Note: This post originally appeared on my blog at www.lifecoachvikki.com
Last weekend I attended a speed dating event for people over 45. It was a very interesting event to observe. When I looked around the room at the others there, I saw a lot of hope, nerves and … something else. As I think more about it, I think the “something else” was a sense of lost-ness (I think I just made up that word.)
Here’s what I mean by lost-ness: a sense of lost identity in people who have been through a major life change. They seem a bit dazed and confused and not sure what to do next. I see a hollowness when I look in their eyes. And I hear a sadness in their voices.
Several people I talked to that evening reported coming out of long-term marriages. For example, one guy said that after 41 years of marriage, his wife told him she wanted to be on her own, and she divorced him. A woman reported that after 40 years of marriage, her husband had an affair so she divorced him. I heard several similar stories – married 20 years, 22 years, 18 years, etc. And now these people were at this event and were hopeful of finding a mate with which to spend the second half of their lives.
But there was more going on here.
From my observations, it seemed that many of the speed daters had that lost-ness and so they were there trying to get a sense of solid ground under them again by finding another mate as soon as possible. For example, one guy there had been divorced for less than a month!
I know that feeling of lost identity intimately. After my second divorce, my mother died and my only child was now an adult and moved out. All of the roles I had identified with: wife, daughter, mother, were suddenly gone. It left me feeling very off kilter and lost. I kept looking around at the utter decimation of my life and asking, “Now what?? What am I going to do with my life now??”
Like those speed daters, my immediate instinct was to fill the voids left by the loss of those roles as quickly as possible. I didn’t start dating right away, but I really wanted to feel needed again, so I actually considered adopting a child. Thank goodness I got over that idea! But what I did do was throw myself into work – to the point of utter exhaustion.
After wandering lost for quite a while, I finally figured out what I really needed: I needed to find myself again – or more accurately, I needed to find out who I was NOW and what I REALLY wanted.
I spent the next several years exploring what made me happy, figuring out what I believed, healing from the losses, and then – only after all of that work – did I begin to dream and scheme a new life. That was when I decided to make the second half of my life the best half.
I had new wisdom in midlife that I didn’t have in my early adult years when I first set out into the world. This new wisdom and all of the self-exploration I did during my period of lost-ness helped me to chart a new course for a happier, more fulling, second half of life.
If you find yourself experiencing some major loss or change, and asking yourself “Now what?” I strongly suggest that instead of rushing to fill the void of that loss, take a pause. Give yourself time to heal and let the dust settle. Ask yourself some important questions. Do some self-exploration. Hire a coach or see a therapist. (A therapist is a better choice if you are struggling with serious depression.) And if you can, try to see the changes as an opportunity to begin again – this time with more clarity and wisdom. Then, after you’ve healed and allowed a clear vision to form for your new life, and only then – get back in the game.
I did not find true love at the speed dating event (it’s a good thing I didn’t go in expecting that!) but it was a great reminder of where I’d been and that helped me to appreciate where I am.