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The Cost of Awakening
"Sometimes I feel like I’m going insane.” A dear friend texts following this recent Instagram post. “You are not going insane,” I immediately respond. “Maybe you are the most sane you’ve ever been.”
Midlife awakening is everywhere we look right now.
Maybe it’s the frequency illusion. Maybe it’s the algorithm. Or maybe we have our fingers on the pulse of our own necks and are reclaiming our own vital signs in a way that feels both deeply personal and completely collective. Maybe we are so bored with tropes like midlife crisis because we see it for what it is - just one more way our lived experiences are minimized with a pat on the head and a roll of the eyes. After all, it is so much easier to write us off as losing control of our lives than it is to reckon with us reclaiming them.
Maybe the awakening in me recognizes the awakening in you.
When we say midlife is an awakening, what we mean is our eyes are open. What we mean is we are no longer asleep to our own lives.
When we say we are waking up a million times a day, what we mean is we now see what we didn’t see, couldn’t possibly have seen, would’ve never believed, should’ve never been asked to carry.
When we say they liked us better dead, buried under the sea of ourselves, what we mean is those who have a vested interest in our drowning, in our burial, in our silence, in our status quo, they will not be pleased. Our awakening will ruffle pretty feathers and rupture grotesque egos and rumble fault lines under hallowed grounds.
This we know for sure.
Part of our awakening is seeing all the little glittering ways of being that make up our truest souls. The gorgeous remembering of what we love and the wild abandon of chasing after who we’ve always been. The filling of our lungs with the sweet oxygen of freedom and acting on behalf of ourselves in a million little shimmering ways that feel like home. The reclaiming of our time and energies and the glory of saying yes to what lights us up and a firm HELL NO to anything that doesn’t.
Part of our awakening is seeing the million little micro-traumas contributing to our right-now selves. The remembering of slivers of scenes which caught in our throats in the moment. The moments that left us frozen or speechless or anxious or afraid even if they didn’t leave a visible mark. The B-reel footage of what we couldn’t quite put our finger on in the moment playing back on a loop, a glitch in the frame every damn time, the exact moment our intuition knew what our brain could not yet name. That right there, we say. Did you see it? Did you catch the way the light changed? Did you see the shadow? The only tell (blink and you might miss it) is the slightest twitch of our eye, the slightest shift in our stance, the slightest hold of our breath. Our awakening roars to life deep in our gut each time we see the playback in our mind, our own moments fall to the cutting room floor.
Our awakening is the SEEING of it all.
Our awakening is the seeing of the system and its players we once submitted to, the exchange of power in an economy we once invested in, the rewards and punishments we once collected and carried on our backs for miles.
Our awakening is putting words to what once choked us unconscious. The million little things we once took to our grave, have come back to life in midlife. And they have a voice.
Whether our awakening be a still small whisper or a shout, she arrives precisely when she means to, but she comes with a cost.
The mere act of a woman’s+ eyes blinking open in midlife awakening sends a ripple of disturbance through everything in her radius. What was settled is now being reconsidered. What was once acceptable is now being revisited. What was once true of her is now under review. And those who benefitted from her slumber, who have built their careers and their lifestyles, established their systems of control, and wielded their congregations for political power on her back, are bound to feel… quite inconvenienced. One might even call them in crisis.
When we say midlife is an awakening, what we mean is the seeing always comes with a cost. Awakening means we can no longer pretend we don’t see. We can no longer pretend to not know. Seeing what we couldn’t possibly have seen before invites us to choose ourselves and each other over being chosen, to no longer participate in our own oppression or be complicit in the oppression of each other, to release the tethers that were never meant for our mutual flourishing and the shame of not having seen it sooner. We’ve been paying the price with our own buried years, but our midlife awakening will cost us the calm waters of our sleeping selves.
The actual midlife crisis is this: The fits thrown by those who benefitted from the way things had always been. The tantrums from those with a vested interest in our silence. The discomfort of those witnessing our evolution.
The crisis is theirs. Let it be.
The awakening? She is ours.
Our eyes pop wide-open.
What was once blurry comes into focus.
Water droplets hang from our lashes.
A single drop falls and taps the surface of our sea.
Even the slightest ripple finds its way to the shore.
We have awakened.
And we are the most sane we have ever been.
The high this weekend here in the desert is supposed to be 116 degrees so it feels like a public service to share my new favorite deodorant. I’m obsessed with the Santal & Vetiver scent so when I get in my little car after it’s been baking in the Arizona sun and I start to bake too, my deodorant kicks in and basically doubles as a car air freshener. I mean, I can’t touch the steering wheel without a towel but at least I smell really good.
The Emmy noms are in and this category has me HOLLERING for every nominee except (unpopular opinion) Succession bc I'm a holdout. I tried to watch it when it first started but couldn’t get past Macaulay Culkin’s little brother. Definitely curious how the writer’s strike is going to show up and show out to the actual awards ceremony.
Speaking of good television, tonight’s only plans are to watch Jenny Han’s second season of The Summer I Turned Pretty with my daughter Carsyn. We read the book series, are firmly planted on Team Jeremiah and you cannot convince us otherwise, and we cannot wait for the NINE Taylor Swift songs Jenny packed into this new season.
Speaking of summer, I had melanoma when I was 19 and take sun protection more seriously now than ever (hence my favorite straw hats which I go through multiples of every year) so my favorite sunscreen is KEY. I used it on my trip to Moorea last year and loved the reef-safe zinc protection and preferred the mud tint to the classic white. Not even hours in the water with the whales could burn this stuff.
And speaking of sunburns, should your lips ever get a little too sun-kissed, here’s my secret trick: I’ve been using this baby product on my lips every night for the last 15 years (since Garrett was born). I read a blurb in a parenting magazine all those years ago about a celebrity who swore by it for her chapped lips and I’ve been using it every night since. Just know that it’s super thick and will stain your pillowcase. You’re welcome.