Jean and I have been talking a lot lately about our time here in France and our transition to the next stage of life.
“Is it a midlife crisis?” I asked him. I hate that word crisis it is so negative. So doing a lot of writing I looked up the word crisis in the thesaurus (www.thesaurus.com) and found a few words; big trouble, catastrophe, disaster and my more personal favorites pickle, plight, stew. After reading the synonyms I moved to the antonyms which are what we are really after; calm peace of mind, serenity.
That’s all we want calmness and serenity. Going on our second year here we are finding ourselves waking up to the fact that we need to move through our process more quickly. We need to figure out what we want to do and where we want to be and get a move on. It sounds like work to me.
But I say to Jean, “We still have more to do. We have to finish our book and you have to finish your dissertation and my French is far from perfect.” It’s all those distractions that get in the way. Our morning walk, our two day a week yoga class, our café au lait, time with Zoé -Pascale and just plain old time to read a book, play with Zoé, cook a meal, learn to draw and do nothing!
If France has taught us one thing it is that life is not just about work. I’m not speaking about meaningful work that makes you happy, but I’m talking about the stressful side of work to meet deadlines, get caught in traffic, stand in long lines at the airport, fighting office politics, and worry about sales, profit and expenses.
France , a country of the 35 hour a workweek is helping us both to get clear on what we want and don’t want to do in the future and the type of environments we want to live and work in.
Call it unrealistic or being spoiled, but after living in a place for 16 months with no traffic jams I can’t imagine fighting highway 101 every day with stop and go traffic. I can’t imagine not having time to stop in the café or sitting down for a two hour lunch (once in a while) or walking through the vineyards.
As a result of getting clear on what we want to do we are now in the stage of where we want to do it and the challenges of making it happen. Taking out the flipchart and felt pens, excel spreadsheet and web research we develop a criteria, rate the criteria and voila the answer shall be relieved.
But no, it all comes out somewhat even. Some criteria are higher than others and some meet our needs better in certain areas than others, but the excel spreadsheet is not going to reveal the answer.
Is it our process? Is it we aren’t ready? Is it we are afraid of making a wrong decision? Is it we are trying for the impossible? Jean and I are good at analyzing ourselves to death so anyone of these is possible.
I decided to do a little research on the web and ran into an article explaining the Second Identify Crisis. As the article stated, our first identity crisis is adolescence when we need to get a sense of who we are. In midlife, the second crisis you must give up who you think you are so you can become who you were meant to be. Midlife is ultimately about the search for true meaning in life. A very deep, deep question
Jean and I are playing around with this idea and feel we are following our paths of being healers and teachers but in a new way, through his psychology, our writing, and workshops we do together in the future for others in the midst of midlife transitions.
Our challenge now is to determine where we feel we can have a great quality of life while following our mission without worrying about the mortgage.
As Nick Naylor played by Aaron Eckhart, chief spokesman for Big Tobacco said in Thank you for Smoking. “I do it to pay the mortgage.”
The difference is I don’t want to have to do it anymore to pay the mortgage. That defines our midlife crisis.