Midlife is hard.
Call it a crisis, an awakening, a period of deep regret, or a longing for a do-over at life— any way it’s labeled, most days I feel lost, with an overwhelming sense of longing for some unknown thing. It feels like life is moving by so damn fast and something (I don’t quite know what) is missing.
I do know, however, that I want to be young again (if only). I want to make new choices. I want to live life to the fullest—not safely on the sidelines surrounded by comfort.
Fear has controlled me for too long. Fear of failure. Fear of not having enough money. Fear of people not liking me. Fear of getting hurt or sick or of my kids getting hurt or sick. Fear of getting fired and fear of being successful. Fear of flying and heights and weight gain and car accidents and heartbreak. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear.
Everywhere I look, for most of my life, fear has been waiting.
It. Is. Exhausting.
And then something(s) happened.
In a perfect storm of opportunity and happenstance, life provided me with the right tools to see things more clearly. I had been reading a self-help book that speaks to the power of the mind. Author David Goggin’s says, “if you master the mind, you will defy the odds…” His book left me attempting to re-wire my own brain—to be brave and strong and take risks in the name of my own happiness.
At the same time, an invitation to Great Wolf Lodge in Arizona kind-of fell in my lap. The main event of their new Pack of Parents kick-off program was an epic pool party with Twitch and Allison Holker and yes, for the record, I do think I can dance! I am a bit of a Twitch fan-girl, so of course I wanted to go!
But fear quickly crept in and said otherwise.
Smack in the middle of the busiest time of year for my job. I had no vacation days and no money to spare. I had a million reasons to say no, all propelled by fear. I couldn’t afford it, said my fear. How could I ask my boss for time off? How could I take my son out of school for a week? Fear— my default setting— told me to say no. Saying no was easier and more comfortable. It wouldn’t upset anyone. I wouldn’t have to face the unknown. There was absolutely zero risk associated with saying no. Or so I initially thought.
But then I remembered that feeling— the midlife complacency. The monotony of comfort. The dread of knowing that time is flying by and I am standing comfortably in the same place, year after year after year. And I remembered Goggins, who told me over and over again that I was in charge of my own life, my own happiness and my own mindset. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be the person who said yes to life and no to fear and took risks to chase happiness. I wanted to be the person who packed up and flew to Arizona for a few days without any anxiety. And so—I became her.
If you want different results, you have to do something different, Suzanne.
In an instant I committed to saying yes to life and no to fear. Because saying no to life is its own risk. No freaking way. Not this time. Fear wasn’t going to win. I was going to Arizona no matter what and I wasn’t going to let anything pass me by while I was there. My son was concerned that I would be too scared to go on the waterslides with him (because I always had been), to which I replied, “Nope, not this time, Emmet. This is our NO FEAR vacation!” And it truly was.
So what happened, when I embarked on a no fear vacation, you ask?
I stayed up for 21 straight hours with my son living like a 12-year-old, I howled at the moon, I went swimming with a rare, toothless shark and I screamed NO FEAR VACAYYYYY as I jolted down and around and what felt like upside down on the fastest of waterslides. For three whole days, I didn’t allow myself to entertain fear at all. I simply acknowledged my fears, said “not today” and released them. The result? I discovered a version of myself that felt young again.
Our thoughts and our feelings are not facts, friends. We can rewire our brains and live differently and challenge the very things that are so engrained in us. It is a practice that requires diligence, willingness, self-awareness, and lots of accountability. But it is so worth it.
For me, midlife has been the catalyst I needed to reignite a youthful excitement within me. The summer (and the life) you are waiting for can be discovered, too. Don’t take no for an answer. Create it, Commit. Say no to fear and yes to life.