To say someone is middle aged and going thru a midlife crisis at age 50 is rarely accurate — that would imply the person will live until age 100 which in the US, only .0173 humans do. Our “half-way point” is unknown but more likely if we were to use average length of life divided by two, in the US it would be: for a white woman 40.5, a black woman 39 years, a white man it would be around age 38 and for black man 35.5.
It’s no secret that one can die at any age, and there is no standard age or definition for mid-life crisis that means that when you reach this point you’re halfway thorough. The concept of a mid-life crisis implies that we not only know the length of our life but also that there have been few or insignificant traumas or challenges throughout our life.
It’s possible that the “crisis” is a reflecting back of who you currently are, or have been, and the potential of who you could become- individually and in relation to others. In this light, a better phrase might be a “shock of awakening“ and it may have nothing to do with your half-life; for we have the ability to check, evaluate, and change course many times throughout our life…. If only our society allowed us the time and space for this contemplation before it became an actual crisis.
It can happen when you’re 30 and you’re feeling the urge to reproduce so strongly it consumes your every thought and date. It impacts what you spend your money on and what you eat and drink (in healthy ways or not.)
A shocked awakening can happen when you’re 90 and you’ve lost your parents, partner, siblings, children, everything you created and called your own has died — and you’re still living.
Or like a four year old that has just discovered where meat comes from and decides they don’t want to eat meat anymore. (Imagining a four year old can be half way through their life is rough- but it’s realistic. In that case, making that decision was one of the most important decisions of their entire life.)
The *typical* meaning for midlife crisis (cliche I grew up hearing: divorce wife, buy sports car) is usually viewed in one of two ways- on the receiving end of someone else’s midlife crisis (which then causes your own) or you are the one doing the changing. It can manifest as a desire to break free from restraints, do that thing they never did, finally play out “that way” that they’ve always wanted to live. This stems from feeling active aging and impending insignificance in old age and death. The sooner this is realized and talked about the more gentle the domino effect will unfold- for the crisis never involves *only* you.
Whether you are “initiating” the crisis or on the “receiving” end, you’re not alone in your feeling of separation, depression, abandonment, isolation, anger or fear of dying and death. To me, feeling *alone* in your grief or confusion (or new found vibrancy as the crisis sometimes manifests) *is* the crisis.
We’ve forgotten that we are all connected. Not just human to human… or human to animal… but also to rock, to soul, to fire, to metal and air. We’ve forgotten that it’s impossible to be fully alone when the elements are not able to be separated from and there is no such thing as a singular, isolated eruption or death. To be ignorant of that would be to deny what nature itself is: change and growth, expansion and tension, years of drought, excessive floods… it would be to forget that air fills our lungs and iron runs in our blood — without which we would die.
A shock of awakening is a coming home to the nature of being webbed within a structure of time. A recognition of interdependence — that animal you do not want to eat, the baby you wish to birth… It can feel heavy but can crack you open to love more deeply and thoroughly. Or, if ego steps forward in a spectacle of righteousness, separation from others and a challenge against the cycle of life it can confuse you further and cause tremendous harm to yourself and others.
We need to build communities, starting with one household at a time, that embrace safe change and soul expansion; a system of support that is not fragile. No community would look exactly the same nor should they. What I’m suggesting will take generations to implement just as it took generations to unravel tribal mentality (arguably for much of society in the US as far back as before colonization) but we can start with not using the phrases “middle-aged” and “midlife crisis.”
Death nesting is a life long process of morphing and transformation. If we actively engaged in this truth (not only by ourselves but in our communities) every edge of a shocked awakening would be softened- no matter what our earthly age.