This is the shape of our generation, ladies.
I just finished some research in prep for facilitating the 566 Sprints - goal crushing 6 month groups for midlife women leading with change in their lives.
I was curious about what has been different for us - what happened while we were growing up. I knew from experience that I have a blind spot about my own youth.
A few years ago I did some extensive reading about the civil rights movement, and I was shocked at the extent of murder and mayhem inflicted on African Americans and other civil rights workers in the south in the 1960s.
I knew it was bad, of course, but I was chagrined to be in my early 40s and just be learning the scope of what happened. How did I not know this stuff?
Well, my parents, in whose home respect for others was non-negotiable and racism not tolerated, sheltered me from it. TV was kept in its proper place, turned off and in the corner, except for evening shows we watched together and Saturday morning cartoons. I lived in the Northeast in my early childhood, what was happening along the back roads of the deep South certainly didn’t show up in school or our community.
The point is, sometimes its hard to see the reality of your own childhood until you step outside of it.
Through my more recent work producing videos for organic farms, non-profits working with homelessness and community health, and triple bottom line organizations, I sensed a difference in the pace of change. I can remember standing at Home Depot a few years ago, looking at a nice gas grill made in China , priced at $150, and thinking, "Things are too cheap right now".
I had not stepped back to get a broad overview until now. I was jolted into action by the natural disasters of the past year, which felt oddly personal to me even though I have not suffered to nearly the same degree as others have.
Every single place on the planet that my gypsy soul considers home was hit hard. Houston, where I grew up, Mexico City, where I live now, and Santa Rosa CA, where I lived for 5 years among natural beauty and an incredible community that nurtured my own midlife awakening.
I know, without drama or hype, that this is the new normal. Climate change is the hockey stick meta-metric. It doesn’t matter anymore if we agree on the reasons.
So off I went, googling major societal trends in food supply, consolidation of agriculture, (I was born in Iowa), rise of GMO and pesticide / fertilizer use, industrialization of meat production, cancer rates, prescription drug use, other health indicators, fast fashion, climate change, chemicals in breastmilk, chemicals in polar bears, rise of plastics, number of screens in public spaces, social media and smart gadget adoption rates. I posted a few of the results in this blog post.
If you were to paste all the graphs up on a wall and stand back, squint your eyes and blur your vision, the graphic above is what happened while we were growing up. I'm generalizing, but we pretty much bumped along for most of the century and then took a big ol’ upward swerve between the 70’s - 90’s, depending upon the indicator.
This is not your mama’s midlife ladies.
I did go looking for some good news, and of course it does exist - women reps in congress have increased, albeit not at anything close to a hockey stick spike. Lead levels in the air are way down in our major cities. Title IX was transformative for our generation. More women attending college and entering the workforce. Growing awareness of the importance of women in the global economy. Medical advances. Increased sexual freedom due to birth control, especially the Pill, although the long term effects on women’s health due to the hormones and menstrual suppression are in question.
I have felt for years like there was something out of sync with the “traditional” response to life changes, and particularly midlife. Now I see that “out of sync” is the exact term. We’ve been using a midlife map better suited to the early 20th century to navigate a more rapid pace of change.
The dark side of this is that, at a time in history when we don’t have a second to waste, women often internalize the challenges of midlife as something that they are doing wrong, and they get stuck.
Staying stuck is the exact opposite of how we are to experience midlife.
Women need a new, supportive approach to dealing. The struggle to juggle we’ve been patching together is not going to cut it going into the next 20 years.
What social statistics and the challenges of global climate change tells us is this - for women called to create impact with their lives, this would be helpful: take a fresh look at our environment and our life goals, do a quick and dirty SWOT, and adopt a framework that helps us build resiliency and mimic the rate of change around us.
This is the midlife mezcal cocktail that we need, not our mama’s gin and tonic toddies.
The risk if we don’t do this is that we lose the opportunity to contribute a balancing, healthy influence as the world rockets up this change curve and leaves us behind. Our young people who, quite frankly, could use our help and would like our leadership, are on that curve, too.
The challenges are immense. So is the opportunity. It doesn't matter if your journey is a passion for cupcakes or the cure for cancer, the thing that matters is that you make time for it.
Our families, communities, societies and the planet needs our collective female influence, resiliency and example.
Speaking of example, here is one of my favorites. We can see successful analogs of the framework above being modeled in pockets of society - The number of businesses owned by African American women grew 322% since 1997*, making black females the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. This progress against the backdrop of continued social challenges is particularly impressive.
There are a variety of factors that make up this statistic, of course. For the purposes of this piece, we see a group of women with strong sense of why they are here, many with deep spirituality grounding, leveraging today’s tools to connect with each other and resources online and create massive change. Their progress in this example is mimicking the overall trend of society.
The female journey, resiliency and impact is my jam, as the cool kids say. I’m producing a whole lotta content and related topics in 2018, we invite you to join us.
*“2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” commissioned by American Express Open