I came across this advice column in the New York Times a few weeks ago, asking deep and important questions:
I’m nearly 40 and I find myself at a crossroads that feels more like a dead end. I’ve spent much of my life and thought and income in pursuit of beauty in one form or another: design, fashion, the beauty or “wellness” industries. This is very much a professional hazard: My career in glossy magazines and advertising as a photo editor is all about making beautiful images of beautiful things that I’ve selected look even more beautiful. Often, when I think how much of my time I’ve devoted to my own appearance or to matters of aesthetics I cringe, though I’ve often been the person in any given room defending things like style and design from accusations of superficiality and frivolity.
Part of it might have to do with the fact that I feel alone in many ways and unsuccessful by most measures. I don’t own a home and no one needs me; I am nobody’s mother and now I am nobody’s child, as my parents are no longer living. My friends and peers have gone on to have families, to marry and stop working, or have moved to other parts of the country or even foreign countries.
I feel such futility, like I’ve squandered my own youth and beauty in the hall of mirrors that is our consumerist society. Am I simply being solipsistic here? Or is this what getting older is about, acknowledging one’s comedown to the brutal reality of life?
The age of 40 is, of course, when we approach the midlife crisis transits. For the people turning 40 now, this begins with the challenging square of Pluto (transformation) to Pluto in the natal chart at age 37-39, and then the process of midlife adjustment continues when transiting Neptune forms a square to Neptune in the natal chart (the dissolving of the false self and discovery of a spiritual component) and the opposition of Uranus to natal Uranus (questioning the authenticity of one’s life and a restlessness for change).
When I read this article I wished that I could have taken this person by the hand and explained to them that this is a normal process of midlife, facilitated by the planet. We question our values (Neptune). We may become dissatisfied with the life that we have made for ourselves if that life is not in alignment with what we truly want in life (Uranus). We begin to think of death and feel powerless to create change (Pluto).
It’s funny how even fiction writers are unconsciously aware of these changepoints. A child will go through a tragedy at age 14 (Saturn opposing natal Saturn). A young person will have a serious setback at age 29 (Saturn Return). I recently read a novel (Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler) in which the 40 year old protagonist, experiencing a growing dissatisfaction at age 40 walked away from a beach trip with her family and created a new life.
One of the supreme gifts of astrology is in helping us understand the nature of these cycles. We are probably not losing our minds or going crazy – we are experiencing a very normal planetary cycle to facilitate change and personal evolution in the journey of life.