Half time, the players walk off the field and depending on the first half’s play, they prepare themselves for what they’ll face in the locker room. I feel this is the perfect analogy for what happens when we find ourselves in midlife transition. We’ve played our first half and now we are preparing for the second half and find ourselves in the locker room of life.
There’s been a lot written, from many perspectives, about the two halves of life. Carl Jung’s work on individuation, Joseph Campbells work on the archetypes, Richard Rohr’s spiritual work in ‘Falling Upward’ and many more influences that address the journey from the 1st to 2nd half of the game of life.
And yet, in a lot of my reading there is little to be found on the locker room experience itself. To give context, I see the locker room experience happening between the ages of approximately 45 to 60. In many ways, I see it as the sequel to adolescence. Adolescence happens between the ages of 10-24-another almost 15-year span. There are similarities between the two including restlessness, loss, uncertainty, fallings or failures, excitement, freedom, major change, a search for something more.
The journey of adolescence is, in part, the child’s journey to ‘grow up’ and learn a more interdependent way of being, but it is also the adult’s responsibility in overseeing and guiding the adolescence to young adulthood. The job of adolescence is clear; grow up to become a responsible, contributing human being.
But what about those of us that may be in a locker room experience of midlife. We’ve already done the work of becoming a responsible contributing human being. We’ve self-identified, performed our roles, achieved our goals, raised our families and yet, all of sudden this skin doesn’t fit anymore. Restlessness sets in. Not to mention the loss. Kids going off to college or getting married and starting their own lives, possibly loss of job or relationship, the potential for health issues or even just the decline of physicality and don’t even get me started on body changes, and energy. And these are just the external issues! Internally there is this itch that feels like it can’t be scratched. The way we’ve operated, our beliefs, values, ways of thinking and being don’t satisfy us the way they use to. Something inside is screaming to get out, but what? You may find yourself saying, “there’s got to be more.”
And you would be right! There is more. While you’re in the locker room, open your locker and look inside-are the contents you have inside going to sustain you in the second half of the game? If we are not willing to look ‘inside’ ourselves, we will not play a ‘whole’ game-we will just repeat the first half again in the second half, feeling unfulfilled.
The locker room experience is about learning that the inner journey is as important as the outer journey in life. When you allow yourself to connect the two, you leave the locker room feeling much more acclimated to playing the 2nd half toward fulfillment of what you want and how you can best serve humanity.
There is an essence we are born with. Our job the first half of life is to build a strong container to hold that essence. Our job the second half of life is to ‘unleash’ that container and allow our essence to be set free in its wholeness. Through my own locker room experience, I’ve learned a few lessons:
- Have support systems through your locker room experience-including coaches! I learned that I needed supportive objectivity to help me to see myself.
- Allow yourself to learn the lessons of the ‘locker room experience.’ There are many things we need to unlearn in order to connect back to who we truly are. Is it painful-yes, but the joy on the other side is worth it!
- Get curious about yourself, using self-inquiry. Your brain will support you finding an answer to your own self exploration.
- Don’t resist. Embrace all sides of yourself, learn what that side needs to support your higher being.
Most of our struggle in life comes from our fear to get to know ourselves deeply. So, let me leave you with this. I’ve been the coach in the locker room with players that have struggled in the first half and also those that have been winners in the first half. They all come to the locker room experience on the same footing. The reason? No one is exempt from the locker room experience in life. We all have the opportunity to connect our outer and inner worlds and discover the deeper truth of who we are. Watching my players gear up for the second half of the game, free of the constraints of the first half, connected to who they are, is as inspiring for the coach as it is for the player.
More to come on Locker Room Experiences!