TRAVEL THERAPY #10:
A Necessary Midlife Transition
My recent solo trip to the North Shore of Kauai came about because of a desperate need for a break and enough solitary time to complete at least one of the thoughts that had been swirling through my mind for the past several months. I was feeling drained to the point of desiccation and my soul was stirring. The depth and breadth of the realizations I had on this first solo wander to what I now call “my island” were the beginning of some hardcore travel therapy sessions—and a major (and very necessary) midlife transition.
As I began to love myself, I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is authenticity. | CHARLIE CHAPLIN
About six years ago, while eating lunch with my husband and two young children in a small café in Hanalei, I interrupted myself inside my head.
“I’m going to come back here on by myself some day.”
It was bizarre—but, I was accustomed to ignoring myself so I just kept eating and didn’t give it another thought until several months ago—shortly after after my husband spoke these beautiful words:
“You really need to get away and take a break. Go anywhere you want…just go.“
He was right. I felt like I was on the brink of a breakdown. Being a full-time at-home mom on the front lines disciplining and defending one extremely challenging kid and no significant co-purpose was proving to be more than I could handle. While I love being a wife and mom, I finally had to admit that it was not completing me and I was seriously unstimulated. Even worse than that—I could see that I was invisible. People literally looked through me on a regular basis as if my existence meant nothing.
My husband had just thrown me a life jacket.
I was deeply grateful that I had a partner who would be willing to do this (although it was probably as much for himself as for me lol—and the financial means to go anywhere that I would want to go.
So, where would I go—a cooking trip to Tuscany, a retreat in Sedona? I quickly realized that I didn’t want the demands that being in a group would place upon me. In fact, I didn’t want to be faced with a single demand. I was starving for freedom and solitude.
I got out my copy of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and started researching potential destinations. Then, I interrupted myself again.
“The North Shore of Kauai. I’m supposed to go there…by myself. Remember???”
My gut told me I wasn’t supposed to ignore myself this time. For some reason, Kauai—and specifically the northern tip of the island—wanted me there. I had zero clue why.
When I told my bosom mom friends that I was going on a trip by myself, I got some combo of the following:
“Aren’t you going to be lonely?”
“What about the kids?”
“Wow, you’re brave!”
No one knew that I was, in fact, distraught and the pressure inside of me was threatening to burst the dam I had built around my soul. But, all I said was some combo of the following:
“Absolutely not. I’m in desperate need of some loneliness right now.”
“Fortunately, the kids have a very capable self-employed dad.”
“Bravery has nothing to do with it.”
Within hours after arriving, the island began giving me precious gifts—some I’d asked for, some I didn’t, all of which I desperately needed. A wild landscape, the exact books I needed to read (like The Four Agreements!), a family of sea turtles and several fascinating people.
They all worked together to begin unraveling all of my inherited beliefs by showing me different ways of thinking and being that made far more sense to me. It become glaringly clear that I had taken the whole “good girl” to a chronic level. I had never gone through the rebellion phase when I was younger so that I could become myself.
I know why I never did.
I was a people pleasing human born into a family of strong-willed opinionated humans and growing up in a small judgmental town. I was deathly afraid—to disappoint, to be labeled weird, to be cast out, to be unloved, to not have enough, of the unknown. By the time I was 20, my fears had paralyzed me. By 30, I had controlled my way into the illusion of a safe, secure and happy life.
Is it possible to know something without ever having experienced it? Yes, but it will never truly be part of you. | ALEPH : PAULO COELHO
At 42, on the North Shore of the island of Kauai, I wept when I realized that I had very few parts. That moment you fully grasp that you have lived other peoples’ version of life for half your life is horrifying.
So I said FUCK IT—and went to go find my parts.
It was an emotional, spiritual and physical week filled with excavation and rejuvenation—and I began the process of knowing myself.
And, somehow, some way, the island flooded me with empathy. I wasn’t proud that one of the most insidious symptoms of my inauthenticity was judgment—of myself and others.
“Most people spend all their energy on personal importance, on defending their image, on defending their opinions and what they believe. They spend a lot of energy trying to be right and making everybody else wrong…To believe what we believe, to keep all these agreements alive, we have no energy left…The result is we feel powerless.” | THE FOUR AGREEMENTS : DON MIGUEL RUIZ
I don’t want to be a most!!! It was not a peaceful state to see the world in black and white—I was agitated, drained, unhappy, and constantly searching. During my week on the island, I saw through a rainbow and felt peace. There was no way I was going back to shame, guilt, not good enough, not important enough and labels like “bad,” “bitch,” “loser” or worse.
I vow to listen, give people the benefit of the doubt, celebrate individuality and differences (including my own!), focus less on myself and have empathy.
At the end of the week, I was lying on the beach when I had a vision of sorts. I was a wrinkled and elderly sitting in my beloved rocking chair. I was alone…not sad or lonely, but peaceful. It was the end of my life and I understood.
Death is a solitary transition. Even though some of my most cherished loved ones might be physically by my side, all that really matters at this final point is the state of my spirit. What impacts this most is how true I had been to myself and how I had impacted those around me throughout my lifetime—from my core family and friends to my community and world.
Had I lived my life authentically (and with me as a priority alongside those I loved) or solely to please others? Did I live my life to the fullest or did I have numerous regrets? Had I practiced empathy and left people and places better having met me or had I wasted my energy on judgment lacking gratitude and empathy?
A life spent solely living for and pleasing others—whether it be my parents, siblings, husband, kids, friends, neighbors, teachers, or casual acquaintances—is a life squandered. In the end, all of their opinions, and my tiring efforts to please them, would be meaningless.
Yes, I understood.
I must live an authentic life…one where I cherish, nurture, and honor myself, as well as those I love. I cannot force myself to have interests just to fit into my suburban lifestyle, I cannot postpone my passions until there is more time. I cannot hide who I am—I am eclectic, I want tattoos, shallow conversations and relationships bore me, and I am so much more than a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and neighbor. As hokey as it sounds, first and foremost, I must be me.
If you haven’t experienced anything like what happened to me on my island, you might label it a “midlife crisis.” I don’t know specifically how this shift will impact my husband and children, but I do know that labeling it a crisis would be wholly incorrect. It’s the very necessary redirection of a misguided soul and the prevention of a truly devastating crisis. And, I know for certain that I’ll be a better mother for it.
As for my co-purpose, I don’t have any specifics yet—but, it will definitely be focused on helping others find their parts.
As I walked down the corridor to the empty seat near my airline gate, heads lifted—literally one by one, on my left and right. People looked up from their phones and books and saw me. And, I had to seriously restrain myself from laughing out loud and giving each one of them a hug! This was just the confirmation I needed that my midlife transition was not only necessary, but incredibly positive.