Before I left for France last month, I felt like God was saying: It’s time.
Please God, I thought, I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about, but heck yah, please let it be time. Time for revelation, time for joy, time for shift, time for release from this anxiety and fear I’ve been carrying for two years. Yes. yes. Please let it be time.
Since we moved to Florida in 2018, I’ve been reckoning with this toxic combination of fear and anxiety, which has produced in me more doubt and misery than anything before in my life. It’s like I’ve been wearing a wet wool blanket over my head - it’s dark, limiting, isolating, hot, humid and I’ve struggled to shake it off.
I’ve been irritable and impatient with myself and Sam. Flat. Dull. Joyless. Overworking. Underperforming. I took on an uncharacteristically dim or drastic view of most events, aka: catastrophizing, and while nothing was wrong exactly, it was like something had gone awry in my head, so I couldn’t even trust my own thoughts.
In the past, when I found myself in a similar place, I’d just push harder, suppress more. Hustle faster. Make the outside even shinier, but this time, none of that was working.
So guess what God thinks it’s time for?
Welcome to Midlife.
I’m 46 by the way, and what I didn’t know until recently is that my experience is actually quite normal.
Not long ago, a handful of economists identified a dip in happiness or life satisfaction in most humans (and primates actually) between ages 45-50. Even after money, geography, health, relationship and employment variables had been factored out, the data curve was obvious to the naked eye. Here’s more from Jonathan Rauch’s book The Happiness Curve.
And that makes perfect sense if you believe what Carl Jung said about the morning and afternoon of life. In the morning, or the first half of life, each of us finds our place in the world, building social structures like work, home and family. Driven by ego, we develop the construct we present to the world: This is who I am. Some people call this the container.
Eventually though, we sense that the container is, as the name implies, just the exterior, and the question becomes, what’s inside? That’s the beginning of the second life stage - Jung’s afternoon - but wait, there’s something in the middle.
Enter The Storied Midlife Crisis…
…that most indulgent of first-world problems, right? Where it’s all hot flashes, sports cars and finding yourself? Yet if the happiness dip is real and everybody hits it at varying speeds, why do we minimize and ridicule it? It’s terrifying to realize you’re no longer who you were, especially when the person you’re set to become is still a mystery. How do you even do that?
This is a widespread and predictable phase of human development, yet the discussion around it is so shallow, the options for addressing the attendant suffering are usually just commercial or pharmaceutical.
Neither of which would work for me. So what’s another way?
Lean into the pain and wait.
The midlife dip explains the natural destruction of the container I thought was me. The essence of who I’ve always been, or the soul God designed before the foundations of the earth, is emerging in its place - in its own sweet time. It’s all terribly uncertain and really, really common. What a relief.
So I get why people buy sports cars and have affairs rather than dwell in this weird middle place. Who wants to deal with deconstructing everything? It’s a hassle, and the pain of doing it is likely only surpassed by the pain of not doing it.
Isn’t God so gracious to provide an example, in the natural world, of exactly how the process works.
As worms in Jung’s morning, we eat, get fat, crawl around, do wormy stuff, God even said it to Isaiah in one of my favorite fear scriptures of all time.
Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you," declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:14
Then something shifts and the worm spins a cocoon around its whole body. Do you know what happens then?
It begins to eat itself.
Literally, that is what’s happening. The worm releases enzymes which begin to dissolve all its tissues, except for these tiny bits called “imaginal discs.”
The imaginal discs are organized groups of cells necessary for growing adult butterfly parts. They’ve been there all along, dormant, and don’t emerge until the worm - the container - has disintegrated into goo.
When the butterfly is emergent, it presses its wings against the sides of the cocoon until it busts out. This too is harsh and necessary because in the struggle, the butterfly develops wing muscles for flight.
This is cliche for a reason people.
I’m busting out.
I’ve been in the cocoon for two years - maybe longer - dying, which Jesus actually said is a necessary part of the process. If France showed me anything, it’s that right now I’m beating my wings against the cocoon to get free. No wonder that’s what I talk about all the time:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
I’m not naive enough to think all the deconstructing and dying is over, in fact I’m sure it’s just begun, but somehow I think that’s the butterfly’s journey. Don’t forget once those wings are developed I still have to fly to Mexico. So it doesn’t necessarily get easier, it’s just worth it.
This is where we’re headed at Girl Catch Fire. So if it interests you, make sure to drop your email in the red box and we’ll head there together.