life and lead me towards crossroads I never imagined possible or considered viable. I have passed the point where my needs no longer consist of ambitions of grandeur and worldwide success, but of making the world a better place for others to live in, of sharing, of giving, and learning to enjoy myself without feeling guilty about it. I have turned my back on the desire to accumulate material wealth without sharing, and instead find fulfillment in sharing without accumulating. It is a return to simplicity and the complexity of abundance.
Now that I am in my 50s, road bumps are part of my daily existence. Tantrums never worked for me as a child (my parents harboured 0 tolerance for such nonsense), which resulted in a gross inability to freak out throw a tantrum as an adult. I was taught to always be in full control of my temper, my words, and my faculties, which means I makes a lousy sparing partner for a fight if anyone wants to pick one. Running away doesn’t work either, if anything, it simply makes matters worse.
I have the unfortunate tendency to be over-adventurous and not afraid of taking risks, much to the chagrin of those around me. To hell with the risk and fear, I will figure it out as I go along is my usual motto, in the hope that I will find something to latch on to for safety and sanity. This, I realise now, was very characteristic of my mother, who seemed to live her entire life jumping off the deep end and then figuring out how to make the situation work for everyone. My answer has always been contemplative action, digging deep within myself to unleash a new form of courage that I wasn’t consciously aware existed. When nothing else works anymore and I feel as though the world has turned its back on me, I always have prayer.
I was recently asked how I bounce back from tragedy and grief after being pushed over the abyss. I am not sure I have fully done so. I am still grieving, not just the loss of my parents, but of myself, and to be honest, I miss my old resilient self.
My soul drifts out of the tunnel of doubt with courage and faith. What didn’t work out today, or what was too painful to handle now, will look and feel differently tomorrow if I allow my soul and mind to undergo a spiritual paradigm shift. It is a matter of finding that balance between reason and passion, not necessarily compromising, but learning to take steps in the right direction.
Midlife has long ceased to be about that instant gratification, that horrible lie that complicated our youth and prevents our present selves from attaining fulfillment, equilibrium, and peace of mind.
It is about fulfillment and serenity, contemplation, service, and survival;
It is about bending in a different direction, counting your blessings, learning from the past, and letting go of all the unnecessary baggage;
It is affirmation of what you love;
It is a validation of who you are and your life treasures;
It is all about gratitude.