Just because I’ve made it “over the hill” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s smooth sailing from now on. As a matter of fact, think back to when you were a teenager still walking riding your bike everywhere you wanted to go. Couldn’t you just taste the freedom and all the possibilities that were waiting for you when you reached those magic ages: 16, 18, 21? And, of course, you weren’t disappointed, were you? All that freedom and all those possibilities were really there for you, weren’t they? But, along with them came sets of duties, obligations and responsibilities. You may have been aware of some of them beforehand, but, until you made the transition from dreaming about the opportunities that awaited you to actually living them, you didn’t quite appreciate how big a deal they were, did you?
The situation has a lot of similarities to the way it appears when you make the transition through midlife into maturity. However (and this is a big difference), most people secretly dread having to get older. Yet, perhaps, when people read my articles or attend one of my teleseminars, they may begin to have the realization that the midlife transition starts a new and improved chapter in their lives: one where they’ve been released from their bondage to other people’s expectations, and they experience (perhaps for the first time) the freedom to follow the urgings of their own spirits and live the life defined by their own personal destinies. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not – it’s very real. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t another ‘side of the mountain’ as the song suggests.
Over the course of a number of years, I’ve slowly shed the layers of inherited beliefs, opinions, assumptions and expectations that carried me through childhood, adolescence and adulthood and took me into the midlife transition and beyond. Each layer was as much a part of me as a layer of skin. Some layers sloughed off, others peeled off, still others had to be scrubbed and abraded off. Growth most often feels like peeling an onion; with the caveat that the onion is you. Every time you take a layer off, after the initial sting, you feel renewed and rejuvenated, as though you’ve left some unnecessary baggage behind and you step forward just a little more lightly, with a little more freedom in your step. At some point in this process, you experience the conviction that you’re finally at least 51% authentically you: you’re at the watershed point.
So, there you are, like the proverbial bear, on ‘the other side of the mountain’ to see what you can see. And what you see is that there’s indeed a whole other side of the mountain. With your elevated sense of integrity and freedom, you also connect with a sense of responsibility the likes of which you’d never known (or maybe even imagined). You stand exposed, mid-transition, mid-process, with the realization that there are no more excuses; that your Higher Power has given you all the tools you need; and that now it’s up to you. Who? You? Yes: you!
They say that ‘ignorance is bliss’, and sometimes I’m tempted to say that about the years before I went through the midlife transition. Back then, I could pretend that I didn’t see what I saw, know what I knew, feel what I felt. And, I could blame it all on other people: my parents, my upbringing, my culture, my boss, my loved ones . . . anybody . . . everybody. I didn’t have to feel like ‘the buck stops here’ and, for all that happens in my life and for all the ways I respond to what happens in my life I am responsible. But, like knowing the answer to a riddle or the punchline to a joke, you can never again honestly pretend you never knew it. At least after the midlife transition, you can’t ‘experience it again for the first time’, in spite of what the advertisement suggests. Once you’ve seen ‘the other side of the mountain’, you can never go home again.
I’ve been having a tough time emotionally over the last few weeks. This living in your integrity and being responsible for the quality of your life can be a real drag at times. Sometimes, I almost wish that I didn’t know all that I know. Knowing the truth too often really does spoil the fantasy. I’d like to say that I’ve outgrown the fantasy and want to live 100% of the time in the real world; but, if I said that, I’d be lying. There’s a sort of perverse comfort in knowing that I can always escape or put the blame for what’s happening in my life or how I feel onto someone else. I understand intellectually that making mistakes is the only way I progress and grow. Yet, having to take ownership of each time I screw up gets old really quickly. I know intellectually that pain is just the universe trying to get my attention, but doesn’t it seem like it would be nice once in a while to pretend you weren’t listening? Ogden Nash once wrote, “When you see a panther crouch, Prepare to say ‘Ouch!'” Sometimes, when your mature eyes are wide open, you notice that there seems to be a panther crouching behind every bush.
I suppose that the ‘bottom line’ for this little meditation is this: doing good isn’t always feeling good. What’s on the other side of the mountain? You don’t need me to tell you that: you already know. Life is on the other side of the mountain: your life. It’s not a dress rehearsal, it’s not a fantasy. It’s as real as can be. And, although nothing can give you so much or take you so far as real life, at the same time, nothing hurts quite so much as a giant dose of un-sugar-coated reality, garnished with the knowledge that you always have the choice to say ‘no’, and you’ll have to live with that choice, too. So, take my advice: stiff upper lip, bite the bullet, take your medicine, embrace reality (even with all its occasionally nastiness), and move forward with the knowledge that you were mature enough to live life on life’s terms, unflinchingly and unapologetically – with the peace of mind that only comes from knowing that you’ve done whatever you’ve needed to follow the destiny you’ve been given, and, in the end, you’ve nothing really to apologize for. At least, that’s our goal for today.