Are you finding, like me, that midlife means letting go, again and again?
It feels like this is the opposite of what you’ve been doing since, like, forever. During those young ‘mama-ing’ years we told ourselves and each other to, “Just hang on! You’ll get through this stage!” We gritted our teeth and held on tight.
Just like the world at large, parking lots and shopping malls were dangerous, so we hung on to our littles. As they grew, we kept tabs on their whereabouts all the time. We watched, and we patiently waited for the next phase in their lives to appear.
Eventually, it happened. Teeth finally popped through in the baby’s mouth. Hormones leveled out for our teens. Our lives have mostly been about holding our kids’ hands and hearts to protect them. It’s been a long ride.
Now, we’ve hit midlife and we’re supposed to know how to let go……of everything. Every time I turn around, there’s someone or something that I’m supposed to let go of.
Umm. Hello?? This is a scary ride and I’m still looking for the seatbelt!
Letting Go of Our Kids
I think that the concept of ‘letting go’ hits hardest when the oldest heads off to college, or flies from the nest. Suddenly our homes look and feel different.
While change is good, initially change is just uncomfortable. It feels ‘not right’ and it doesn’t fit. I’m learning that when change is forced, it requires more work from us to adjust.
But, adjust we must.
Letting go of our kids is probably the hardest adjustment as moms. We have to learn a whole new role . I call it ‘Mom-Lite’. We learn how to teach them a little differently. We train ourselves to be a quieter, and subtler, mom. Maybe a little nicer.
The ‘mean mom’ that surfaced during the high school years, the one that pushed those teens to excel and yelled a lot, needs to go away when the college years arrive. Those kids need to learn how to push themselves. And we must learn how to push ourselves into the prayer closet.
We must learn how to release those babies into God’s care. You know the saying, “Let go and let God.”
We need to let them learn. (My mother-in-law used to have a sign in her kitchen that said: If at first, you don’t succeed, do it how your mother told you!) I’m so there!
I know, my friends, this is hard, but we also can learn. (And, spoiler alert, it won’t be easy at the beginning.)
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Saying Good-bye to our Parents
Letting go of our aging parents also requires a new mindset.
I wasn’t ready to lose my mom when it happened. I think I instinctively knew that she was ‘ready’. The fight within her was tired and she was anxious to meet Jesus.
But, I still long to ask her how to deal with my life, often. I need her wisdom and counsel. Losing a parent forces us to let go of our childhood. We lose a part of ourselves when they are gone. No one else (even we ourselves) knows us as they do. Our parents see us as amazing and love us unconditionally.
The death of my mom taught me how the grief process works, along with its unpredictability. It shows up at unexpected times. Grief is a dynamic force with ebbs and flows that expands and changes our hearts. And, grief leaves us vulnerable.
Interestingly, vulnerability is a beautiful thing that leads to authenticity. It doesn’t mean we’re weak. We crave authenticity in people we meet. Relationship is built when we share our hurts and grief, and build bridges with others who may need some help.
Feel your grief and allow it to change you and soften your heart. You will learn how to navigate loss with each passing day. I promise.
Shedding our Expectations
Perhaps you thought your life would be different by this point in your midlife journey. Are you disappointed? Are you angry at your past choices? Failures?
Let me just tell you that you must give yourself a break. I’m here to remind you that your choices throughout your life have been the best decisions that you knew how to make at the time. We can’t look back and punish ourselves over and over again. You did the best you could then. Why are we more apt to give others more of a break than we give ourselves?
We learn as we go. We grow as we go. Our past mistakes and failures are but stepping stones to where we stand today.
Here’s the pearl in the oyster: You can’t change your mistakes. (Just as important, you can’t change your kids’ mistakes.) All we can do is start fresh today.
God put you on a path that is, was, and will be different from the one you envision(ed) for yourself. Always. He leads us along to teach us to be more like Jesus. That’s His only goal for us on this earth. That goal may be very different from our own goals that seem to have landed flat. Your failures may be His successes because you learned how to be more like Him.
Midlife brings a sudden realization that our years are clicking away too quickly for all of our own lofty goals and dreams. Perhaps, just perhaps, we need to let go of unrealistic expectations and line up our own dreams with His vision for our lives.
If you’re a mom, your kids are a wonderful, and most important, accomplishment. Now that they don’ t need you like when they were small. Allow your extra time to think about the next half of your life. Allow yourself to dream some new dreams.
Banning the Bitterness
As we are forced to let go of loved ones, and unrealized expectations in our lives, we get to choose who we will become. It’s like the second half of our lives is a rebirth, so to speak. We can choose to let go of the past, and the bitterness that it may uncover.
I need to let go of the bitterness in my heart, the blame aimed at whomever or whatever that caused my unhappiness. Bitterness is toxic and morphs itself into something ugly. It strives to take over our hearts and bodies, and we must pluck it out by the roots.
Bitterness happens when we feed the ideas, or even people, that don’t need to have a place in our lives. When we tend these toxic thoughts, they take over the garden, choking out the beauty that God has planted.
How does bitterness take root in the first place? We allow it entrance. It hides behind the names ‘anger’ and injustice’ and ‘jealousy’. Weeds like these are easier to pull when they’re small. Capture those thoughts now and toss them out. We’ve got so much living to do during these midlife years, there’s no time for ugliness.
Let’s replace these weeds with flowers of new thoughts and ideas. Just let go of the bitterness.
Letting Go of our Stuff
Midlife is the time to reevaluate our lives and homes to prepare for the next phase. It’s the time we finally realize that happiness is not found in the ‘havesies’. Chasing ‘things’ just leads to emptiness.
We need to simplify. We need to let go of all the clutter in our homes and lives to make room for the new joys to come.
Midlife may also lead to ‘inheriting’ the belongings of others, like your parents when they’re gone. I’m telling you today, “You are hereby released from all the guilt of purging yourself of other people’s stuff.” There I said it, just in case it helps to have someone’s permission.
We need to take stock of what we allow into our lives. Why are you hanging on to things that may have been important to a loved one? Learn now that you loved the person, not their stuff. It’s ok to release your ‘things’ (or theirs) to bless someone else.
Let go of your clutter. Let go of your kids’ clutter. Let go of your parents’ clutter.
Is “I can’t do that!” part of your vocabulary? Let me sent you my free printable 5 Toxic Mindsets to Eliminate from your Midlife. You can sign up at the bottom of this post.
Fear is Toxic
This one is perhaps the most important. Fear is a liar and is toxic. Let go of your fear.
I’m not sure why fear creeps into our midlives like never before. Change presents new opportunities that may look strange and scary. Our familiar roles seem to be disintegrating and we’ve lost the sense of who we are.
Suddenly we are scared to take a chance on anything.
When our roles change, we can choose to stay paralyzed in fear, OR we can learn how to operate within these new (often widening) parameters. It’s like a protective fence is suddenly gone and we GET to venture out into the unknown.
Let’s see this as an adventure!!! Not a black hole!!
Nix the fear by trying something new! And, just like we told our kids back in the day, don’t be hard on yourself when you’re not good at a new skill the first day!
I really want to learn how to play the banjo. I also am learning how to not kill plants in a garden. (Yes, this is an issue for me.)
So how do you start something new? Ask a million questions. A MILLION! Take a class! Check out a book from the library! Be curious? Be willing to try! In the words of Nike, “Just do it!”
We live in this amazing time with literally the world at our fingertips! There is nothing we can’t learn about and educate ourselves with.
Become an expert at something that you’re passionate about!
Let your passion stir you to action. Then, action will nix your fear. Do one small thing every day to conquer the fear of doing something new.
What is your answer to someone who may tell you that you can’t do something?
Letting Go = Starting Anew
Midlife is a new beginning. It can be a second chance if we let it. Letting go of our kids and our parents is a process. Let’s face it, they’ve made us who we are.
Letting go of the negatives in our lives like unmet expectations, bitterness, and fear requires a new mindset of positive thinking. Clutter is just begging us to bless someone else.
Let’s use these midlife years to let go of our old ways of thinking and plant new seeds of possibility.
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