Midlife Rites and Rituals

Stay with me people … this story is not as whack as the title suggests.

A lot has been written on the subject of midlife, by people who are way more qualified than I am, but none of the words used to describe this period really resonate with me. Midlife ‘crisis’ sounds way too cliché’ and a tad dramatic. Midlife ‘malaise’ sounds a bit try hard. To be honest, I had to Google what “malaise” actually meant. (FYI … It’s a general feeling of discomfort or unease), which sounds more like the symptoms of a UTI than an apt description of my midlife mood. I prefer the idea of a midlife metamorphosis …  or “midamorphosis.” Just like a caterpillar, I am embarking on a transformative phase characterised by profound change, weight gain, a new set of wings …. and with any luck, evolving into who (or what) I was destined to be. Here’s hoping that’s a butterfly and not a moth! Either way, I am ready to bust out of my cocoon and embrace this new beginning. So why do I feel like there’s not much to celebrate?

The term Rite Of Passage was first coined by famous anthropologist, Arnold van Gennep, to mark the transition from one stage of life to another. Rites Of Passage have been used throughout history to celebrate milestones and as place markers for both endings and new beginnings. Christenings, graduations, twenty-firsts, weddings … the list of fun celebrations goes on, until that is, you hit middle age when they abruptly dry up and are replaced by decidedly ‘un-fun’ ones like the three D’s (divorce, disease and death.) What’s with that? Our midamorphosis, is most definitely, by definition, a rite of passage … just one that is barely acknowledged or discussed, much less celebrated.

You never hear puberty scoffed at as a crisis or twenty-firsts being labelled an indulgence. Maybe that’s because our midlife transitions are more ambiguous and harder to define? Unlike an 18th, we can’t necessarily pinpoint the exact date that our midamorphosis will occur. Or maybe it is because the unspoken inference is, that there is not much to celebrate. It is like we are expected to hand over the fun baton, accept that all that’s left is to marvel at the milestones of our children and quietly acquiesce to not creating or celebrating any more of our own.

If rites of passage serve to connect us, bring communities together and help create and sustain identity and feelings of belonging, then why are they so conspicuously absent from the second halves of our lives? By perpetuating this sentiment it will become self-fulfilling. The second half of life will live on as the poor relation, tainted by a dark cloud of drearidom and devoid of the rites and celebrations that are sprinkled throughout the first.

But enough is enough. As a generation (of X’ers), we still have so much to do and look forward to and more time than ever before to do it in. A societal mindset shift is required and I can’t believe that someone hasn’t jumped all over this already. What an opportunity! A whole new and expanding market segment with more time and money, who are hankering for things to look forward to, milestones to commemorate and transitions to celebrate. I’m thinking beyond the predictable birthday bashes … Maybe a Menapplause Party? A Nempty Esters Breakfast Club? The OOSH (out of school holidays) Travel Tribe? A GenX In The City Cosmo Crawl?

Feel free to offer up all other suggestions … because we need to remove the stigma and rebrand our midamorphosis as a midlife milestone that is celebrated not scoffed. If rites of passage are the signposts that punctuate our life’s journey and mark our arrival into a new stage, then I for one intend to weave some fun ones into the second half of my story.

5 Comments
  • Nicole
    Posted at 05:12h, 11 December Reply

    Hey Ang loved the article my suggestion is that there is definitely a change with midlife, just as we finish taking care our children, we then have start taking care of our parents. Instead of school drop offs it’s doctor drop offs. If we are lucky they are still at home. Just call me Nurse Nic for the moment mum with her broken ankle and my father with his broken collarbone, Fun Fun Fun

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 06:51h, 11 December Reply

      Hmmm …. not sure how to spin this into a celebratory rite of passage. I’ll give it some thought!! Ax

  • Karen Balstrup
    Posted at 07:25h, 11 December Reply

    I’ve been doing it …. would love to stop working to find the super though! Weekly visits to my recalcitrant 93 year old Mum, bless! I have another heavier piece about a butterfly in a relationship ….see if I can send it to you!

    • Ang I Am
      Posted at 08:57h, 11 December Reply

      Look forward to reading it!! A

  • Megan Fettig
    Posted at 20:00h, 08 January Reply

    I love this! I work for an organization that specializes in transformative travel experiences. We started decades ago offering these types of programs for youth and found over the years that the experiences often served as a rites of passage for our American teens that are lacking ritual and ceremony in their lives these days. We also offer similar types of trips for adults and I love this slant of also looking at the overseas experiences we offer also as a rites of passage for mid-lifers, empty nesters, all-grown-up-people in all sorts of adult transitions, as we, adults, are also in need of space for reflection and celebration. Thanks for the post!

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