Your Midlife Chrysalis.
I've long enjoyed Pash Pashkow's TEDx talk on why "the midlife crisis needs a rebrand." Is any other life stage saddled with such a rotten narrative as "a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger" (that's the dictionary definition of "crisis")?!
Just like adolescence is a transitional stage between childhood and adulthood, midlife (or middlescence) is a transitional stage between adulthood and elderhood. One's elderhood may last many decades, given that an "elder" is purely a relative term, meaning older (and maybe wiser) than the people around you. And as the U-curve of happiness research shows, this is a life stage when people tend to get happier after seeing a dip in life satisfaction some time between age 45 to 55. So, if better things are ahead for us, one has to wonder why the average Mr. or Ms. Midlife is pathologizing something so natural.
Fortunately, more life-affirming and accurate words can be found in the dictionary. Go to the C's, and you'll find "Chrysalis," defined as "a transitional state." A chrysalis is also the pupal stage of butterflies. When the caterpillar is fully grown, it makes a button of silk to fasten its body to a leaf or a twig. Then the caterpillar's skin comes off for the final time. Under this old skin is a hard skin, the chrysalis. Within this chrysalis, the transformational magic of metamorphosis occurs. While it is a bit dark and gooey, it's not a crisis but a transition. And, of course, on the other side is a beautiful, winged creature.
What most people don’t know is that within the disintegrating caterpillar are the “imaginal discs,” the operating instructions for how to become a butterfly. Is there within us some deep set of instructions that works to lead us towards who and what we are meant to be in the world? Might that be what Jung defined as the Self, the unification of our conscious and unconscious minds?
At MEA, based on all kinds of social science research, we've developed a theory about the transformational journey of life, as depicted in the image below. We see midlife as a period of intense transition with emotional, hormonal, physical, spiritual, and identity shifts. Transformation can be turbulent, which is part of the reason you deserve a safe space to get gooey, knowing that on the other side of your chrysalis is a liberated elder, someone with gravitas and levity. Who knows, you might even blossom into an "elderflower?" And for the record, we make a mean elderflower gin and tonic with bitters over at my home near the MEA campus.
Ultimately, MEA is meant to be your Midlife Chrysalis, the place you come to share a transformational process with like-minded folks, mostly in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. We call your set of workshop compadres a cohort, but I may start calling them a cocoon. See you soon.
Here’s a 2-minute video by MEA alum Adrian Juric with me amplifying these thoughts: