November 23, 2023

Adding “life layers” in midlife

Adding life layers in midlife

One summer, I was sitting alone on the dock at a cottage and looking around at the lake, the beach, and the landscaping on the property thinking about what made it so pleasing to my eyes.

A single word popped into my head: layers.

Layers add complexity, variety, depth, and interest. It’s how we express our unique point of view.

The landscaper had created layers of plants and flowers, the beach naturally had layers of sand, rock, and water, and even the sky felt layered that day with clouds and colours.

It made me think about how my favourite outfits are layered. The encaustic paintings I collect have layers of wax, found objects, pigments, and my favourite meals layer colour, texture, and taste to make the most delicious dishes.

Layers add complexity, variety, depth, and interest. It’s how we express our unique point of view. We can all put on a t-shirt and jeans, but it’s what we layer on top of that rock-solid outfit, the runners or heels, necklaces or earrings, the vintage blazer or a soft cardigan that makes that outfit our own.

I knew that day on the dock that layers were also a key ingredient in a beautifully expressed life.

So when I heard the term “life layering,” it resonated immediately.

The way the author, Michael Clinton, author of “Roar,” put it in O Magazine is this:

“When I was 39 years old, I realized that all I was doing was working. While I had a happy family and personal life, I felt stuck. I was falling into the trap of defining myself by what I did for a living versus who I was as a person.”

If we go back to the layered outfit metaphor and apply it, I interpret the happy foundation of work and family as the t-shirt and jeans. He was happy, AND Michael needed a way to express himself and introduce himself that didn’t only centre his work. That’s when he started to add the life layers. He leaned into his value for adventure, and before he turned 40, he began climbing mountains, running adventure marathons and eventually becoming a pilot.

He added a layer to his identity that is unique to him.

Not all 40-year-olds need to climb mountains, but adding life layers — areas of interest that are unique to you — is a way to a beautiful, satisfying, delicious life.

I don’t believe in reinvention, but I do believe in “endless creation.” We are the artists, the chefs, the stylists, the landscape designers and ‘life layers” are the ingredients that add depth and vibrancy to our creation.

What layers do you already possess, waiting to be celebrated and enhanced? What new layers could you add to infuse your life with newfound richness? The journey of life layering is as unique as you are and begins with curiosity. Embrace the complexity, savour the variety, and dive into the depths of your own story.

Sara Smeaton Coaching SS-177 Photo by Marina Dempster
Hi, I'm Sara!

I'm here to reclaim the term 'midlife' and embrace the power these years offer us.

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  1. Marsha on December 19, 2023 at 8:54 AM

    Oh I LOVE this. Defining ourselves with our work is SO easy to do, I love the idea of thinking of all the little creative moments we could have as “layers”. Even going to the movies could be a layer!

    • Sara on December 19, 2023 at 3:23 PM

      Absolutely, it could! The possibilities are endless. I also really love the idea that our lives are a creative expression and that we are the creators. Thanks for your comment, Marsha!

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Sara Smeaton Coaching SS-177 Photo by Marina Dempster


Sara Smeaton

Sara Smeaton is a certified professional coach and facilitator who helps midlife women follow their dreams after forty. She works privately with clients in Canada, the US and the UK.

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