The Secret Joys of Breaking Through Mid-Life Crisis and Being True to Yourself

The Secret Joys of Breaking Through Mid-Life Crisis and Being True to Yourself

Middle-age has a tendency to sneak up, like a child on tiptoes, so that if you pay attention you can hear the floorboards creaking as it approaches. Perhaps even the muffled giggles (especially if you continue to dress as you did at twenty). The trouble is that more often than not we're just too busy to notice, not until it actually leaps in front of us and screeches 'Got you!'

In my case I was blissfully unaware of having even neared midlife until an encounter with the novelist Jeffrey Archer put me straight. Not that he sent me a note or anything, rather it was the way his eyes slid off me like paint before lingering on my younger companion - then embracing her only to stand back and shake my hand briskly. And mixed in with my relief at not having been enfolded by Archer (who, to be perfectly honest, reminds me of an older, more exaggerated version of Tony Abbott), was an almost automatic epiphany over what it meant. I was officially middle-aged.

Not that I have never been a raving beauty. Never entered a room to have all heads swivel admiringly in my direction (except once, at a pool party, when my bikini top got caught on the door handle), but I never had any major issues either; not with my weight or my looks or with garnering male attention if that was what I wanted (and often when it wasn't as well). So my midlife epiphany came as a shock, and to be honest it took me a few years to get my head around - a transitory mourning (mid life crisis?) period that I've since discovered is quite common. But the thing is that afterwards, once you've been forced to accept the whole thing as inevitable - the surprise (Got you!) discovery is that middle-age isn't half bad. And, therefore, it's more than half-good.

She Inspires Online CompetitionsFor starters I quite like being my age, which is not as unusual a preference as the media would have us believe. In fact research indicates that most middle-aged women wouldn't trade even if they had a choice. Their appearance perhaps (and don't even get me started on those chin hairs), but their actual age - no. Instead women name a range of midlife positives, like wisdom and independence, strength and serenity, awareness and clarity, confidence and freedom; with the latter two being most cited of all.

Studies suggest that even the middle-aged female brain is a thing of awe. Slightly forgetful perhaps, but nevertheless an ever-bubbling concoction of experience and knowledge and skill and competence, all overlaid with the now-almost-effortless ability to multi-task. Plus middle-aged women today are healthier than ever before, more financial, more educated, and more aware of what's available and what's not.

Many have used midlife as a form of inspiration itself, a springboard to personal growth. Taken up new hobbies, started volunteering, embraced technology, used that spare room left by departing offspring (quick, before they come back) and turned it into 'a room of their own'; for writing, or painting, or music, or even a gym (within which to combat the somewhat more negative aspects of middle-age!).

There are plenty of successful midlife women in the public eye, such as Oprah, Ellen, Kerri-Anne, Helen Mirren, Susan Sarandon, Susan Boyle, Demi Moore, Julia Gillard, Quentin Bryce... the list goes on. But they're just the tip of the iceberg, with many, many more simply living their lives below the surface.

Like the wonderful women of the Red Hat Society, where they have taken midlife invisibility and painted it all shades of purple; a somewhat extroverted manifestation of women doing what baby-boomers have always done best - rewriting the rule-book. These magnificent women are refusing to accept restrictions, and stereotypes; recognising that this second half of our lives holds just as much promise as the first, even if it's not quite as celebrated. And using this knowledge to stride optimistically forward into marvelous middle-age. Bring it on!

About Ilsa Evans

The talented Ilsa Evans is the successful author of four novels; Each Way Bet, Broken, The Family Tree and Sticks and Stone as well as the blog The Middle-aged Spread with stories, surveys and research for her upcoming book - 'The Invisible Woman'.

Want to be heard in Ilsa's research for 'The Invisible Woman'? Take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3HYMXC9 and visit the blog The Middle-aged Spread (http://themiddle-agedspread.blogspot.com/) and join in the comments conversations.

You can find out more about Ilsa Evan's books and events at: http://www.ilsaevans.com/

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