Trusting The Journey: The Secret To Happiness in Middle Age

Neon sign in shop that says “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
Image from Logan Weaver on Unsplash.com

Trust me, you can’t fix everything

It’s only now, in middle age, that I’m finally accepting that I don’t have the superpower to fix everything — no one does, not even those with the money to buy (in theory) whatever they want or need. Money can buy rockets, but it can’t buy your health, for example — as Steve Jobs found out — or love and loyalty.

Money can’t buy everything

This is why we have to learn to trust the journey, as Marc says, and not let the frustration of not being able to control what we can’t make us unhappy or bitter.

  1. The first has been my preoccupation with the past and the victim persona I have allowed myself to adopt as a result of the trauma I experienced in my childhood. Perhaps, the tendency to self-pity is ingrained in my character — because I can clearly remember an aunt once telling me that I whined a lot as a child, but that may also have been a symptom of my undiagnosed anxiety, feelings of insecurity, or need for perfectionism to feel in control. What I do know now is that those “why me?” feelings aren’t helpful and I allowed them to detract from my happiness. I’m not negating the emotional impact of childhood trauma, but constantly looking back means you get stuck in time and struggle to move forward.
  2. The second is the amount of time I have wasted trying to change my son. I wish I could say that I have spent a lot of time trying to understand his differences, but that would be a distortion of the truth. For too long, I have tried to change him to the son we anticipated — a clone of us, I suppose — and that has caused an enormous amount of pain for both of us. My abortive attempts to change him, fix him, and make him fit into the hole we expected him to slot into have threatened our relationship and I see now that I have tried to carve out his future for him to validate our lives in some way — like there is only one way. It has taken me almost twenty-five years to understand that he must make his own journey, take responsibility for his choices, and I must trust his journey.

I now understand that happiness is directly linked to accepting whatever life throws at us

It is about making the best of the hand you are given. It is accepting that there is only so much you can do to control your life and the lives of others. I’ve had countless why me? moments during my journey with our son and there’s no way I could have prepared myself mentally for the anguish we have experienced, but when I look back on the aspirations of my twenties, I realise I was lucky — I got what I wanted. I have been happy and loved, many times over.

Because once we meet our basic needs, surely everything else is a bonus?

The wisdom of middle age and the experience of a decade of renting houses have shown me those material things, and in particular, where I live, are minor contributors to my happiness. Living in Australia, a rich country where the main focus of the lifestyle is outdoors, may make that easier, but for me, the value of my home is in its functionalism. It is somewhere to invite family and friends and it protects me from the elements.

“‘The good life’ begins when you stop wanting a better one.” (Nkosiphambili E. Molapis)

And ‘experiences’ are where I am choosing to place my time, money and energy in the future. Because, finally, I understand the power of a beautiful sunset, an inspiring walk in nature, a check-in from a friend, a new food, a new cocktail or an impromptu gathering of friends to reset me, which is why all those things hold so much more value than the size of my living room.

A minimalist lifestyle is a key to happiness

I have a habit of saying annoying things like “It is what it is” and “What will be will be”, but those expressions don’t mean I’ve given up on my dreams, they mean that finally I am trusting my journey and I’ve never felt less pressure in my life.

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