A few years ago I studied the lives of my ancestors. Everyone one of them had a significant life event occur in their 40’s which one could characterized as a crisis which altered the course of their life. Here is a list.
Paternal Grandfather – Jesse Anderson MD-Spanish Flu and Tuberculosis at age 44. Poor health caused him to give up his medical practice. Died at 54.
Paternal Grandmother – Laurie Anderson Swift – Widowed at age 46. Rebuilt her life successfully through a wealthy husband.
Maternal Grandfather – Franz Behnes – Affluent cotton merchant bankrupt at 50. Moved back to US from Germany. Sold life insurance. Retired later, supported by single daughter.
Maternal Grandmother – Lucy Behnes – Bankrupt at 43. Transitioned from upper middle class matron to department store clerk. Retired later, supported by single daughter.
Father – Lee Anderson MD – Injured age 47. Practiced medicine in wheelchair until death at 54.
Mother – Frances Anderson – Widowed at age 49. Successfully rebuilt her life. Wrote a newspaper column, sold real estate, and owned highly successful restaurant.
Sister -Gail Upton – Bankrupt at age 48. Rebuilt her financial life by selling and buying real estate and retired successfully.
Bruce – Divorced, fired from job, brother and mother died, career crisis, broke at age 38 till 42. Rebuilt 2nd and 3rd careers, remarried and retired financially successful.
Those in the next generation are now in their early 50’s and each of them have had similar crises in their lives, manifested externally or by internal turmoil and they have responded positively to the challenge.
What is it with these Andersons? Are we cursed? I don’t think so. I think not having a crisis in your 40’s is the exception. And this includes people who have good values and are living meaningful and useful lives. We know everyone’s life is a series of attachments and losses.
With these external events, there are also internal dynamics that are occurring. When we have a crisis, it is a call to grow up and to no longer live out our parental and cultural programming. With insight, courage and determination, we rise to the occasion in the midst of adversity. We are able to correct earlier choices, declare our full individuality and transition to a more meaningful and satisfying life. It takes traumatic events to precipitate our growth.
And I suspect if you look at your life, you will see similar times of despair and transition toward growth and new beginnings.
Do you have regrets, or do you look back on these traumatic events as a blessing? Most would say it was a blessing. It was a way to re-emerge into a better life, even though it did not seem to be at the time.
The divorce from my first marriage was very traumatic, but in retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I created a happy single life for 20 years and a happy married life with an extraordinary woman for the next 20 years.
Did you have a midlife crisis?
How did you rise to the challenge?