Living Downwind from the Flower Shop.
“If I can meet triumph and disaster and treat these two imposters just the same...” Rudyard Kipling I chuckled when I saw the recent headline that 47.2 is the age when misery peaks in midlife. I was that age a dozen years ago and I can vouch for the researchers’ findings.
Around that time in my life, my company grew faster than ever and then almost died due to the Great Recession. I also literally died in St. Louis—flatlined—and then was reborn. A long-term relationship died as well, along with my trust in the justice system. On top of all that, my relationship with my foster son almost died as well. I was broke—financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and then broken open. I had to let go of what I’d clung to for a quarter-century: my company and my CEO identity. The most important challenge in one’s life might be showing the willingness to give up who you are in order to find out who you might become. I wrote a little book that you’ll find in the MEA Library (but never published publicly) called “Flatline on the Faultline” about my challenging era between 45 and 50.
My life gathered a serious patina those five years. I wrote that dark little book to make sense of what I’d been through. If Despair = Suffering minus Meaning, then finding some learning even in the worst of times might just reduce your sense of despair. I learned that character could overcome circumstances, but it took a whole lot of faith and lots of love from my family and friends.
For those of you going through a difficult time, I can’t recommend enough how valuable journaling or writing can be. You will be amazed at how much wisdom you will find in the junk heap, and how reassuring that wisdom will be. I am grateful that I can offer that little tchotchke of a book to those who are struggling.
Today, I opened to the last chapter of the book, appropriately entitled Living Downwind from the Flower Shop. I wrote the chapter just as redemption was emerging in my life. It contained a letter I wrote to myself (almost exactly ten years ago). I find it a fitting and comforting way to close this decade—to read where my head was when I started my fifties. The seeds of who I am today are planted in the painful fertile soil of that book.
The man I see lives too much of his life in fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of being defective. Fear of failure. Fear of not being lovable. Fear of being a fake. And, I want you to know that when you strip away that fear, you find pure love. That’s how people see and experience you. That’s what you could bring to a romantic relationship with a partner who is willing and able to meet you in that open and abundant field of love. You can release your insatiable need for approval, your need to have your ego define your identity, your need to perform to be loved, your need to fit in, and your need to be in constant motion. Your frenzied thoughts – all two million of them per minute – do not define you and they certainly are not your best companions when you’re most happy: in meditation, in the midst of writing or speaking, or when you’re at one with a good friend. It is time for you to sink into who you are, revel in it, and be the best version of yourself – not because the world is watching, but because it feels so good. Welcome to your flourishing fifties!
I love you,