The Unexpected Joy of a “Midlife Unraveling”

May 11, 2024

The Unexpected Joy of a “Midlife Unraveling”

May 29, 2023

Chip’s Note: I love Thérèse and it’s been quite enlightening to see her evolution over the past three years.

She’s now residing at our MEA Regenerative Community, Baja Sage, and is facilitating workshops including Navigating Transitions July 8-13 in Baja. If you can't make it to Thérèse's workshop, you might like that same Navigating Transitions workshop June 24-29 in Baja with my co-founder Jeff Hamaoui and Barbara Tint.

When I found myself at the bougainvillea-draped entrance to MEA in 2021, I was ripe for a shift. The theme was Navigating Midlife Transitions, and I joked that I could be their poster child. My youngest son had gone off to college, and I was working my way through heartbreak and divorce. I’d hurdled the age of 50 a few years before, and I was seeking my next landing spot in the world. 

The San Francisco Bay Area had been home for decades; I moved there to attend UC Berkeley and never left. I had deeply meaningful volunteer work with Nest Global, a nonprofit that provides early childhood education for asylum seekers and refugees, so I spent a good amount of time at one of our Tijuana preschools. At times that work felt like the sole anchor tethering me to something familiar—a sense of serving and protecting the tender experiences of young children, making them laugh with my stumbling Spanglish as we played with plastic dinosaurs and sang songs.

Before touching down in Baja, I was hungry for some resolution or inspiration. Post-pandemic, my world had both shrunk radically and expanded with almost too much choice. I had lost the rhythm and safety of the marital home and relationship, with the attendant social shrinkage that comes as people naturally align with the spouse they knew first. I had a few loyal friends, and we had seen each other through years of the soccer pitch sidelines, love and many losses. But I longed for a larger sense of community again, particularly one where I could show up as I was now—a bit at loose ends, ready to take a leap into the unknown of the rest of my life, wanting to see and be seen deeply.

The week at MEA was often suffused with tears, both mine and others.’ It was the first workshop after the reopening of campus post-pandemic, and the three co-founders taught together. They themselves admitted the strangeness of picking up the work again after the prolonged global shift we had endured as humans, and each of us in the cohort were both delighted and a bit discomfited by the togetherness of it all. 

The magic of MEA worked on my cohort as it does each week: the backdrop of wild Baja beauty, the alchemy of people finding themselves open to new experience, the gentle connection of meeting others in moments of uncertainty, and the warm embrace of staff and facilitators holding us as we worked through where we were and where we wanted to be in our lives.

Coming home, friends were curious about my time there. I had a newly-recaptured joy and vigor that felt revelatory, for which I was incredibly grateful. The uncertain pieces of my life were still a bit so, but I was starting to see how the mosaic of my future was starting to form a new, exciting picture. With my MEA cohort as community, later beautifully bolstered by new friends made at our annual MEA alum Homecoming, I felt a part of something dynamic and aspirational. 

Fast forward to the present day…I’ve moved to El Pescadero in Baja, and have the joy of walking my rescue dogs past the thundering waves of the Pacific each morning. I have a beautiful community within and outside of MEA, a new partner, and am grateful to enjoy the slower pace of life in Mexico. As a facilitator, I now have the honor of spending time with folks who come to our Baja campus feeling stuck or alone, needing some shift or changed perspective. 

The power of conscious community is profound, and seeing our cohorts come together and co-create a week of magic and transformation is the greatest gift I could ask for. If you are thinking about coming to MEA but are unsure, I would say this—leap. Jump in before you are ready, jump in with your questioning mind, your aching heart, your want of laughter and friendship and deep nourishment. We will be here with open arms.

-Thérèse

Thérèse O’Neill is the Baja Facilitator Lead at MEA and a resident of Baja Sage, a regenerative community created by Jeff Hamaoui of MEA and his wife, Rachel Lawley. She makes textiles and travels in her free time.

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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 to 
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 to 
Jun 1, 2024
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