New decade, same midlife unravelling

New year, new decade and all that, so this morning I indulged in some typical new year activities i.e. looking back through social media pictures over the years and being drawn into my own story, where I always look so much younger and healthier and like I’ve spent every single day doing interesting things with interesting people or having interesting thoughts.

I spent a few minutes sighing wistfully and wondering what happened to the me that hired a jukebox for the weekend just to have a Grease themed party, and then I looked through the pictures on my phone rather than the carefully curated ones and remembered that most of the time I was actually just eating beans on toast and watching First Dates on catch up.

I’m not sure which is worse really – sighing over a life that was mostly imagined or realising you’ve probably been quite boring all along.

While I was in my phone pictures I found this, which I saved from a book I read in March 2018 and have been meaning to do something with ever since. March 2018 was a few weeks before I turned 40 and clearly I was feeling it.

It made me realise that although I didn’t put my midlife unravelling into words until over a year later in this post from June last year, and even wrote then that I felt taken by surprise, the first loose threads were already there back in that March, which is nearly two years ago now.

I read the unravelling post back to myself before I wrote this and felt that same twist of recognition in my chest, which makes you wonder doesn’t it, how long is it meant to last?

How much unravelling is there to do before you just have a heap of wool on the floor and can start winding it all back up again, or crocheting it into a nice throw for the bed? I guess what I’m really asking, to carry on the metaphor, is ‘how long is a piece of string?’, and everyone knows that’s a stupid question.

As basically content as I might be in a day to day sense, I still can’t help but feel somehow at sea – a kind of vague, untethered bobbing about, enjoying the view but quietly trying to suppress the panic at not being able to see the land and having accidentally dropped the oars overboard. It’s KIND of relaxing, the waves are nice, just try not to think too much about anything.

The fresh beginning – a new year and a new decade – feels like it’s teasing me, promising me something that I can’t see. ‘You could do anything you want,’ it whispers, ‘if only you knew what it was.’ Instead I keep drifting, forgetting things, staring at the sky, listening to the water.

It’s a feeling I still don’t know what to do with and it’s starting to get on my nerves because it does sound kind of whiney and a bit pathetic, but there it is.

What about you? Do your hands feel slow at the piano?

hands slow at the piano

If this sounds familiar I’d recommend going back for a read of my midlife unravelling post, at least so you know you’re not alone, or leave me a comment and let me know how midlife is treating you.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash





  1. Christine Hutchins
    2 January, 2020 / 12:31 am

    So,….midlife unravelling…is that what I’m going through? I ask this whilst lipping on the bed, trying to get into a comfortable position, after several of my muscles started complaining today. In all fairness to then, I did do the double ParkRun, followed by the Westward Ho! New Years Day dip…well, I thought the dip might act like an ice Ba’ath for muscles…no such luck. And I wonder who is the crazier person…I have posted on social media about my exploits today (it was a lersonL challenge I had set for myself) – and several friends commented with “Are you mad??” – .and I ask they really know me? Even people who’ve known me for about 40 years, because I’m the same age as their son… – so who is mad? Me for my exploits and challenges, or my friends for asking if I’m mad, because by now they really should know the answer without having to ask the question!!

    • Jo Middleton
      4 January, 2020 / 10:25 am

      I don’t know Christine, it sounds to me like you’re just embracing life! Whenever my muscles complain it’s definitely not from double park run!

  2. Arabella Bazley
    2 January, 2020 / 10:12 am

    I have many friends and family at different age crossroads and it’s comforting to see the crossroads I have already passed that I will never have to pass again. Life can be pants, life can be lemons, but I have the vision of an article I think was in Vogue where it shot models in their sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties and by jove they rocked. So no matter how pants my part of life may be, I am going to have fun not running with the crowd, being eccentric, and knowing that everyday that I put a smile on my face and pull those around me along for the ride I’ve made the world a tiny bit better. The challenge is dignity in decay and there is so much beauty in the well worn (well loved seemed a bit presumptuous!) that I must be a stunner by now. So bring on the new year because I know by the end of it I shall be far wiser and far more beautiful no matter what lemons are thrown at me!

    • Jo Middleton
      4 January, 2020 / 10:27 am

      Arabella that was such a heartwarming comment to read, thank you! You’re so right, nothing stays the same, and as sad as that might make us sometimes when good times pass it’s a huge comfort when times are tough, because you know that it won’t be forever, life will move on and new things will happen. Just trying to make the world a tiny bit better every day is awesome :-D

  3. 2 January, 2020 / 12:54 pm

    I feel like I missed out on Midlife and went straight into old age. Having 3 kids in my 40s took it’s toll and now with my body giving up on me I feel more like 73 than 53.

    • Jo Middleton
      4 January, 2020 / 10:24 am

      God yes, that must have been so hard with the sudden loss of mobility – not even a gentle easing into feeling old! If it helps at all, whenever I’ve meant you you’ve never seemed old to me. You have a really warm, youthful aura (if that doesn’t sound like a cheesy word – I tried to think of a better one and couldn’t.) I get a sense of you having this wonderful enthusiasm for learning and trying new things :-D

  4. Susan B
    2 January, 2020 / 6:57 pm

    What about you? Do your hands feel slow at the piano?

    I haven’t a clue what I want or need to do, either. However, I am promising myself an adventure – of the fun variety – this year. Maybe I will find a Spanish cave to live in or some Greek cats to rescue. Heck, there is a whole world out there. Perhaps that’s part of the problem? Too much choice + lack of courage?

    I hope you find something that makes you feel genuinely happy and fulfilled, Jo. In the meantime, please keep writing as your blog followers enjoy your candid and humorous posts.

    • Jo Middleton
      4 January, 2020 / 10:30 am

      I think you might be on to something with the choice thing Susan. I remember reading a careers book years and years ago called something like ‘I could do whatever I want, if I only I knew what it was!’ We are fed the believe now that anything is possible, that you can make any dream come true, but feeling that much choice and freedom can sometimes be paralysing, and also leave you feeling like you’ve under achieved if actually you’re perfectly happy with an average life doing everyday things, which I think most of us are most of the time.

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