The BackBendI’d really prefer not to think of myself as in my “Mid-Life” – the term scares me.  Let alone “having a crises”.  Outwardly no one is seeing typical mid-life symptoms; I’ve not bought a motorbike, tattooed Rumi sutras across my left arm or found a lover 20 years my junior.  (Ok, I have posted a picture of myself doing a backbend in cyber-space – does that count?)  I’m a youthful women in my early 40’s – “mid-life” happens in our 50’s, I tell myself.  And then another one of life’s interesting side-balls brings me back from illusion to reality, turns my thinking upside down, and I recognize I might be having some sort of crises – perhaps, as  a  ’crises of meaning’ that I wrote about a few posts back. 

Gesine Schaffer, in his article on Coaching for Midlife seems to echo my sentiment; “Ask 40-year-olds today if they are in mid-life, and most of them will tell you they are too young and too busy to think about such things.”

There comes a time,  sometime between 40 and 50, however, when the notice of a physical change, perhaps an illness, unexpected event, disruption or other unavoidable sign that we are ‘getting-on’, bumps us right up to the awareness that we are middle aged. Yikes!

I’ve always embraced the romantic, idealistic side of my nature.  I will even confess that until recently, some of my perceptions of the world were still based on fairytales; stuff around romance, partnerships, governments who care, economies that make sense, spiritual premises that sound perfect in theory.  My biggest crises in this mid-life is dealing with the jolt that messages and messengers bring that force me to put down some of these illusions and face  reality.  And to add crises to crises, the ongoing questions about which is illusion and which is reality after all?

Maturing, as I am experiencing it, is the delicate, uncomfortable business of understanding that paradoxes, ambiguities and complexities need to be held.  There is no “this is the way it should be”.  A new storyline needs to emerge to ward of disillusionment.  What used to make sense often no longer does, and it starts becoming more important to face life without the fairytale-veil obscuring the view.  It’s time to shift expectations, figure out what really matters to us, and to focus on this.  FortySomething is the decade for open-eyed individuation.  And a good time to work with a coach too…..which brings me to this;

If you believe that as Executive Coach I should have this all figured out already, allow me to neutralize your illusion; coaches, (include teachers and therapists) are humans too, subject to all the foibles of this collective experience.  A coach too grapples with their own crises of meaning.  This is what makes the coaching relationship authentic, empathetic and a dynamic mutual learning.  We’re in it together folks.


MClarkeEMichelle Clarke is an Executive Coach based in Cape Town. She works locally and internationally with Leaders, Executives and Executive Coaches, helping them to navigate the complexity of 21st century leadership.  To learn more about her work please visit her website, and be sure also to subscribe to this blog for future updates.  If you enjoy Facebook, please join Michelle’s Business Page

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