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Midlife Reimagined

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By Whitney Westbrook

You should see the pictures on my camera roll.

Pictures of things I use to try and fix me.

Things like steaming mugs of coffee.

And the first fire in the fireplace of the year.

And the best Mexican food in my neighborhood.

And, of course, my dog, sleeping peacefully in the sun.

These are signs of warmth when I need comfort, things that tell me I’m full when, really, I’m empty, and pictures of blissful rest that escapes me when I feel restless.

Not to lean too far into introspection, but I sometimes wonder if my infatuation over capturing the perfect still life is just exactly that: My infatuation with the Perfect Still Life.

Like somehow the Perfect Still Life subconsciously means to me that imperfections are absent from my life, that my circumstances are perfect in that moment, and that everything about and around me is “fixed”.

Let me tell you what, my people.

There is nothing picture-perfect about midlife.

That perfect cup of coffee and a cozy fire, that insanely delicious guacamole (that I didn’t make) and the dream of an uninterrupted nap in the sunshine – these things might be just what the doctor ordered, but the “perfection” they offer is simply a mist.

It evaporates behind the lens in real life.

I always need to start over with fresh coffee the next morning. Fires require tending or they dwindle. And everybody knows guac turns nasty overnight.

And a nap? Are you kidding me?

If I could EVEN still my mind enough to sleep midday, you and I both know 72,000 people would pick that moment to need something RIGHT NOW.

Friends, I don’t know – and I don’t want to know – what’s on your camera roll. But I’m guessing like most people, you capture the images you want to see because they speak to you.

Things that speak peace in your life.
And things that spark hope.
And things that inspire joy.
And, of course, things that emote love and good cheer.

These things – the coffee and the food and the fireplace and the patch of sunshine on the floor – these are all good things.

Scratch that. These are all GREAT things.

But I’m convinced these snapshots are gifts that represent something far greater, far more sustainable.

Something far more PERMANENT for which I’m forever accidentally but undeniably searching.

And that something is the Perfect Love of God who shines through all the cracks of my imperfect life and a very broken world.

Photo by Canva

Friends, I offer you this thought: It’s absolutely right to celebrate all of your misty gifts, even while you still struggle with all the imperfections of your (not so) still life.

Enjoy your gifts in whatever images they present themselves tonight, and rest in God’s Perfect Love fully in those moments.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 (NIV)

By Whitney Westbrook

Wild Horses by Pixels

“Are we going to see the wild horses?” my not-yet-college-bound, have-to-be-dragged-everywhere, youngest asked. “You promised.”

We were on a college visit trip with her older brother.  5 colleges in 5 days.

The drive to see these mythical creatures on an exotic island was about an hour out of the way and I was exhausted from tours about professors/safety/dorms and hotel rooms with weird smells/bad breakfasts/non-working hot tubs.

But my memory of the picture on the cover of the book, Misty of Chincoteague, a beautiful wild horse, and her foal, drew me in and convinced me to keep said promise.

As we pulled into the park and made our way to the restrooms before embarking on our glorious, out-of-the-way adventure, signs warned not to feed the horses as they may bite and to ensure our safety by staying 40-feet away. This was exciting!

Bladders empty, we were ready!  We couldn’t wait to see these wild creatures, prancing in the sand dunes and uttering high-pitched neighs.

What happened next was stranger than strange.

We rounded the corner and there was a horse, in the middle of the parking lot.  Not prancing. Not neighing. Standing. Still. So still, we thought it might be a taxidermist’s latest “stuffing” project.

We got out. Walked around it. It did NOT move. Just stood there. We did see it take a breath, so we surmised it was alive and didn’t belong at the local Cabela’s.

The “wild horse ” in the parking lot

We had so hoped to happen upon a wild, prancing, neighing horse, enjoying the sands of Virginia beaches and its ability to roam FREE.

But what we found was more like a TAMED mule ready to plow the fields under the guise of some master who needed to get things done.

As we ventured on the park pathways, we saw a few more horse/mules milling around, and I can assure you that we were not scared, or excited, not even one little bit.

We got back in our cars and my mom thoughts took off into those mom places only they can go.

Are these horses like my kids?

Longing for adventure, FREEDOM, and curiosity to discover, hope, and dream?

But standing around, TAMED, bored, and controlled because of how me, as a mom, and society, as a whole, has directed them?

Don’t bite.
Stand still.
Be quiet.

Don’t stand up for yourself (your true self). Fit in.
Do what everyone else is doing. Stay in the box.
Control yourself at all costs.  Never color outside of the lines.

College visits.
What everyone else did.
What we were supposed to do.

Over the next days, I kept coming back and back to my thoughts and these horse-mules and my kids.

I did not want them to be mules.  I wanted them to be horses.  WILD ONES.  Not TAMED into submission to some arbitrary set of rules that who knows who made up.

I wanted them to be FREE.  To discover, hope and dream.

I talked and talked and talked to them about it.  And then talked some more.

Guess what happened?

My college-bound son said, “NOPE.”
He decided to take a gap year.
He enjoyed the end of his senior year without the pressure of choosing.
He never went to any of those 5 we had visited on that trip.
He discovered a school that made his heart happy.
FREEDOM.

My baby watched him intently.
She spent an extra year with him, the two of them becoming the best of friends.
When it was her turn, she chose an out-of-the-box school where she could get her Bachelor’s degree in two years. Two long, hard years.
She moved to California at 19 to pursue her dreams, graduation behind her.
She wants to win an Emmy.
FREEDOM.

Guess what else happened?

I began to wonder the same thing about me.

Do I have the FREEDOM to discover, hope, and dream?

As a middle-aged, regular, mom who has always played by the rules?

Who didn’t bite, stood still, and was quiet?

The answer:  YES.  YES, I DO.

I might stand up for myself.
What if I forge my own way?
Maybe I will even draw my own lines to color inside.
We’ll see how it all plays out.
It’s going to be good.
FREEDOM.

As I get older, a clarity sets in.

My priorities come into sharper focus. My passions re-ignite.

I become more accepting and gracious. I am not interested in complaining.

I find peace in protecting my boundaries.

I love more freely. I forgive myself. I put down the masks.

I listen not just to people’s words but to their hearts.

I find more of myself the more I let go. I find more of myself when I don’t try so hard. I find more of myself when give myself permission to do the things that bring me joy.

These are the gifts that growing older have given me.

Article By Ali Flynn/Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels

After many years of feeling drained as a partner and a mom, I decided to take my life back and stop going through the motions…

At some point, I lost a bit of myself along the way of raising my children.

I let go of my passions and only focused on what made my children happy.
And the funny thing is, I didn’t even know it.

Until years later, upon deep reflection, I realized the loss I was feeling.

I let go of me.

I stopped living for me and only woke up each day wondering how to make the lives of the people around me more fulfilled.

I let go of me.

I started to become a shell of a person simply going through the motions rather than living life each day. Even before the pandemic of Covid-19, I felt I was living day after day the same life over and over again.

I let go of me.

I didn’t wake up refreshed, ready to take on the day, rather I was tirelessly traipsing through the day with little to no emotion.

I let go of me.

I was trapped inside my own shell, knowing the walls to escape could be broken down but no one could reach in and help me.

I let go of me.

I had to emerge on my own…

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.

I reached deep into my soul and pulled out the old wounds and dealt with them face to face.

I slowly started to find me.

I gently traveled to the parts that I had been missing, brushed myself off while being wrapped in a warm embrace and invited myself back in again.

I slowly started to find me again.


I essentially stopped living life going through the motions.

I slowly started to find me again.

I started living and I let go of the guilt.

I let go of the looming thoughts that burdened me.
I stopped feeling selfish the times I was making myself happy.

I started living for my family as a whole.

Not just living for my husband.
Not just going about my day for my children.
But for me also.
For the first time, I was living for all of us collectively.

I slowly started to find me again.

Life has not changed drastically.
But how I look at my life has been altered.

Each day I am presented with decisions to make and I am living within the decisions, feeling each and every part of the day.

I am not going through the motions filling a void in the hollow of the shell that once existed

And oh, what a blessing it has been.

I found me! 

 

By Ali Flynn Photo: Source Pexels

The circle game… that’s what life feels like at times…

You see, life to me, can be compared to a revolving door… around and around, often similar to the lives we lead…

It’s for us to decide how we want to live out our beautiful adventures of life and experience the journeys ahead of us…

But I do know too often we can get caught in the circle game…

You know, that feeling where life just passes by as we go through the motions…

Whether it’s with work, parenting, our marriages, friendships, the list goes on and on…

Sometimes we can feel as if we are always moving, always changing, but often getting stuck…

Trapped yet circling in the same direction….

Around and around and around…

Day after day, after day…

But what if we decide today that the revolving door needs a change…

A renewal…

A change from the mundane…

A change of pace…

A change of the same hands moving it along…

The change that often we long for…

a different direction…

You see though, the revolving door can’t stop moving until the time is right or another set of hands pushes it along…

again on the same path,

the hands may feel different but the path is always the same, still the same circle

But our lives, like the revolving door, has openings of opportunity daily…

A change can happen…

a chance encounter can lead to a new path…

But the real question is, are we willing to hop off the circle?

hopping off is risky…

But staying in the circle game may be more of a risk…

Around and around

Time and time again

Who knows… maybe the side door is the answer… off the track of the circle

Source Pexels

So today, let’s embark on this adventure together and stop going through the motions…

Let’s take the risk, let’s make the change…

Let’s open the other door!

And allow it to fill us up with a bounty of surprises…

Let’s take a leap of faith and trust in our hearts

that the side door will lead us on a journey

far more rich and fulfilling than going through the motions…

Early morning flight

2 Minute Read

At the airport, very early this morning, I ran into two wonderful couples. 

One on the way to see their daughter play volleyball for her college, and the other taking their son to visit one.

They were excited, expectant and looking forward to a great time together in spite of the ungodly hour.

We had just minutes to exchange pleasantries. 

These are those little moments as a couple, that sometimes get lost in the hustle. Those times when we-are-on-the-same-team.

They’re the kind of moments we’ll reflect on years from now and realize they weren’t so little after all.

The moments we wake up at 4am….and remember we wouldn’t want to run this race with anyone else.

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