Hitting my late 50’s has actually been a bit of an A-Ha moment for me. Was the best of my life behind me or was the best yet to come? Motherhood with all its joys and delights are definitely behind me as I sit here typing in my empty (but very quiet and tidy) nest.
This time of life really is a crossroads; a time to feel bereft and at sea or a time to embrace the next chapter, the next adventure. A time to take on new challenges, to get out of my comfort zone and try new things; things I never had time for or never had the confidence to do.
Of course it matters whether we face this stage with optimism or pessimism. I spent a good part of my younger years as a fully paid-up pessimist. I avoided having any hope, vision or plans as I believed they would only lead to disappointment. I went through life expecting to be rejected and lonely and funnily enough, that’s what I often got.
Pessimism can be very satisfying at times because all your negative predictions on how badly things will go or how you will be mistreated so often come to pass that you’re always in the right!
However this negative mindset will eat your future alive! It will hold you back from stepping out in any area of your life and if you DO manage to summon up the courage to step out in any small way, you will retreat back into your defences at the slightest hint of criticism or difficulty.
One of the most important things I have learned over time is that our starting place does not dictate our finish. We do not have to stay a victim to our past but for many years I did stay a victim in my mind when there was no longer any need. It was a deeply ingrained negative thought process that absolutely dictated every reaction I had to circumstances or to people and drove every action and decision I made.
In recent years though I have been learning how to change my natural pessimism to a joyful optimism (I’m a work in progress), more on that in a minute.
But first there is definitely a grieving process that we have to go through as our children leave and have separate lives to us (even if they’re wonderful and regularly ring home). I felt as if I was grieving for a very long time on and off. There were a few periods when the grieving could be put on hold as one or other of my kids would come home for a while and I could slip back into ‘mum’ mode (but pretend I wasn’t!) Then they’d be off again and I’d get back to licking my wounds!
Then the grieving really escalated when that final realisation dawned – they were all settled and would never need to live at home again, only visit. That’s when feelings of depression really began to kick in because I chose to entertain a lot of negative thoughts about myself: I was redundant. I’d never be a mum again. They didn’t need me anymore. I’d been replaced. I was on the scrapheap. I wasn’t appreciated. The list went on.
Thankfully this stage was short because I have learnt over the years not to trust my inner voice when it’s telling me horrible things about myself. It just lasted long enough for me to throw myself a pity party before I took myself in hand and gave myself a talking to.
Like most things in life, if we can get our heads in gear then good things follow. Every day that we wake up we have two choices: The cup is half full or the cup is half empty (and not the third option either that the cup is twice as big as it needs to be!)
I chose cup half full; to look, record and be thankful for every single positive I could find by changing my internal recording to positives about myself. I’ve discovered over the years that a great way to do this is to take the time to write down a list of the negatives swirling round my head and then write a second list of directly opposite statements, so that for instance, ‘I’m useless’ changes to ‘I’m capable with a lot to give’. Once I have my positive list I symbolically tear up the negative one, casting it away from me and I declare out loud the positives every day or whenever negativity hits.
Give it a try next time you start listening to a load of rubbish about yourself – I found my mood lifted, the way I saw myself improved and good things started to happen around me again.
It was such an important process to win through on because then and only then are we in the right place in our thinking and our belief about ourselves to be able to embrace new possibilities, new opportunities and dare to take a few risks that this new stage of life can offer.
Have you struggled with negative thoughts about yourself? Have they stopped you from doing something that you wanted to do? Have you found ways to counter those thoughts