Learning to fly again

I am in midlife, or at least I think I am. I am 53 years old, so does that put me in the midlife category or maybe the post midlife category? I hear some women as young as 35 saying that they are in midlife, so the term confuses me. In our society’s eyes I am the older woman, the empty nester, the woman in menopause. Notice how all these words have a feeling of loss to them. Being ‘older’, the ’empty’ nester and meno’pause’. The definition of pause in this case means to cease. These words all describe something that is dying, empty and stopping. But that is far from how I feel right now.

I still feel like I am young. Or maybe young is the wrong term, because there are people much younger than me that don’t feel good at all. A better way to say this would be I feel lighter, happier, stronger and more brave than I did when I was younger. I used to use most of my energy to hide my abusive past and search for validation in everyone else’s eyes but mine. That was an exhausting time for me, and looking back I don’t know how I kept it going for so long. So, I definitely feel better now that I am using that same energy to create art and write this blog. It is more rewarding, and I feel more engaged in life than I used to. Yes, I am chronologically older, and I accept that, but I have more life inside of me now.

The ’empty’ nester is an interesting term. I have always wondered who coined that phrase. I don’t think you can compare humans to birds. If you do, than this phrase doesn’t make sense anyway. Has anyone ever had a bird make a nest in their yard to have her babies? If you have, then I am sure that you noticed all the preparation that went into creating the nest. The mother bird gathers string, leaves and small branches to build her nest for her expectant babies. Once the nest is created the mother bird spends most of her time there until she lays her eggs and has her babies. A baby bird is so tiny and helpless and the mother is constantly there tending and feeding her young. The babies slowly learn, by watching their mom, that they can fly too. Once the baby birds fly away from the nest, the nest is abandoned. The mother bird doesn’t sit alone in the nest and cry, she flies away on to new adventures. I am that mother bird now.

So, as my daughter is learning how to fly by herself, I also am dusting off my wings. I am surveying the landscape, gathering information and seeing where I want to go. I am not staying in an empty nest. I am not waiting for my daughter to come back and be a baby again. That time is over. If the mother bird sat in an empty nest waiting for her chicks to come back, she would most likely not survive. She needs so spread her wings and fly again. She needs to move on.

I am not saying that it is easy to move on, but I am saying that it is necessary. If I was meant to have babies my whole life then I would have been given that capability. But my body wasn’t built that way. Being 53 now, I cannot get pregnant. My body was created to have babies up to a certain age, and then after that age I was meant to do something else with my life. This is nothing new, it is the way it has always been.

Menopause! I for one am glad that I don’t get my period anymore. I will take feeling a little warm over my period anytime. But just like no woman experiences her body in the exact same way, no woman goes through menopause the exact same way. It is an individual experience. No one knows how my body feels when I wake up in the morning, or when I work out, or when I eat. I am the only one that experiences what goes on inside of my body. My period has stopped, I can no longer have biological children, and I no longer have to plan around ‘that time of the month.’ Is this a bad thing? I am glad that my period has stopped, I don’t desire to have any more children, and I can wear white pants whenever I feel like it. These are good, positive changes.

Mother nature knows what she is doing, and these changes are all part of her plan to have me go in another direction. The earth needs my writing and art to help heal it. I don’t have to be a world renowned artist or author, but my positive energy, however small, is going out into the world. I feel it reaching people and making a difference.

Yes, I am a midlife, empty nester, menopausal woman. But these are just words and they don’t describe me as a person. They don’t describe what I have overcome, and they don’t describe my current purpose. Just like other labels in our society, these labels are unflattering. They describe someone who is old and empty. They describe someone who is slowing down and stopping. That is not me.

I have dusted off my wings and started flying again. I can fly because I am lighter without the weight of trying to please other people and prove myself. I have wasted so much time trying to prove myself to people that saw me as something that I wasn’t. I have wasted so much time trying to get people to see me as the person that I am, and not the label that they gave me.

I don’t have time to prove myself to anyone anymore, I am too busy flying.

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  1. I can relate. Imagine being a middle-aged woman and single — with no one but yourself to survive.
    Not much fun.

    1. Hi Julie, that would be tough. I feel you. I have my husband and daughter, but really no other family that I am close to. But I have my friends, and we are friends and will support each other! Love, Peta

  2. Love this, because we learn as we go that attitude is everything. Do I miss my motherhood days? Sometimes. Do I miss my younger body? Yes! Do I miss the days when
    I worked the 3-11 shift, had a crazy commute and then all the housework and child raising too? Not really. I’m proud of what I did then, but now I have a change to do others things.

    1. Hi Beth, I like how you pointed out that we look back we just see the fun and good times. We forget how tired we were and how we worked hard to balance work/home responsibilities. I feel the same way, I miss having my girl home but I don’t miss trying to balance everything and not having a minute to myself. Love, Peta

      1. Empty nest was a beast for me! I was in menopause with all 3 of our boys off to college. Top that off with some bad mate choices at the time for our boys and I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t quite sure they would figure their stuff out while I was trying to figure mine out. My parents had passed and I didn’t have anyone other than my very patient and supportive husband. I am so thankful he rode that bumpy chapter out with me (but he’s a pilot so he’s used to turbulence). Now that I am on the other side I can only say that if I knew then what I know now I would of handled that chapter so much better. However, it was part of my journey and I know now that I was meant to go through it all. I can honestly say that I am both mentally and physically stronger for it. My boys survived and grew into amazing young men and I am now a grandma to a beautiful 5 month old boy. I love this new chapter and feel so alive with so much more to give. That being said, I did have a moment the other day when I realized I will be 55 in a couple of months. I thought OMG that is almost 60, what will I do then, who will I be and will I even like me then? I had to tell myself I still have another 5 years to figure all that out and I just need to keep being me . I love your blog and am so grateful to of connected with you Peta.

        1. Hi Laura, I am so glad that I connected with you too! Thanks for sharing your empty nest journey, I can relate because I also had major events in a row. My mom died, my daughter went off to college, I turned 50, and I had a falling out with my oldest sister all within a year or so. My husband and I were going through the empty nester transition together and figuring out where our relationship was, so we had a few rocky times. So, I felt like my life was turned upside down. It was so crazy and turbulent but I have made it through stronger and in hearing your story I don’t feel so alone. Love, Peta

    1. Hi Rebecca, I agree with you, this is a great time of life that we can focus on ourselves. We have all sorts of possibilities in front of us! I am excited about the future. Love, Peta

  3. Peta,

    Yes we are finding our wings as midlife women and it can be joyous for some and scary for others.
    I am lucky that I have accepted menopause ( was shocked but now accepted the changes) and have embraced new beginnings because I don’t want to retire. I love thinking I still have so much to do and to learn.

    Nicely written!

    1. Hi Robin, I think it is scary in some ways, because of hearing stories from others. But once I just focussed on me and gave myself what I needed it felt better, and the changes are actually positive. There is just such a negative connotation, and I don’t feel like the positive aspect is discussed as much. We do have a lot to do and learn! Love, Peta