At my men’s group meeting this weekend, my friend Vian was observing that as we aged, most of us middle-aged men seemed to be emerging from a kind of chrysalis and that we were in various states of becoming ‘butterflies’. After a few chuckles at the metaphor, we had to admit that, on the back side of our middle-aged crisis, we were a lot more mature, a lot more comfortable in our own skins and a lot more grateful, humble and serene than at earlier times in our lives. We also agreed we were all engaged in exploring ‘deeper questions’ than most of us had given much time to in younger years.
I am not sure that ‘butterfly’ is the exact image I would use, at least for myself, but there are definitely major changes underway. We almost unanimously acknowledged that we were much more preoccupied with focus and making quality choices in terms of where we spend our time and who we spend it with. To a man, we could smile at our shortcomings and silly habits, while at the same time not taking ourselves too seriously. We were all much more appreciative of our relationships with other men, as well as grateful for the women who’ve loved us, sometimes in spite of ourselves.
What was remarkable was how comfortable we were talking about how we felt and how we see the world. None of us was afraid to be open and to ‘say it like it is’ for us. It was a privilege to participate in a conversation about ‘life after 55’ without a lot of clichés or jokes about getting older. We were just some men sharing our experience and acknowledging our concerns and hopes for the future. Everyone in the group expressed in various ways their desire to be of service in coming years, to give to others whatever we had learned and were learning, and to make a difference to the best of our ability.
Vian coined the term ‘Menomorphosis’ to capture the idea of midlife transition from one state of ‘being a man’ to another wiser and more confident and in many ways, more humane way of being. I like the word and expect I will use it in the future. I don’t think it is a term that applies only to men, although the contrast with our younger selves may be more dramatic than we observe in women as they age. But then that might just be a function of our ability to observe changes in others. Perhaps the word should be ‘Humanamorphosis’—the transformation that can occur as we move through midlife and beyond. Whatever the term, the changes are genuine and the rewards can be extraordinary.