Published February 4, 2007 by Sara Davidson
A torrent of emails came in when my new book, Leap! What Will We Do with the Rest of our Lives? was excerpted in Newsweek and on the Huffington Post. The notes were cries from the heart.
“Thank God,” Ruth wrote, “someone has put a name on this misery we are dealing with.”
Del wrote, “FINALLY someone is explaining to me: I’m not alone in what I’m going through. It’s important for males to hear this since we don’t talk!”
And from Terry: “I’m crying as I write this. Thank you for reminding me to surrender, for giving me permission to be creative for creativity’s sake, and for telling me there’s no right or wrong way through this.”
The name I gave to “it” or “this” is “the Narrows”–the rough passage to the next part of life. In the Narrows, you feel you’re being stripped of your identity and your worth. As S.S. wrote: “I’m in the narrows right now–empty house, no job or kids or husband and I’m lost!”
I sank into the narrows in my fifties. After 24 years of writing for TV, I couldn’t get hired anymore, my partner left abruptly, and my kids went off to college. I spent two years thrashing, trying to get back what I’d lost, before I surrendered to the reality that my former life was finished and I couldn’t know what the hell was ahead. I set out to write a book about this predicament. After interviewing 200 people from all walks of life, I found that everyone–even the rich and famous–must go through the narrows, and no one comes out unchanged.
When the excerpt from Leap! was published, I received more than 3000 emails saying, “I’m going through it too! What should I do?”
There’s no single answer, and I’ve found that each person finds his or her unique way back to sunlight. The first step is knowing there’s a name for it. In the 1950s, when Betty Friedan began polling her former classmates from Wellesley about their lives, she found they were suffering from a “problem that has no name.” They had successful husbands, beautiful homes, healthy children, but inside they felt aching and empty–something was wrong, but what? Friedan named it “the Feminine Mystique,” and the rest is history.
Now it’s our turn to make history. There’s a new life stage-after 50 and before 80–and we’re the ones whose mission it will be to figure out what to do with it.
In future blogs, I’d like to have a conversation about what happens when we’re stuck in the Narrows and when we break on through to the other side. I hope to spare you some of the bad attitudes I hung onto. To read more about the Narrows or share your story, please visit http://www.saradavidson.com/