Don't meditate from guilt or even to self improve
This piece on Oprah.com, "The New Midlife Crisis," is making the rounds. The stats are as overwhelming as they are depressing, and the wry humor in the analysis almost makes you want to avoid the issue. How about just laughing when you realize you're priced out of home ownership and you don't have enough -- or any -- savings?
The thrust here is that many GenX women -- and I predict many Millennial women are right behind, they're just not that different than us in this respect -- have gone through the career/life balance experience of the diner choke (which I must have made up or heard only once because there is no immediate link to prove this is a thing).
That is to say, while our parents mostly worked so hard to get us better opportunity than they had, we may well not even have it. As girls growing up in a world where feminism was evolving hard, we charged ahead like bulls at the target. Despite the sexism that flourished in all our homes, communities, and schools, we Titled Nined our way into straight As, Good Jobs Out of College, and credit cards with our names on them.
Now we're exhausted and lost, and POTUS is a sexual predator and not a woman. Calhoun sums up the new midlife crisis if you don't have time to read (BUT READ IT PLEASE): "We may, in fact, die alone. Our marriages may never improve. We may never get the number of kids we hoped for. We may never save enough money to make the retirement calculators stop screaming. We may never do a fraction of what we thought we would do in our career."
Here's my take. All of what Calhoun says is true. This is where we are -- where just about anyone with any level of waking consciousness is, i.e., really stressed! -- unless we are able to recognize the difference between the outside stressors and worries, and the ability of the mind to embrace, acknowledge and evolve that stress, in a mindfulness practice.
I felt sad when I read that one of Calhoun's exasperated friends said, "'And it's like, on top of everything else, did you meditate?''" She was treating meditation as something that needs to be added to the never-ending list of to-dos, in order to make her better, less stressed.
This is not the right question. I understand her entirely, and I understand her end-of-the-rope frustration. Meditation here seems like it's just another self-help mechanism that is really a zero-sum choice between you and a few more minutes of sleep. There's truth to this, especially when you are a single mother and/or your children are young and you actually are awake with them through the night.
However, in order to fix anything, like ANYTHING at all in society, we must embrace the fact that closed-off time and space has to be selfishly guarded for and by women. Meditation is just one of the self-care choices (I would argue that it, along with yoga, is one of the very best) that creates the chance to do the OPPOSITE of what Calhoun's understandably maxed out friend thought it would do.
Meditation is a date with yourself -- two minutes, three minutes, even ten -- in which you are spending time greeting yourself. You are holding yourself, mentally and emotionally, acknowledging everything that is there. You are saying, "Hi, love! There you are! I'm glad we're here, and it doesn't matter how long it's been, I don't care. I love you and how are you?" The actual work of meditation is, for example, to accept the fact that it stressed you out in the first place, which it does just about everyone, which is why, still, so few people do it.
So please don't let meditation ALSO stress you out. And once you finally do decide to sit down, with yourself, close your eyes and breathe, try as best you can to do so without any expectations or hope. Just do it. It's the best -- basically the only -- way to start.