It was a relaxed Friday evening. We nibbled on fresh salsa and blue corn chips. Mojitos helped to cool the warm summer evening. It was a great way to get to know our next door neighbors.
We’re new to our neighborhood, having arrived at the end of April. They moved in about two weeks ago making them newer than us. Their visit to our home gave us the opportunity to feel like “old-timers” as we shared our experiences at the stores and restaurants in our area.
While we moved to Atlanta for my partner to continue graduate study, they came as a way to simplify life. It’s something of a mid-life transition for them. Having lived in Los Angeles, London, and most recently New York, they wanted to live in a city that was not only more affordable but that would also offer a more relaxed pace of life.
As they told us about themselves and their dreams for new lives in Atlanta, I remembered how I made a similar transition more than a decade ago. It was a mid-life transition that led from a very hectic life in Miami to a more balanced life in Tucson. It’s a transition I wrote about in my book, Stumbling Into Life’s Lessons. Many people find that mid-life offers an important time of transition regarding values, integrity, care of self, and the way daily life gets organized.
When we are in our twenties, the future is before us filled with hopes and dreams. While it can be difficult to make decisions about “the right” future plan and goals, it seems as though many things are possible. Of course, we expect it to all be good.
In our thirties, we settle into a grove, of sorts. That’s a decade that can be very busy and fast paced. We generally enjoy the pace, whether it’s related to work and career development, family, or other goals. In our thirties, there’s plenty of energy to do it all – or so it seems at the time.
As we move into mid-life, not only does our level of energy change, but we begin to reflect on whether life has afforded us all that we had hoped for. Few of us fully live the dreams we had in our twenties. That’s not always a bad thing. Over the course of living we often find that the things we looked forward to in our youth may not have been the best options for us. Mid-life affords the opportunity to refocus and adjust those dreams and to consider the question yet another time: what is it that I really want for my life?
My new neighbors have made similar decisions to mine. They enjoy their work and travel. They just don’t want so much of it. Instead, they want more time at home, with each other, and to be more in touch with a healthy, balanced way of living. As it did for me, it will probably take a few years to figure out how to find the right balance. The adjustment to living a more integrated life is a process. For me, it proved to be a positive reassessment and reintegration of life – recapturing some things I set aside along the way and letting go of other things.
My discovery in mid-life was that there were things that I did well that other’s found valuable, but they weren’t always the things that nourished me most deeply. Over the years, I had spent lots of time in meetings and working with various organizations. I’m happy I did that work. But now, I prefer a quieter life with less involvement with groups and organizations. In the process of sorting out what I find most fulfilling at heart, another decision I made was to give-up work as a therapist and to only work with individuals as a spiritual director. Much like the work I did as a community organizer, the clinical work I did was good in itself. I believe I did both things well. But now, in my mid-50s, I prefer a narrower focus for my life. I’ve discovered that less activity provides me with a more expansive appreciation of myself, those in my life, and the world around me. In other words, less activity is definitely more quality!
I was excited to hear that my new neighbors decided as a couple to make a change in their lives in order to live in a way that they find better and healthier for themselves. I know it’s not an easy transition. But the mid-life transition was nothing less than a true gift to me. I’m excited that they have the opportunity to discover the gift that comes from living in a more intentional way. I’m sure they’ll find as I have that rather than rushing out in the evening to a meeting or function, I can appreciate sharing life’s journey with new people along with salsa, chips, and a mojito. Yes, living a more intentional life does have its benefits.
© 2011, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.