It happened before I knew it – or at least would be willing to admit. I’m 46 and . . I. Am. Middle. Aged. Until I read Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s new book “Life Reimagined: the Science Art and Opportunity of Midlife,” I couldn’t even say those words without feeling queasy. But Barb’s work has put me at ease with the idea of where I am in life, and since I’m betting that you’re in a similar place, you’ll love this book too. Here’s why:
Life Reimagined takes a comprehensive look at the years between 45 and 65 from the perspective of a brilliant reporter who’s swimming through the vortex of midlife herself. Written by the talented and lovely former NPR reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty, this is the ultimate midlife manifesto that’s based in science, not stereotypes.
Researched and written from coast to coast – even while she and her husband meandered down the Blue Ridge Parkway in a rented RV – this uber talented storyteller wraps up the middle age years into an exciting, hopeful package, even while simultaneously dealing with health, family and career transitions of her own.
Over 45? Life Reimagined is Your New Roadmap
Too many people (women especially) choose to spend their middle years fretting over lies the beauty industry sells to us. Many see decrepit old people and expect nothing less for themselves. They’re biding their time until retirement, seemingly waiting for their long term care policy to kick in. Recently my 52-year old sister asked me:
“Rene, what are you going to do when you and Jim can’t drive all over the place anymore? What are you going to do when your wheels start falling off?”
I laughed so hard when she said this to me, because I’ve never pondered the idea of “our wheels falling off.” And now I refuse to look at aging as the inevitable collapse of our physical and mental faculties. This book proves we don’t have to fall into the dark trap of negative self talk and outright lies.
Barb explains how one of the greatest ways to thrive during midlife is by understanding how our thoughts really do shape our reality. Knowing how to change those thoughts through effective action is what will give us the life we’ve always wanted. I’m ready for it!
Debunking the Midlife Crisis
Forget what you’ve heard about “midlife crisis” – that old wives tale is a load of horseshit with no real science behind it. In this book we learn that the only “midlife crisis” common to most people is the introspection that occurs when we enter our 40s and take stock of what we’re doing with our careers and limited time on this planet. After all, most of us don’t get there without experiencing death and trauma of one sort or another.
Through interviews with subjects from a variety of backgrounds, Barb illustrates how we can deal with midlife changes and thrive during this time. Her research presents a variety of ways to cope with the most common upheavals like job layoffs, aging parents and health issues.
“Genuine crisis at midlife, with its angst, its turbocharged care, and its wandering eye, afflicts few people. The vast majority bump along, stubbing their toes, coping and laughing.”
Life Reimagined is an optimistic look at what’s ahead — especially for those of us on the younger side of midlife. Treat your body and spirit like gold and you will thrive from all of the wisdom you’ve accumulated since you left those dumbass twenties behind you. Keep stuffing your piehole with Krispy Kremes and Fox News and you get what you ask for.
“IQ – and cognitive function as people pass from middle age to old age – adapts to your lifestyle. Take an adult education course: Add a few points to your cognitive bank account. Take up a hobby, such as playing the piano or learning Spanish: Add a few more. You go for a walk each day? Excellent: Exercise turns out to preserve your brain more than any other thing. But watch out for those hot fudge sundaes or deep-fried fish and chips. They could drain your future acuity like a sieve.”
Whether we’re 45 or 65, there’s still time to create a new map for our own health and happiness. The research discussed in Life Reimagined proves that we’re young enough to reverse the damage we did to our bodies by eating too much and partying too hard in our 20s and 30s. We’re also introduced to different activities and habits that allow us to reshape our brains in order to avoid Alzheimer’s disease – even if we are biologically destined to get it!
“There are precisely three times in your life when you can build up neural defenses: the beginning, the middle, and the end. When you are in school, when you are working, and when you are retired. You fail to do so at your peril.”
Midlife Madness is More Like It!
From health issues to relationship fumbles, we hear from dozens of experts who explain different mind and body tactics to overcome common midlife hurdles. Barb even visits a laughter club for cancer patients to investigate how laughing on purpose can lighten the load when we’re in terrible pain or just feeling lousy.
This book has taught me that you don’t have to fight aging by living in denial. It’s not about trying to look and act younger, or ignoring the fact that I need bifocals (another endearing quality about this book is the internal struggle that Barb frankly shares about her hearing loss).
Life Reimagined has taught me that fighting “old age” is really about annihilating all of the negative stereotypes swimming in my brain and creating a new mental and physical roadmap. I want to stay as as challenged and excited about life as I was when Jim and I kicked off our vagabonding ways.
Over two decades later, I may not look a whole lot like that badass San Francisco biker, but I’m far more interesting and wise than that dumb kid. Thanks to Barb, I’m starting to embrace the wisdom that life has given me, even if it does come in the form of presbyiopia and wrinkles.
As I head on down the road to 50, I’m more excited than ever to see what’s around the bend. And who knows, I just might stop coloring my hair and embrace whatever happens next.
Thanks, Barb. You rock.