This isn’t a shocking thought anymore, is it? As we grow older, we become increasingly aware of how much change takes place over the years. Some are those we choose; some choose us. But all we know is there’s a boatload of change swirling around us.
Maybe we’ve accepted that as best we can. But what about the changes that swirl inside us? We can act as if we’re the North Star, the constant in the midst of tectonic shifting. And while it’s true that sometimes we no recognize our lives, what about when we no longer recognize our selves?
I was talking with a friend about this recently. She was sharing about the insecurity she was feeling because of how much life has shifted. When we are no longer actively involved in careers, in parenting, in the relationships that were developed through each of those, who are we?
“Well, I thought I was…” There’s many ways to fill in the blank here.
“I thought I was a people person.” But now I find my circle of friends to be on the smaller side. And while it’s still fun to gather a number of friends for drinks and discussions, mostly I want to sit with one or two and dive deep into some of the strange thoughts and processes associated with this stage of life.
“I thought I was a positive person.” But now there are times I find myself dealing with sadness that I can’t shoo away. Sometimes I don’t really know the reason. And I want to know the reasons so I can replace those with reasons to be happy. None of that is wrong, and we have mostly been trained to do that along the way. “Control your thoughts, control your life.”
But what if some of those thoughts need space to stretch out and breathe? What if the sadness needs to rest for a while so it can get processed and moved through? Where do we get our daily dose of sadness training?
In her latest book, Bittersweet, Susan Cain points out that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired. I think it gets more obvious as we get older because we have experienced more dark, more loss, and more death with the passing of time. It is not an anomaly. It is part of our humanity.
It is important to remember though, when wrestling with sadness, that it is not a perpetual state of being. When we allow ourselves to sit with it and recognize that the pain and sorrow we are experiencing is somewhat sacred, our ability to appreciate the beautiful and the sweet parts of life becomes even greater.
Personally, I like being happy. It’s not my favorite to sit with sadness. But it is through the bittersweet moments of life that we learn most about who we are. We become more grateful for the times of joy, more patient with others experiencing challenges, more compassionate for those walking through life transitions.
Who are we at this stage of life and who are we becoming? This is a question I think many of us are sitting with. We live inside the paradox of living in the moment while also realizing that moments are racing by and this moment isn’t the end of our story.
There is beauty and light and joy all around us, and we now have the time to notice it and stop for it and even run into it. So as we are confronting the changes both inside and out, let’s make space for who we are becoming.
Even if we have no idea who that is.