Monday, 22 July 2013

Mid-Life... crisis or natural transition?





A change is coming upon me. A life change. A lifestyle change.

Is this what is called, “mid-life crisis”?
It certainly happened mid-life. Or more correctly, around fifty. I doubt that it’s the middle of my life, as I doubt I’ll reach a hundred… and anyway, do I want to?

But, “crisis”? I've always thought the word to mean a violent disruption. Not sure if I like the word itself. I think I prefer, “transition”.
 

A turning point in a lifetime of re-routes.

I’ve read that, “the midlife crisis is an emotionally uncomfortable period that men and women go through between the age of 45 and 60”.
And is, "a dramatic emotional upheaval in a person's life".
 

I dunno. I don’t feel, “emotionally uncomfortable”. Just, different.

Not everyone experiences it. This change. But I guess, those who undergo an internal change, handles it in their own way.
And, we’ve all heard the stories of what some people do at this time in their lives – often involving fast cars, Harley Davidsons and/or members of the opposite sex.

Is it a condition exclusive to the modern/first world?

I don’t seem to recall stories of my older European family members ever mentioning it. Their countrymen lived in sparse surroundings and toiled the fields all day with horse and plough, right up into their seventies – and some even beyond.
They often recalled being happy within their communities and simply grateful for fresh water, good food in their belly, a roof over their heads and warmth from the fire to keep the winter cold and wandering wolves at bay. And prayed for a long, happy, healthy life.
They recalled peaceful lives. Difficult at times, but peaceful.

That was before “the war” that is. Then, their world literally went to hell in a hand basket.

Many of their loved ones were killed. My own grandfather shot in front of his youngest daughter, my mother. Their simple homes destroyed. Their beloved homeland politically torn asunder. Their lives never to be the same again.
The “lucky ones”, fled their oppressors to become refugees in foreign lands.
Displaced Persons.
The thought of a personal “crisis” in their mid-lives would be a luxury to even consider, when self preservation and protection of their families was their main - only - objective.

But, I digress as I ponder such things. And, I feel a sense of guilt that I even bring up the subject of my post.

 

As I approached this (my fiftieth) year, I felt something within me shift. The need to simplify. To pare back the superfluous in my surroundings.
The need to accumulate “stuff” dwindled. 
Is it a natural progression of ageing? Knowing on all levels that, “you can’t take it with you when you go”?
Or, am I simply more content to have less in my life and that what I have, has purpose? 


The catch cry is to, “de-clutter”.

I find that my head is so busy with happenings in my life, that I don’t want my home surroundings to reflect busy-ness.

The dichotomy is, that I create “stuff” for people to buy. It’s my income – one that I depend on. I love making what I make. And people happily buy what I make.
But I sometimes consider that I am contributing to consumerism. Not to the “greater good”.
And it does my head in.
And I have more guilt.

Ahh, guilt. “It’s such a euro thing”, hubby tells me. He is a laconic Aussie male who considers it to be a wasted emotion.
He reckons that when I’m old, I’ll be in my rocking chair, with a shawl over my head, wringing my hands and worrying about the woes of the world – that I can do nothing about.

Sigh. It isn't easy living with me. He has good humour and the patience of many saints :)

For years, I bought things and stuff. Whatever caught my eye and my fancy. Mostly not expensive, but also, mostly not necessary décor items. Being easily distracted by shiny, glittery things in magical, mystical shop windows.
Perhaps, I put it down to the need to surround myself with distractingly pretty items after a lonely childhood of neglect and abuse from alcoholic parents.
I don’t blame them (now). They were victims of circumstance. And maybe one day here, I might elaborate on that story further.

But, it was hard for me nonetheless and, even years after running away from leaving home, stuff seemed to fill a void – yet, it never satiated.

I also surrounded myself with broad, bold splashes of colour. Everywhere.
Every home hubby and I lived in, matched the interior of my artist’s paint box.
Blocks of outrageously painted walls and richly toned, riotous fabrics and furnishings. What felt “right” in those days, not so very long ago, seems somehow jarring to me these days.
Distracting even.

I feel I don’t require a cacophony of colour surrounding me as much as I used to.

Although, I have to say, my language remains as colourful as ever, haha!

And I'm always thinking in a kaleidoscope of hues – mostly of the glazes that seem to sell well at markets and festivals. Clay work is never far from my thoughts.
And, trying to keep my studio “clutter-free”, is a losing battle for me :)

I seriously doubt that I, myself, will ever be beige. My nature is too fiery to be permanently, ummm, sedate. And, I’m not into a pristine, pure, all-white décor - seeing as I allow dog/s to have the run of the house and thus, furniture :)
Colour in one form or another will always feature in my life – I am after all, an artist. Carmine red and alizarin crimson flow through my veins as surely as blood does.

Though, it seems I crave a more peaceful (neutral) palette at home. And, “stuff” doesn’t seem to capture my interest as it once did.
Now, I seem more entranced and captured by the simple fluttering of autumn leaves as the wind shakes them down to the ground – a shower of buttery golds and flaming reds, catching the light as they twirl and zig-zag their way ever so gently to the ground.
And I marvel intently at the flashy red and green plumage of the King Parrots that come to visit.

Nature's colourbox.

In a world where traffic congestion is worsening, huge shopping centres replace the family run corner stores and greedy corporate giants, like McDonalds, sadly smothers yet another long established eatery that provided locals with “real” healthy food, I yearn for a sanctuary where I can close the door and seek a sensory solitude, free from excessive noise and visual clutter.

Calm amidst chaos.

My busy mind craves quiet surroundings. And, functional, honest items and materials that serve a purpose, yet are beautiful in their form. Where everything - well, most things - have a reason for being.


A wooden table, uncluttered but for a simple jar of flowers.
Clay or wooden bowls, made by hands, not mass produced, to be vessels for soup, cereal or fruit.
A garden filled with herbs - for health and healing.
Robust second hand furniture with character.
And linen. Pure linen. Simple, honest, natural.

It also seems the fibres of my being long to reacquaint with the flaxen fibres of my European heritage. Yeah, corny I know. But, something… ancestral, calls to me.
A land of quiet, cold, crystal clear lakes bordered by tall dark pine forests. Where the cultivation of flax, and methods of manufacturing linen of exceptional quality go back centuries in my mother’s “old country”.




 
A beautiful vintage fine linen tablecloth, given to me by my aunt years ago at my wedding, enticed me to learn the history of this long regarded, deeply traditional textile which is commemorated in folk songs and annually held celebrations.

I made a pledge to myself that, as our old bedding (cheap poly-cotton) wears thin, which some seem to do very quickly, I would save to replace it with “real” linen with a homespun feel - there's something about the old-fashioned textural quality.
Purchasing a few items at a time, when I can afford to. Piece by piece. Each hard earned, making them all the more precious and appreciated.
And these durable linens will (hopefully) outlast me by many years, such is their quality. Heirlooms of tomorrow.
Oddly somehow, this seems important to me.
 




The other day, a small linen sample arrived from “the old country”. To see and touch before I buy. And, almost instinctively, I smelled the package. As if I could somehow instantly connect and be transported by drawing in the essence of its origin.
Is this inherent? For, I watched my son do the same as I passed it to him hours later when he came home.
Strange.

As for many other items in my home, there will be a gradual culling. Garage sales and donations to op shops will find homes for them.
Hubby is most pleased about this decision by the way. “Less crap to cart around when it comes to moving”, says he.
As long as he has somewhere to put his road and mountain bikes and a workshop for his tools, he'll be happy.
And move we will, in the next couple of years. To a smaller dwelling, who knows where – yet to be determined.

Another good reason to reduce the non-essentials in our life.

Of course, there will be a few pieces that will sneak their way into a “sentimental” box. A small selection of irreplaceable things from hubby, my mother and dear friends.
I know. Memories are irreplaceable and need not be represented by things. But, for now at least, I’ll keep one box that has special contents.
 

There will always be a small collection of my art – like hand painted birds on tiny rustic wooden “canvasses”.
Books that transport me to far off places to meet old friends.
Chimes. I’ll always have my wind chimes.
My apothecary cupboard, brimming with herbs for ailments and concoctions of cures.







It doesn’t seem like a complete conversion to minimalism. And it isn’t. But for one like me, it is quite the transformation.


sim•pli•fy
[sim-pluh-fahy] to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier.


Years ago, I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and I fell in love with this man’s philosophy on simplicity. Certainly not his own original idea, but one he espoused so very well in his writings, that he captured the hearts of millions. And continues to do so with each generation.
Even back then, what he wrote, spoke to me and seemed right. A seed planted. Waiting for germination, once the rubble had been cleared away and light penetrated the dusty layers.

I guess by simplifying, I’m trying to make some things in my life less complicated in this increasingly complex world.

This may come as a surprise to those who know me personally. Who’ve been in my homes and shared my life.
It comes as a surprise to me too.

I can look back and enjoy the memories of my phases in life and I don’t regret a minute of my bold creative expressions that resulted in life-size illustrations painted across entire walls.
Like huge story books.
I thought at the time, that I would always paint large emerald green dragons over doorways wherever I would go!

But, I’ve lived long enough now to know that change is inevitable.
In any form.
At any time, not just mid-life.
It can sidle up to you quietly and gently coax you into going a different direction, or it can hit you like a freight train at 100mph, derailing your previous plans and shunting you onto another track.

And when it happens, it’s best to go with the flow. For, I believe, it's meant to be.
I don’t speak of change that is forced upon one against their will or wishes. In that case, I say, fight for what you believe is right and best for you at the time.

It’s the change from within that I’m talking about. When it feels right. And, harms none.

Adapt, and it will fit like a glove.

Right now, the change that is happening… fits me well.



via 





20 comments:

  1. This is a beautiful and inspirational post.
    And, the fact that the changes in your life are 'fitting you well' says loudly to me that they are the right changes at the right time.

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    1. Thank you EC. That they are :)

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  2. Oh, how this resonated with me, Vicki! I'm only 40, and so I must be already having the mid-life crisis, as I feel pulled to simply my life and surroundings. I've always liked things more on the quiet side. But I find msyelf really savouring silence, slowness and such more and more. Hubby & I have been in a phase, which began last year, of downsizing possessions, simplifying our home and living. It's been a great thing. I don't ned things to make me happy. "Stuff" does not sing to me anymore. Closing my jewelry business last year made me reflect that I'm not putting so much "suff" out into the world, which maybe it's a bad thing! I LOVE color, and use it mostly in my creative work. OUr home decor is is a mix of whites & creams with select use of color--mostly turquoise and chocolate brown at the moment. One of my favorite quotes from Victorian artist/craftsman William Morris is: "Have nothing n your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." I use this more as guide now for home-keeping/decorating. Your simple wooden table, glass of flowers, linen... just what is need, just what feeds... oh, yes! I LOVE your idea of making your own linens--this is so special! Please update us on this project as/when you can. Would love to know/see more. Oh, I could say so much on this topic, as it is close to my heart! This post was HUGE inspiration, Vicki... so glad you share your journey with us. :o) ((HUGS))

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    1. I've seen pics of your lovely home Tracy - it is very beautiful in its perfect simplicity and calm palette.
      Yes, colour can be used to wonderful advantage in artwork.

      I remember William Morris' quote on "sanded floors and whitewashed walls". I thought at the time that it seemed honest, humble, cottage-ee and, oddly for me at the time, very enticing :)
      He was an amazing man and created much beauty, among my favourite Pre-Raphaelite artists.

      Sadly, my sewing skills only dare to stretch as far as linen lavender pillows. I'll post some pics in due course.
      I intend to acquire made linen bedding slowly when I can afford to. And, it'll be worth it.

      I'm very happy to have you share in my journey and memories dear girl xx

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  3. Vicki, I could have written this very same post. My exact thoughts these days. And it also started for me when I turned 50. The need to de clutter. I have four bags full right now by the door waiting to be taken to the thrift store. I painted my red walls white, and my blue walls gray. I want bare wood, bare floors, bare walls. I love my things, but I want less of them. I want a calmer space. I think that part started when I moved into my white washed studio and kept it bare and minimal. I wanted to bring that feeling into my home as well. Like you said, my thoughts are along the same lines, "you can't take it with you" and someone will have to deal with all the stuff when you're gone!
    Great post!

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    1. Hi Tracey. It sort of feels as though a weight has been lifted doesn't it?

      And, I can understand you wanting your home to reflect your lovely minimal studio. It has a natural warmth and heart and... soul.
      A beautiful place to want to emulate :)

      We have pine panelled walls in the living area which feel "heavy". I long to paint them, but hubby says "no".
      So, I'll have to wait for that little cottage sometime in the future to have bare floors and white-washed walls.

      But, I'll be painting our bedroom walls neutral and stripping the heavy curtains to let the light in through sheer gauzy ones instead! Bliss.

      And, it's a good, fresh start.

      Happy decluttering!

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  4. It's funny reading other people ponder about whether they're experiencing their midlife crisis, or whether such a thing is beyond them... Being almost 20 i kind of have this doomed feeling and weariness about where i'm heading. It's like I'm going through some premature thing, maybe more of a quarter-life crisis. I'm in a dead end undergraduate degree and I still live at home. I don't know where my future lies. I don't who I'll marry, or if i'll ever get married, or what job I'll have, if i'll ever be able to pursue passion or if i'll sell out. I don't even know if i'll wake up tomorrow morning. I'm glad that you're ready for whatever change comes your way. I guess my problem is, and like you've said, that change is inevitable. I'm afraid of what my future holds. I'm afraid it won't be so bright and blissful.

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    1. Well, I could say, “life will get better, you’re young”. Or some other platitude doled out to younger people by us oldies :)
      But, I can say that if you like to chronicle, and it looks like you do, then write/film what you feel and go with your gut when it comes to decisions.
      If you still live at home, and it’s a safe, nurturing environment, then, you are very lucky. Use the time to be/write who you are – purge away in your chronicles. Sometimes, a person can “find themselves” within these pages.

      We live in an age now that can connect us to great people through blogging too. There are some amazing, wonderful bloggers out there that have huge hearts.
      I wish it had been around when I was young.

      You'll find your place. Where you belong. But, it starts from within. You need to be good to YOU.

      It’s a journey, this life. Often painful, scary and disillusioning. But, if you’re clever, and look out for yourself and don’t punish the person you want - deserve - to be, then you will be rewarded.
      It surely is a roller coaster. And there will be highs and lows. But, it IS worth living. And it IS worth fighting for.

      Open your heart. Ask for “good, positive things” to happen to you, and they will. Maybe not immediately – that rarely happens.
      But, bit by bit, a little “sunshine” will peep through the dark clouds.

      I know it :)

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  5. Vicki, I think it's natural. It started happening to me when I reached my mid-fifties. But, the need to have a lot of 'things' never manifested until my mid-forties, so I'm not sure which was the mid-life change. It didn't feel like a crisis to me, just an inner change of my emotional tides, so to speak. I started getting rid of a lot in my mid-fifties, much to my daughters' and nieces' delight. But then, as I entered my sixties, the need to divest myself of things stopped. However, the 'magpie' need hasn't returned. I look around and say, "I have enough." That's such a great feeling!

    Like you, I make a living from my art. I have felt the same sort of guilt as you, but I think what we have to remember is this: We're just two women, not huge, global corporations churning out tons of mass produced stuff that people will throw away in six months.

    Also, like you, I would love to paint the knotty pine paneling in my home white but my husband has a near-coronary every time I mention it, so.... :D .... I content myself with the white walls and bare floors of my studio. Oh, the third floor little guest room has white walls and I did paint the paneling in the kitchen a cream color. It was so dark in there I could barely see to cook, but I'm still, after 30 some years, hearing about it from my husband!

    Blessings, Victoria

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    1. I think that's the key Victoria, to be able to say, "I have enough". No more, no less. Enough to be comfortable :)

      And, I appreciate your words on being an artist.

      I wonder if it's a "male thing". Not wanting to paint the dreadful dark pine panelled wood? Does it hark back to a secret love for a "hunting lodge" perhaps?
      Oh well, I'll paint the plasterboard walls in the bedroom, no problems there.

      Wishing you well and safe on your beautiful mountain - and that rain comes soon :)

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  6. I've never thought of mid-life as a crisis and have been amazed at people who seem to go a bit crazy with their thoughts and behaviour at the thought of turning 30-40-50. Are they feeling something I missed out on? I certainly wouldn't have wanted to feel that panic(?) at suddenly being old. I remember a transition (much kinder word) of my own, somewhere in my early forties when one day I suddenly felt at peace within my body. I was who I was and accepted it. Hate disappeared, the need to buy, to renew...gone. I didn't start de-cluttering or simplifying until much later, but I was more content with what I already had. It was and is enough. (Oddly enough I still wish to win lotto.)

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    1. River, I have felt that same sense of, a kind of peace with oneself.
      Still much going on, but there is a "coming to terms". I like it :)

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  7. What a beautiful post. So much in here that I'm quite lost for words and don't know where to start :)

    I LOVE that you have painted emerald green dragons over doorways in houses. And I LOVE that now those seem not quite right and it is time for something else.

    Is that a picture of your mother? How beautiful she was.

    I'm yet to read Walden, and I think in a way I'm putting it off because I'm enjoying the anticipation of it, knowing that I will love it. Isn't that a beautiful thought - to be surrounded by less, but the things which you are surrounded by hold more meaning. It sounds like you have surrounded yourself in the past with beautiful and meaningful items - how much richer will it be with less! Love the idea of linen, too.

    Thanks so much for this post. You've enriched my mind this morning, Ms Vicki :)

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    1. Oh Sue, you WON'T be disappointed with Walden!
      I keep it close by and read a few pages/chapters every now and then to "keep in touch" with dear old Henry :)

      Sometimes lately, I feel that, letting go of "stuff" means I can also let go of a past that is not worth holding on to - too much sorrow. It means I can move forward and enjoy the simple joys in life. That's the plan :)
      It's taken years, and won't all happen overnight. But, step by step...

      The lovely lady is from my mother's homeland. She is beautiful, holding her flax bundles.

      I appreciate your encouragement too xx

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  8. Why use labels full of other's connotations like 'crisis' or even 'transition'? Isn't it just another phase of life?? Just because it's taking you in a different direction to what you have previously known doesn't make it a disruption ... just the continuation of an ever-changing journey with unexpected twists and turns. The excitement is that you're never complacent about where it will end! How do I know this?? I'm still travelling it - my life now is as different from what it was several years ago as the changes were unforeseen! Good luck in your travels!!

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    1. I've never really liked societal labels either. That's why I can't relate to the, “emotionally uncomfortable” as one medico put it.

      And yes, life can take some of us on unexpected twists and turns in life and down roads we never imagined we'd go! I never thought I'd live on the other side of this country, but, here I am.
      And who knows where I'll be in ten years from now.

      As you know very well Red, life is one big adventure - embrace it!

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  9. Dear Vicki,
    Came to your lovely blog via Tracy in Norway who I have been blog friends with for almost eight years -since blogging began....
    Super to 'meet' someone in Australia with rather the same ideals.
    I too love Walden and was quite blown away by Thoreau when I first read him. I have even been to his super little house/hut near Walden pond.
    Such sensuous detail...a bit like Tolstoy such wonderful ideals.
    Literature and life are sometimes a bit difficult to reconcile (don't I know this as a writer!)
    anyway dear Thoreau used to walk into Concord quite often in the evenings to get a home cooked hot meal at one of his friends'
    houses...and he also managed to set fire to quite a swath of the woods round him....
    However, I still admire his ideals. ..and live very simply indeed.
    Cheers!

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    1. Hello Elizabeth, so lovely to meet you!
      And to think - you've been to dear old Henry's wee house by the pond! Must admit, it's my "Mecca" and a dreamed of pilgrimage.

      I look forward to heading over and catching up on your blog :)

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  10. i loved this post.
    and i like to think that what you're feeling or going through is a 'sea change.'
    i've always liked that phrase! isn't it lovely somehow?
    it's like this calm deep change coming from our very depths. at least that's my take on it. and it's always for the good.
    since moving to the wren house i find myself craving color. and i too feel like you do about labels. i have always been uncomfortable calling myself a minimalist. because in truth i'm not even sure i am one. yet i tend to say it still. there are too many variables of it! and it's constricting. i don't want to be A ANYTHING!!! LOL. i only want to me happily me.
    i just do simply love the whole idea of simplicity. i always have. but i also like the feeling of simply "enough."
    odd that you should do this post. i have a post ready for when i come back. and i talked about some of this. i even mentioned your dragon over the door! i was so taken with him! her! a friendly house dragon!
    i think you are nothing short of wonderful. and this post proves that all over again.
    and i'm so glad i get to know you! XOXOXO

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    1. Hi Tam!
      Isn't that funny? As I seek a calmer palette, you crave colour - must be going through a "sea change" of your own ;)
      The term makes sense too, in many ways, I think. Seeing as our bodies are made up of roughly 70% water.
      Our internal sea.

      And, I'm not surprised that we, once again, think along the same lines in regards to blog content :)

      Hope you're enjoying your deliciously quiet time out. Looking forward to your return - rested and recharged xxx

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