Life can be like a bowl of spaghetti: Making sense of midlife

Hand on keyboardIt has been 6 weeks since my last blog post. I have had so much that I wanted to write about and whilst have mulled them over in my head have not managed to put fingers onto the keyboard.

I was very disappointed in myself that I couldn’t find the time to write which was used for other things that took priority.  This made me question my own expectations of myself which were unrealistic but also ‘what was taking my time up and why?’

My work commitments remain the same but my commitment and time for matters outside of ‘work’ (that generates an income) seem to have mushroomed.

I got to thinking that sometimes life can be like a bowl of spaghetti – all messy and tangled up. And why does this stage of my life seem more complicated and more about ‘me’ and ‘who I am’ and ‘what I am’?

In trying to untangle and make sense of the ‘why’ and find some meaning, I investigated some possible explanations of the things that may happen in midlife:

Striving for individuation

According to Jung (1971), the goals of the first half of life (age 35 to 40) is to make one’s way in the world and to become a specialist (for example in family, business, profession). In the second half of life, the goal is individuation – the process of becoming inwardly whole, discovering one’s true self, living a life aligned to one’s authentic self where your actions speak your purpose and your values mesh with your lifestyle

Gaining affirmation in society

The age of 40 marks the onset of the midlife transition following a period of questioning and exploration around work advancement, gaining affirmation in society, independence and seniority during the “becoming one’s own man” phase (Levinson et al 1987)

Increasing sense of self

Kolb (1984) categorises human development into three areas: acquisition, specialisation and integration. The middle era of specialisation is concerned with security and achievement and recognises this conflict with personal fulfilment.                                       The transition into the third era is about bringing this conflict into the open – a process that can be gradual or sudden. This results in a shift in the frame of reference that is used to experience and appraise one’s life. With an increasing sense of self, there is a sense of integration and wholeness.

Caring for others

Middle adulthood (35-65 years) is defined as a period of generativity versus stagnation. The former is the ability to look outside oneself and care for others (parenthood, in community and societal involvement), leaving a legacy to the next generation. Inability to accomplish generativity leads to self-absorption and stagnation ensues (Erikson 1980)

I can see some of the above in my own path which has shed some light and understanding on the possible meaning behind the ‘why.’

For the cynics, who may question, ‘Does this make a difference? Will it alter anything?’ Perhaps not but it is learning and adding to one’s worldview and perspective.

Our lives have many facets, all of which are intertwined and connected and sometimes can seem like a tangled mess – like a bowl of spaghetti!

Are you in midlife? How has your life changed? Does any of the above resonate with you? What would you add?   

Read more at:

Erikson, E.H. (1980). Identity and the life cycle: A reissue. New York: Norton

Jung, C.G. (1971) Stages of Life. In J. Campbell (Ed.) The portable Jung. New York: Penguin Books

Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, N J: Prentice Hall

Levinson, D.J., Darrow, D.N., Klein, E.B., Levinson, M.H., and McKee, B. (1978) The seasons of a man’s life. New York: AA Knopf

Images: David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos; Flickr user Life’s a feast Gail Rast

Vera in 2012I’m a professional coach (MA in Coaching & Mentoring) helping you to progress, make successful changes, be a more effective leader and communicator, improve your performance and team working.                                                                                                               I work with women who are advancing their careers and businesses, women who have left  employment to build profitable businesses AND develop teams and people within organisations through coaching, mentoring and leadership development programmes.

Connect with me on Twitter; LinkedIn; Join me in celebrating International Women’s Day


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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5 Responses to Life can be like a bowl of spaghetti: Making sense of midlife

  1. Hi Vera
    I like your reflections – and Jung’s description strikes a strong chord with me! I see our forties as a time to take stock, realise our true strengths and relax into them. And that takes a little time, self absorption and you’re right – things can feel messy for a while. I’ll be blogging later about time and how we use it for self reflection and saw a connection with your post … thank you!

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hi Clare
      I’m glad that resonated with you – sometimes I think ‘is it me’?
      Shall look forward to your post. You are more than welcome to pingback to mine

  2. Jamie says:

    Vera, thanks for this thought-provoking post! I’m a bit past the middle of middle age and would agree with the way you’ve described it. I’ve also recently suffered a significant loss and trauma with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed the entire lower level of my home. A combination of middle age and the storm have sparked much learning and discovery (lots of it written about on my blog). One small change is that I am “off” shopping and have recognized that I have way too much stuff. Another is my increased value of time with family (not that it didn’t exist before the story). At the ripe age of 61 I definitely know myself far better and that’s a beautiful thing!

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