Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mid-Life Paradigm Shift

paradigm shift
Part of speech:   n
Definition:          a fundamental change in approach or assumptions

The most unfortunate thing happened to me when I was 43.  I got a divorce.  In most ways the divorce turned out to be a good thing. The unfortunate thing was the timing, because it fell smack-dab in the middle of the years when a woman enters THE CHANGE.

Because of the combination of these two majorly defining events, I've never been able to decide if I lost my mind because of the divorce or through the gradual loss of my womanly hormones (I never would have called them this when I was young, but now I know.....they were my best friends). 

The thing I do know is that somewhere along the way, I stopped reading for pleasure.  Beginning with The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, I had been a voracious reader from the time I was in the third or fourth grade onward.  I devoured every book I came across. When visiting at other kids homes, I read their books while they played. From the time I was ten, I walked to the library by myself  and returned home with the five books they allowed (my local library was miserly with the number of books they let children check out).

In my twenties and thirties, I read historical novels, trashy novels, biographies, true crime stories, best sellers, mystery stories, long books, short books, children's books, non-fiction books and how-to fix myself books. I read a couple of books a week, maybe more.  And magazines and newspapers....I read them from cover to cover.

One of the things my ex disliked about me (and there were plenty) was the fact that I read so much. He thought I should be doing more productive activities. One thing I will never forget he said to me near the end of our marriage was, "you're a smart person...too bad you had to read so many books to get that way."  My mind boggles to this day when I think of how much that statement says about him, not me.

But sometime during the decade of my forties, I lost the concentration needed to stick with a book until the end. The paradigm shift was so profound it left me without an escape from reality or an effective way to decompress after a trying day or the ability to feed my needy soul. It added much to the overwhelming changes that I went through during that ten year span.

After 26 years, I had to learn how not to be a wife. I started college. I got my first job outside the home in 25 years. I watched my children leave the nest. I learned how to live alone. (but I've never learned how to cook for one...when I cook, no matter what I do, it always turns into enough to feed six people)

I missed reading so much until I thought of listening to audio books.  For at least eight years that's how I've ingested most of the books I've read, with maybe one or two exceptions each year.  Slowly, slowly over the past year or so, I've started reading before sleeping once again. 

So, all of this explanation to ask those of my readers who are of a certain age.....have you experienced anything like this phenomenon?  I'm wondering was it going through THE CHANGE that started the loss? Was it a chemical imbalance due to depression brought on by the major life changes I experienced?  Or could it have merely been the fact that my eyesight was changing and I simply couldn't see the page as well anymore?  (I still concentrate on reading better once my contacts are out and I am able to hold the book inches from my myopic eyes....hence my enjoyment of reading in bed.)

Maybe I'll never know why, but I am happy to think that perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I will be a voracious reader again one day. Maybe I will feel like my former smart informed self once again.

Maybe there is a better paradigm shift waiting for me in the future.


  1. I too am no longer a reader. Even when someone has a VERY long blog post with more than 5 or 6 photos, I just get lost in it and lose interest. I never thought about it being from a lack of hormones, but I suppose it certainly could be. My mind just wanders off somewhere and forgets where it is or was or should be.


  2. How I wish we could sit down and have a natter about all this over a cuppa. I was mighty weird in my mid forties, when I also became divorced. Throw in an over active thyroid and a disastrous few months on HRT (I turned into a sixteen year old seemingly in some respects) plus kids in their teens and a handful of elderly relatives... Can't bear to think about it, and yes, I stopped reading for about ten years also. I don't know if I'm normal yet but I'm thinking these post menopause years are some of my best.

  3. i'm still a major reader but the tastes for what i read have shifted. i hate menopause

  4. I am a voracious reader but find that I no longer read the same TYPE of books I used to go through at crazy rates. I wonder...will I lose my interest in the next few years? I will have to check back to see what all your readers say!!!

    I have never thought of you as anything LESS than smart AND informed! PLEASE insert indignant <> right HERE! ;)

  5. As a husband of a wife who is, and always has been a voracious reader (usually of murder stories!) and who is also very smart knowledgeably I was interested to read your story Steph. Jill has never lost her interest in reading and in fact has encouraged me to read, a pleasure which I now enjoy a lot.
    Oh, and she tells me that menopause never bothered her. I can't remember if I ever noticed. - Dave

  6. Oh, I love this post!
    So - I am 44, but I really hope I am not going through those changes yet, please no, it is way to soon.;)
    If you ask me, I am happy you got rid of that husband, he was no good considering his statement.
    I have to say though, that I am like you. As a kid, teenager and a young adult I devoured books. I could read one book a week - now that might not be so fast, but it was for me.
    After I met the Irishman and started to blog, it seemed that talking to him online and blogging was certainly all that occupied my spare time. Even though we broke up, I am now again dating someone and thus I barely read a book a year and I will most likely continue this way, as I rather write and spend free time with the people I love. I certainly miss reading, as there is so much inspiration and knowledge to be found in the written word.
    Thus you give me hope, that one day my reading joy will return.;)
    have a great Sunday - with a book.;)

  7. You are not alone, my friend. The same thing happened to me, sans divorce. When I hit menopause at age 50, I no longer had the ability to concentrate on a book for more than a couple of paragraphs, and this was after a lifetime of reading everything that came down the pike. Like you, I was a voracious reader of pretty much every genre. I would barely have turned the last page before the first page of the new book was opened. Thankfully, my library wasn't miserly as yours was. I could check out as many as my arms could hold.

    It was very disturbing to me that books could no longer hold my interest. Thank goodness it has gotten better, much better. So much that I have been buying books like crazy at Goodwill and thrift stores. The only thing holding me back from reading on my former level is the darned computer, but I am reading again, and I think you will get there, too.

  8. At around the same age as you were, I lost my husband in a car accident. I didn't have much desire to do anything. While I had been a craft designer and artist and avid reader after the accident I lost interest and took a hiatus. Several years later, my life has changed I have remarried to a wonderful man, got back into art, designing, and writing. Also I read all the time again. Sometimes the heart needs to heal and adjust. After which we continue to do the things that make us who we are.

  9. You went through a lot of changes all at once, Stevie. That is enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails.

    I also used to be a voracious reader but I have to admit the computer, and blogs, have been a big distraction in the past five years. I have made more of an effort this year to go back to the library weekly and read more. I just finished the novel "The Help." It was a really good book!

  10. I have gone through "spells" over the years. When I am very stressed I can't read. Maybe you just had too much going on to concentrate. Of course I can't concentrate on much of anything any more. Ha... Yes, I am of that certain age. That is why I am writing this at 4:20 a.m. UGH.

  11. As someone who didn't know much of your back story,
    I just want to say a big oh wow you rock! And how very brave and intentional.

    I read more now than ever , but I can't remember the names or titles or quotes like I used to , I just absorb the message .

    (and I agree re the blog post length. I bookmark long ones to return to and rarely do if I'm honest. ... )

  12. I have always been a voracious reader too and I have not been reading as much as I used to...I never would have connected it to menopause before but now you have got me thinking! I blame my decrease in reading books on my increase in computer time. Between playing with photos and reading blogs I don't have time to read! I am trying to figure out how to balance my computer time better...

  13. It is so interesting to read all this, Stevie, because we are so much more alike that ever thought. First of all, I became single again at about 43, following my extensive back surgery, when I was disabled for a year and a half. The father of my two younger sons ( then 1 and 3-years-old ) took off and never supported them. If it hadn't been for their older brother ( 13 at the time ), I don't know what I would have done.

    By 45, I was completely and totally menopausal!!

    I, too, used to be an avid reader. Once I got the forensic nursing job, however, covering for cases 24/7, I basically stopped reading but I, too, started doing books or CDs on tape. Any time I started driving, I had to be listening to a book, even for a trip to the grocery. I am still that way. Once I retired, I was too poor to buy the darn things anymore but I discovered, much to my delight, the library has them. I've been able to keep up with James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks and Maeve Binchey and all sorts of other authors!!

    Sometimes, I pull into the driveway, intending to listen for just a few more minutes and my son will knock on the window, waking me up at 1AM. I slept for a couple of hours and missed my whole book!

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