Three Sundays

Session 1

Session 2

Poems referenced:

Rainer Rile-A Walk/The Walk

David Whyte -Coleman’s Bed

John Izzo-How do You Know You are in Midlife

Robert Frost-Two Tramps in Mud Time

Mary Oliver- The Journey

How Do You Know When You Are in Midlife? By John Izzo

How do you know when you are in midlife?

Is it the passage of years or a feeling in your heart?

Can you be in midlife at thirty

or still waiting for it at seventy?

Is it a crisis or only a question?

How do you know when you are in midlife?

Perhaps it is that moment when you know for the first time,

In a way you will never be able to deny again,

That this is not,

A dress rehearsal

That although every answer you have ever found seemed adequate,

You know you were not asking the right questions anyway.

The Inspiration

This is one of the few poems that I can’t remember precisely when it was written or what inspired it which is, in this case, quite appropriate. When the idea of a “midlife” crisis or transition first appeared in the literature, midlife seemed to be defined as somewhere around 40-45 (which for most people is actual midlife in chronological terms). The image that came to mind for many was the midlife man yearning for his youth who buys a bright red sports car and runs off with a twenty-five year old! This was the stuff of movies and sometimes art did imitate life.

Yet over the years our understanding of what might better be called a midlife transition than a crisis is that it can happen at almost any age. It might lead to major life changes or it might not. Personally, I think I have had a few of these. This poem began with a question: How do you know when you are at midlife?


So, if you want to sit with this one a bit. You may or may not feel you are at “midlife” but we are always in transition. Life at every age is not a “dress rehearsal.” What are the questions you need to ask right now about the trajectory of your life? If you had only a year or five years to live how might it change your priorities? Think now of yourself in a decade, what might that older version of yourself regret about the questions that currently guide your life? Knowing the questions that you want to run your life is a great step to deeper happiness and meaning at whatever stage of life you sit.

Session 3

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