Discover more from Your Midlife Matters with Alana Kirk, the Midlife Coach
Are you living an AND life or an OR life?
(And why one is better than the other)
There are so many fabulous things about being a midlifer today - being younger for longer with an extra couple of decades for starters. And for women especially, unprecedented opportunities and freedoms and a chance to really redefine outdated paradigms and expectations of who we can be and how we can live our lives.
But there are also quite a few trip wires on this odyssey of redefining ourselves, our roles and our possibilities.
And one of those tripwires can be you, dear reader. Yes, sometimes you need to just get out of your own way!
Sometimes you can get really stuck trying to make a decision between two options. Or you can decide to label yourself with one option, and forever languish in that mire of teenage angst. It can be the scarcity of OR, versus the abundance of AND.
Since being a rubbish hockey player at school, I’ve carried the label “I’m not sporty” for decades. Sometimes a groove we set in the record of our mind can then taint all the songs we sing. When I believed I was either sporty or not-sporty, it diminished my desire to get involved in certain activities. When I finally realised I could dislike hockey AND be active it opened up so many possibilities I went looking for them everywhere.
Two things can be true at the same time: You can be a good parent AND get it wrong sometimes. You can be really busy AND take time to rest. You can be the practical parent / partner / daughter AND be playful. They are not mutually exclusive, and yet…… that tripwire is an insidious, invisible little bugger sometimes as we get too caught up in the culture of either / or.
But getting curious around the realities, possibilities and breathing space in the 'AND' can change everything. Especially at midlife when the groove can get a little well worn.
I see it all the time with my clients as I coach women in midlife, where they get very stuck in the this way OR that way way of thinking. They get stuck because there are pros and cons for each but they think they are mutually exclusive:
That idea OR this idea.
That option OR this option.
They label themselves in a certain way - I am this OR I am that and there is no room for grey (which makes us all grey haired).
Or they label their situation:
I’m very busy - because they think the OR is - I’m not very busy.
I’m overwhelmed - because they think the OR is - I’m very chilled.
I’m not good at making decisions - because the OR is - I’m great at making decisions.
When actually the reality is usually somewhere in the middle. The ANDs become:
I’m busy AND I can take a rest.
I’m overwhelmed AND I can get perspective on some areas.
I’m out of practise making good decisions AND I’m learning to think more / ask for help etc
It comes up a lot in marriages, often as either his idea OR my idea. When I try to explore with them what an AND might look like, so much opens up. For example, I have a client who is struggling with a decision to move back to her husband’s country of origin. She’s terrified that she’ll be lost forever in that world (which isn’t bad at all, it’s just that it’s not home). It’s almost become a dealbreaker between them and the marriage is at stake. So as part of our bigger coaching work of just checking in with who and where she is right now at her age and stage of life, I encouraged her to pull back and see how their lives might change over the next 5/10/15 years. When she realised that actually her kids will have finished school in five years and they can reassess again what their next steps are for them as a couple still in their 50's, I posed the question: Is the decision to move country about either his way or your way? His country or your country? Forever or never? Or could there be some creativity in the AND? Could they move country (where the schools are great) AND reassess in 5 years when they embark on a new phase of their family life as a couple with adult children? Is it the ultimate decision or is it merely a particular decision AND there are endless possibilities ahead? It has taken all the tension out of their discussions and is allowing them to listen to each other and work as a team not two opposing sides.
It comes up enormously too in separating or divorcing couples. It becomes very bogged down in the blame game of he wins OR I win and I spend a lot of time coaching my client on trying to find the solutions in the AND. (I’m actually running a workshop next Tuesday 20th June called Break up BUILD UP which will give some really practical support on navigating the emotional turbulence of a midlife separation. Deets are here. )
When you try to learn that some decisions are often not mutually exclusive, you can play in the creative space of what that looks like.
Here are some of mine as I try to manage single parenting, running my own business, face the vista of midlife dating, write more books, and you know, find time for a life:
I can hold my boundaries and protect myself AND create a functioning family for my girls with their dad.
I can have a lot on my plate AND invest in myself.
I can be strong and independent AND ask for help when I need it.
I can be kind and caring AND know when to say no.
I can be fit and healthy AND indulge sometimes.
I can build a business while parenting my kids AND go full Eat, Pray Love when they’ve left home.
I can hear that conditioning that tells me women can only be something to themselves after giving to everyone else AND try to do it differently and role-model to my daughters and the next generation that we matter in our own midlives.
They’re not mutually exclusive!
This is me moving from a ‘you can either learn to windsurf when you’re young OR not at all’ mindset to ‘I can be a menopausal midlifer AND learn to windsurf’ one. (If you’d like to hear how that can also mean ‘I can learn to windsurf AND not care I’m crap’ - please read a little extract from my latest book Midlife, redefined: Better, Bolder, Brighter below **
Because another win from midlife is that you can learn new things and not have to perfect everything. You can learn something JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT!
In this magnificent (and messy) extended midlife, if there are two options you can’t decide between or two things you yearn for and you think you have to choose, try stepping into the creative space of AND and see where it takes you.
Where are you sticking yourself in an OR situation where an AND solution might free you up? I’d love to know in the comments below.
** This is an extract from Chapter 8 of my book, Midlife, redefined: Better, Bolder, Brighter on midlife growth spurts on being a midlife adventurer (because you can have a lot of responsibilities AND throw yourself about with reckless abandon (they’re not mutually exclusive!)
After the first couple of years being separated, I slowly began to see the time my kids were with their dad not just as time I needed to kill, but time I could use to live. Vibrantly, for me. Having started to design a life where I could find the fun and adventurous side of myself again, I discovered a resort in Greece that gave me the framework to participate in yoga, Pilates, cycling, and some fun evenings but also enough freedom to do my own thing if I needed. Embracing my decision to push my comfort zone and try stuff I’ve always believed I’m not good at or wouldn’t like, I went on the (uphill!) bike rides, did strange yoga-esque contortions, and tried to windsurf. It was weirdly exhilarating, so I kept trying, pushing away the thoughts and beliefs that I couldn’t become a ‘windsurfer’ because I was a mid- aged woman with cellulite thighs and a penchant for Doritos. Because I’d learned from my marathon that what I believe will end up true. I returned each year, to connect with my body and mind through yoga, bike ride up hills I thought I would hate, and windsurf. Am I any good? Of course not. And that’s the key with learning something new at midlife. We’re used to being good at things, our hobbies and habits, our careers and comfort zones having all been perfected. We’re used to being accomplished and so the fear of being a beginner can stop us starting new things.The first three attempts at windsurfing, I spent most of the time coughing up sea water. I couldn’t read the wind or remember how to turn, but I kept going. Then it happened. I caught the wind without thinking. I was zigzagging the bay and riding the waves, baby! Of course in my exuberance I forgot how to turn and ended up half way to Kefalonia, only saved by the rescue boat who tottered up to me (naturally filled with twenty-year-olds). ‘Fancy coming back to shore?’ asked a rather handsome young boy-man. I smiled, nodding, ‘Oh you know, loving the wind. Man.’ He smiled, tootling alongside me. ‘Have you forgotten how to turn?’ I smiled back. ‘Yes. Completely.’
I didn’t care. They got me headed back to shore, and I was riding that sea, reading that wind and even though as soon as I got near a boat I lost my nerve and fell in, I still didn’t care. The exhilaration of trying outweighed the frustration of failing. Every time I go back to Greece, I’m a little better. I still fall in lots, I still forget which way to turn, I still need the odd rescue. And I DON’T CARE.
Because growth isn’t about being good. It’s about feeling good.
Details for Midlife, redefined: Better, Bolder, Brighter here
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