Break the midlife myth

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

'Men joke about being over the hill," the bookstore manager told me. "But underneath, we worry about it."

To prove his point, he handed me a copy of "Dave Barry Turns 50." Just leafing through the pages had me laughing within seconds. Barry satirizes all the clichd symptoms of the midlife years - from forgetfulness to fascination with obituary pages - and basically decides he's exhibiting all of them.

I told the bookstore manager that I was writing something that took a positive - and actually spiritual - approach to people's fears about midlife.

"Great!" he said. "I've got lots of books for you."

Most of them, I found, emphasize that midlife is a time of "rebirth" and "renewal." And they challenge the notion that one can only experience this rebirth through heavy medication, antidepressants, or hormone therapy.

One best-selling book on menopause argues that drug companies have been "mythologizing" a set of symptoms connected with female midlife. The sad result, according to author Dr. Susan Love, is that these symptoms have become "real" to many women. But when women "break through that image," she says, "they blossom. They feel themselves capable of changing the world" ("Hormone Book: Making Choices About Menopause," pgs. 25, 19, 13).

In a recent issue of Modern Maturity, gerontologist/psychiatrist Gene D. Cohen makes a similar point. The idea that creativity fades at midlife - or ever - is a "myth," he says. And he cites numerous examples of myth-breakers, including George Frideric Handel, who debuted his "Messiah" at age 57; Helen Keller, who published her book "Teacher" at 75; and Mary Baker Eddy, who launched The Christian Science Monitor at 87 ("C=me2," March/April 2000, pgs. 32-44).

These ideas about renewal and ever-advancing creativity square with what the Bible says. Spiritual rebirth can happen anytime, to anyone, it affirms, in words like these: "If a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether - the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new" (II Cor. 5:17, J. B. Phillips translation).

How does this happen? Well, as the Bible says, it has to do with letting the truth of God enter your innermost thoughts - and rejuvenate them. Every moment, God is communicating His glory to you - His gentleness, serenity, originality. His endless energy, His timeless loveliness. These holy gifts inspire and refurbish you. They bring you alive again, just as the spring thaw makes translucent green leaves appear on every twig and branch. They make you feel young again, with what Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy called "a youth that never grows old" (see "Miscellaneous Writings," pg. ix).

As this youthfulness rises up within you, don't be surprised if other people start to notice it. And you will notice it. You'll see a fresh kind of beauty in yourself and others. A deep-down, enduring beauty. A spiritual beauty.

This reversal of the material aging process occurs naturally and inevitably. "Immortal Mind feeds the body with supernal freshness and fairness," Mary Baker Eddy concluded, "supplying it with beautiful images of thought and destroying the woes of sense which each day brings to a nearer tomb" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 248).

This "greening" of human thoughts and hearts is the real change of life that God is constantly bringing us. And it's a completely spiritual change. A healing and empowering change.

Someone I know feels this change revitalizing her life. In the past, she'd fought off a tendency to cry under pressure. As she entered the midlife years, she worried that this weak spot might get even weaker. But just the reverse has happened. Now, if she feels pressured, she reaches for the messages from God that are constantly streaming to her. And in less than a second, she feels strong - stronger than ever.

Stronger and more beautiful than ever. That's the only change ahead for any of us. It's a wonderful, myth-breaking change.

Articles like this one appear in 13 different languages in the magazine The Herald of Christian Science.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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