I am a 40 something solo parent. I suppose you could call me a seeker as I have spent time looking at and reading about life philosophies and exploring my internal musings, distractions and demons. I try to practice mindfulness and I am sometimes present enough to recognise the happier moments in life and the joyous revelations. Then I try to be grateful for all of them. However, it has got to be said that life satisfaction has gradually decreased since my late 20’s and early 30’s. It has been a struggle to say the least, although my seeking has aided me on my journey, there still has been a niggly, underlying, low level, ‘I’m not quite in the right place, doing the right thing with the right people’ feeling. My late 30’s and early 40’s has led to a crescendo of dissatisfaction.
Mid life Crisis Theories
Research has come up with a possible reason why this downward turn in happiness during adulthood occurs with a low manifesting as a possible ‘mid life crisis’.
Studies have shown that life satisfaction starts to decrease from early adulthood and continues to do so until middle age, the nadir being in the mid to late 40’s and only then begins to rise again as you get older; thus the U bend analogy. The studies also showed that this was a universal phenomenon regardless of life circumstances or culture (although it has been highlighted that it is more of a western phenomenon).
There are a few dominant theories as to why this happiness U curve exists, one is economic. An article in the Guardian points out that it is the effect of work on our wellbeing and the downward side of the U curve begins in early adulthood when we enter employment. Contentment decreases as we work more and we have more responsibilities and expectations to deal with. The upward curve in our 50’s is possibly due to having more time to enjoy the fruits of our labour, since the kids are older and we are perhaps more financially secure.
The other dominant theory is psychological. We start off in life with big ideas and high hopes, but we realise over time that they are likely to be unfulfilled. As we get older we gain a new sense of realism and a determination to enjoy life as it presents itself; thus an increase in happiness.
Both theories make sense to me but the psychological theory resonates with me more since it will be a while until my daughter flies the nest and I don’t feel financially secure yet. I’m still hanging on though to my big ideas and high hopes, I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. Maybe I need to embrace more realism but I think I will keep my suffering going until I naturally get there.
I do have a sense of more contentment in the future coming my way though. Yes I struggle with getting older, with my hair going grey and my skin ‘doing one’ in the southerly direction. Yes I am frustrated with not being more financially secure, I’ve taken risks in my life that have successfully given me adventures but not that much money. (I’ll take the adventures any day though). Still, I worry a little about my future finances and I have nothing but memories and shoes to hand over to my daughter.
Despite these irritating niggles, I’m feeling a new energy slowly rising, a sense that everything will actually be okay some day in the near future.
The U Bend
If this phenomenon does exist the U-shaped bend teaches us that a mid-life slump is both normal and temporary. It feels true from my perspective, perhaps this is the universes way to teach us our life lessons? A sort of long haul initiation ceremony to teach us to be a wise elder in the future? (if only our society respected wise elders more!) I find it a bit irritating though that my personal experience along life’s journey turns out to conform to some statistical norm, but there is no denying it, the U bend has me.
I feel passionate about this, hence the birth of this blog. I feel urged to write, not only to help myself out by having a platform to cry, shout, laugh and share love and compassion but also to shed some light on life in the U bend. I hope to create a safe place to vent, to make even a small difference in these dark times, for our internal selves and also for the bigger, struggling world out there. I feel that it is important to laugh at ourselves and together, to lighten up and create a positive space to reflect and navigate our way up to the other side of the bend. Maybe this knowledge can help us to relax a little knowing that this too shall pass eventually and at least we’ve got our mid 50’s onwards to look forward to, knowing that we will feel happier, calmer and more content; onwards and upwards!
I invite you to join me on my U bend journey, my musings, my low moments, my upward facing moments and my gradual climb back up to the lighter side of life. Please follow and join in the conversation.