But what I thought was interesting is that she closed the book with a seemingly discouraging note that she didn’t find answers to these wicked problems, but that having written the book seemed to chuck her out of the bummer of our condition. But after a few days of being bummed out myself, I realized that the hope is in understanding. Specifically understanding things that makes you realize (and truly feel) that it’s not your fault. As Gen X women, if we need anything it is to lift our burden of responsibility.

These are some things I have come to understand that have lifted my burden:

We have been programmed to be “it all”, from the deeper significance of the jingle “I can bring home the bacon…” (you know the rest, don’t you?) to the inherent pressure innocently placed on us as our feminist mothers cleared the way for us to be in the workplace.

But there were obstacles, like the lag time before pay gaps were altered, maternity leave and the learning curve of men to show up like a human and not a patriarch. And these obstacles were invisible, and we had already learned to just keep working. After all, there was no point in complaining, it just wasted time that we could otherwise be bettering our families, communities and the world. No one knew it was as unrealistic as it actually was to have it all, and we never really picked up our heads and asked why. Although we are now, and Ada Calhoun does a phenomenal job explaining it in her book “Why We Can’t Sleep”.

There are many other societal and cultural influences that have created invisible pressure to the collective consciousness of the Gen X woman. We were the first generation to sit for hours in front of cartoons poised as entertainment, that were actually long form advertisements. This quietly made us consumers.

But this unrequested insidious value conflicted with a newfound love and responsibility for our own mother Earth. Our parents’ generation showed us what she looked like from space and Earth day popped up every April to remind us that humanity has an impact on our beloved mother. And we became stewards (against forces that we had no control over). Another layer of burden explained.

Bottom line: we have been running as fast as we can trying to get “there” and are only now fully realizing that it was really never possible, at least as it was sold, and with the obstacles, both visible and invisible.

Because we couldn’t seem to get “there”, we were sure we had failed. It makes me so sad how much of our lives we have wasted feeling bad and apologizing for things that were never our fault.

But good news! With the opportunity of midlife, we are uniquely qualified to solve that problem. We have an opportunity to make these invisible burdens visible and duck out from under them. We can choose what we respond to, and see the potential to opt out of the patriarchy and design a life where we don’t feel wrong, except periodically as we learn.

The burden (and the resentment that usually comes with it) eats up your resources. You can become more conscious and intentional about how you spend your resources and design the next phase of your life. You can learn to stop doing the things that don’t serve you and find what you truly resonate with and put our energy into that. That process will expose the programming, and you can release it in favor of something more aligned with who you are and who you want to become.

All because you took the time to understand that it’s not your fault.

Congrats, you’re on your way to greater freedom.

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