Thursday, November 18, 2010

on poppies and purpose

I think I’m having a mid-life crisis. I’m 43 years old and I am going through what can only be described as overwhelming feelings of quiet desperation as I look back on years and years of self-doubt and self-flagellation. Outwardly I have a great life – a loving husband, two incredibly beautiful and talented daughters, a supportive family, a comfortable home, financial stability, a small but close group of loyal friends, good health and a range of skills and abilities that mean I ‘can do anything’! And I can. I know in my heart I have the intellect, the physical abilities, the creativity, the courage and the stamina to do anything I set out to do.

And yet, I feel like someone who has spectacularly underachieved – someone who has ‘so much potential’ yet so little self-belief. Not that I want to go around ‘blowing my own trumpet’ or ‘getting too big for my boots’ or achieving celebrity status (now that would be pushing it) – I just want to feel I am making a difference in the world – that I am putting my wealth of God-given talent to good use – that I am fulfilling my purpose. I am tired of thinking small - I want to 'think big' – to stop apologising and to embrace everything that I am, even the parts that I wish I could change but I know that in order to find peace I must accept – simply because they are me.

Perhaps it has something to do with ‘tall poppy syndrome’ – rather than standing out from the crowd and achieving greatness, I would rather downplay my talents to avoid being in the spotlight. I was taught that modesty and humility were values to strive for but I think I’ve turned them into a habit of perpetual self-effacement. I have always abhorred being singled out in class as an example of someone who ‘can do it’…right back to my primary school days when I got full marks for my tests, and sailed through the end of year exams, to yesterday when my yoga teacher asked me to demonstrate a pose which required a certain degree of flexibility and strength (perhaps the 10 years of practice helped). I would rather curl up in a ball! I so dread being thought of as someone who thinks she is superior, all I want is acceptance and connection – a shared struggle, a common battle is what forms friendships and builds bridges.

So with this fear comes a tendency to do the bare minimum, to achieve less, to blend in with the masses simply so that I can feel like I belong. But more and more I feel a growing, gnawing, agonising sense that I am shrinking, day by day – that soon I will be completely invisible. Perhaps this is part of the 40-plus stay-at-home-Mom-syndrome – all of a sudden one’s circle of influence diminishes to the immediate family and every waking moment is devoted to ensuring that they are happy, healthy and well fed – a role I wouldn’t change for anything but at which I feel I spectacularly fail on a daily basis (try getting a 5 year old sugar junkie to eat her greens)!!

Or perhaps there is more to it.
Perhaps this gnawing agony is a call to Do Something.
Do Anything.
Just Do it Well.
See it Through to Completion.
Stop being Afraid of your Own Amazing Self.
Because when you’re 43 and you planning on living to 100, there is still plenty of time to Change the World.
Or at least your Part of it.


  1. wow what a very poignant post. I am 47 and feel I am disappearing completely, my eldest went to university this two months ago and I feel completely lost and wondering what to do with my life, don't know what the answer is but I do think it is part of the stay at home mum syndrome - not being needed anymore etc. 43 is young!!

  2. When I read your text I can feel your feelings although I'm "only" 29 years old/young. I'm not a mum yet and if it looks like I'll not become a mum in next few years.

    Human beings always ask for a why and I'm not a difference. I'm sure there isn't a crisis in your life. It is just another question that have to be answered. I hope you can find your answer.

    Think big and change your part in this world :-)

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this--sharing where you are and how you feel. I am 43 and although I am not a mum, still I empathize.

    I am not sure that I think I'm disappearing, but I feel like I am morphing into something or someone who is unrecognizable to myself. I am sure I will work this out and I will come out of this cocoon all right. You sound strong and self-aware and like you have a good support system in place. Give yourself some space. Be proud of your accomplishments and let them shine. Be the tallest, reddest poppy that you can be. What have you got to lose except your feelings of dread about your shrinking self?

    I don't mean or presume to give advice. But I really hope that you can "stop being afraid of your amazing self". Because I think you are amazing and I only know you through your blog and your photography.

    So I will wish you all the best and say "ganbatte" which (if you don't already know) means--do your very best through all of this. I will be cheering you on and remembering your words from this post as I struggle with my own mid-life morph.