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By Irena Ioannou

For most women, middle age is a very creative period, so productive that everyone claims a piece of us on a daily basis, and yet every morning we wake up whole again, ready to offer ourselves anew. Whether it is our working environment where we can finally combine the right amount of experience, stamina, and determination to succeed, or our private life, where our children and parents demand our utmost attention, there is one point everyone agrees on: we are the unstoppable rock for our nearest to lean on. 

On the bright side, the fifth decade is also a period full of discoveries, little instances of ‘Eureka!’. Every time realization hits, another small piece of puzzle clicks into place, and suddenly the world makes sense. 

“What was I thinking?” must be the most common rhetorical question we forty-somethings ask ourselves when looking in a metaphorical mirror. Because at some point, even the most well-meaning human beings get fed up by what’s chaining them down:

People who think the world revolves around them

They are living under our noses: they can be our boss, our husband, or our friends. They believe their priorities come first, and their needs have to be fulfilled instantly. Alarmingly, the older they get, the wiser they don’t become.

There comes a time though, when we regret every minute of our lives we’ve spent in the company of Know-it-alls who keep blabbering about themselves, and even worse, the instances we were led to believe that surely, their self-focused bluster contained some grain of truth. Maybe they were right: they did deserve that promotion. Or, perhaps we were so wrapped up around ourselves and weren’t paying them the attention they craved. And, they, they, they. Spoilt children, who never grow up and never inform our lives positively.

Excusing others who treat us badly

We all have ample examples of rationalizations which we fall so easily for, or ways we justify other people’s actions. There is nothing more pervasive than the little voice in our heads that urges us to overlook someone’s bad behavior because they are in a stressful period of their life. Or because they didn’t mean it. Or because that’s the way they are. It has nothing to do with us.

Well, the realization here is that it has everything to do with us, our expectations of others and how they treat us, and at some point we have to hold others accountable in the same degree we hold ourselves. People make mistakes, but a repetitive mistake crosses a line. It’s about time we discover that we shouldn’t forgive attitudes we’d never allow for ourselves.

People who look the other way when bad things happen

And blame the victim. As in when a man slaughters his wife in cold blood, and everyone pretends to be thunderstruck. Perhaps she provoked him? Or, when a “respectable” employer is accused of making sexual advances on his younger secretary, and people just can’t believe it. There’s certainly some degree of exaggeration, right? And then people start finger-pointing and reputation-staining and cold-shouldering the victim.

An advantage of middle age is that we can see through people more easily than before. As in a good crime novel, there are always clues as to who the murderer is, as long as we brush our prejudices aside and keep our eyes open. Likewise, sexism and racism manifest themselves daily in hundreds of ways, be it by comments, ‘jokes’, or acts of aggressiveness. And as the saying goes, silence is complicity. There should be no more room for small-minded bigots, or their enablers, in our lives.  


A writer’s favorite word, but it also applies to every part of our everyday lives. Time is running out, and we usually become more aware of it. Thus, any major life change has to take place now. Be it to have a child, or study and change career paths, the window of opportunity to take action is narrowing alarmingly, and the job has to be done at once.  

Procrastination also applies to other, seemingly insignificant, changes. I have friends who suffer from back pains because they keep postponing buying a new chair. Who look at their closet with disappointment when a formal occasion appears, because who can find time to go shopping? Who are in dire need of taking some days off to preserve their mental health.

Friends who keep rushing off to appointments and ticking off chores and lose themselves in the process, until they grasp that what they really need is to step back, evaluate their lives, and if needed, start over. Luckily, being in our forties is the ideal time for new beginnings. Some people may call it mid-life crisis, but to others it is a time for re-invention.

Irena Ioannou writes from Crete, Greece and her work has recently appeared in Crannóg and Betty Fedora. She is currently working on her first novel. She is a mother of five.


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1 Comment

  1. Tim

    Einstein said “The only source of knowledge is experience.” I think you two might think a lot alike.


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