Reflections from The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife
by Elyse Fitzpatrick
In America, the average woman’s life expectancy is approximately 80. If you divide these years into equal 15 year segments and link those segments to the times of a day, it looks something like this:
16-30 Morning until noon
46-60 Afternoon until twilight
76+ Night fall
I, like Elyse, am in my afternoon of life. It’s a stage of life that I’m learning to enjoy, but that hasn’t come easily. The last 12 years I’ve become an empty-nester, took on the new roles of mother-in-law and grandmother, took care of my aging parents and grieved their deaths, as well as experienced the many physical changes that accompany menopause.
I’ve watched gravity take it’s toll on my body as I stood in front of a 3-way mirror in a department store dressing room wondering what happened to that bikini clad body I used to have! I’m developing wrinkles, cellulite and the “muffin top” that poofs out over your pants. Instead of going to the gym to workout, the couch seems much more inviting.
No longer do I sleep through the night. Between hot flashes, going potty, and waking up at 3:00am wide awake, I rarely get a good night’s sleep. Caffeine is no longer my friend–some nights I can’t fall asleep because of that cup of coffee I had earlier in the day to give me a “little boost.”
And I just love those “senior moments” when I can’t think of a word or person’s name whom I’ve known forever. That always goes over well with the youngsters at work as they look at me strangely wondering if I’ve lost my marbles.
I couldn’t believe I could be “that old” when I received my AARP card in the mail. Many times as I look in the mirror, I see my mother’s reflection and I have a new understanding of some of the trials my mom went through as she aged. Coming to the realization that I’m past the halfway mark of my life is a sobering thought.
As Elyse says, these decades are all about change and just when we get comfortable with the way things are, everything is turned on its head. But the most comforting thought that I cling to as I experience these changes is that it’s no surprise to God: He is a wise, loving and sovereign God. His supreme purpose in bringing me through all these changes is to glorify Him and sanctify me. The more I know Him, the more I can trust Him with my future in this roller coaster of life.
God has been teaching me that these temporal things in my life that I want to hold on to, such as a youthful body, a good memory, and my loved ones, aren’t the source of real joy and peace. As He takes these things away from me, He draws my attention to Him where I find fullness of joy and eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11). I need to look at these afternoon hours through new bifocals—ones that focus on God’s plan, glory and purpose for my life. I want to face these changes with grace and gladness.
The next few weeks join me as we peek into the lives of various Missio Dei Fellowship women who are in their midlife or “afternoon of life.” No matter what age or stage of life you are in, you will benefit from their wisdom as they share with you the work God is doing in this season of life.