By Womaness Editors 10-Minute Read
Get to know Sarah Milken, Ph.D., the visionary behind the acclaimed podcast “The Flexible Neurotic,” where she unravels the mysteries of self-reinvention, personal growth, and the normalization of midlife. Through her expert curation of information, profound questioning, and encouraging small steps, Sarah invites listeners to embark on a transformative journey alongside her by challenging the notion of a midlife crisis and embracing a “midlife remix.” Sit back, relax, and get ready to be inspired with this month's interview.
First thing I do each morning
“I want to say I wake up to the sun. I want to say I journal for 15 minutes. I want to say I meditate. I want to say I’m intermittent fasting and skip the coffee I’m ‘jonesing’ for…but that’s only half the week.
The real truth is I’m a normal 48-year-old woman. I wake up to pee before the UTI hits because you know I’ve been holding it in since my 4am perimenopausal anxiety ruminations while Husband snores soundly next to me. I wish I were wearing the unwrinkled pink silk pajamas that so many women on Instagram are wearing. But I’m wearing black cotton pajamas with white dog hair embedded in them. My hair is in a bun as to not get the dry scalp hairline cream in my fresh blow dry that has to last for a f*ckn good five days.
Then, I wish I could say I sauna and cold plunge, but that’s what my husband does. I do lift what I call the ‘dumb weights,’ because we know they aren’t dumb—in fact, they’re the smartest thing we can do for our brain, body, and bone health.
Then I have the coffee I’ve been jonesing for, slap on a full face of makeup, and get ready to tackle the rest of the day. Yes, makeup for the workout! You only live once.”
Three things I always keep on my nightstand
“You guys, my nightstand is such a f*ckn mess. Right now, it has like five Amazon boxes I need to return stacked precariously high, various brilliant books by badass midlife women that I’m reading, and about a million other pieces of paper (prescriptions; post-its; to-do lists for Teen Son and Daughter). The fact that I can find literally anything is a miracle. My husband’s nightstand is naked like a hotel one.
But the one thing I keep on the bottom shelf is the golden box that my daughter got me for my 45th birthday. Inspired by a post on Pinterest, she had created a box filled with notes from everyone in my life, from my BFFs to my parents to the family dog, all responding to the question: ‘What are three things you love about Sarah Milken?’ The responses I got—the sassy nerd friend; the go-to information curator who tells it like it is—were what inspired me to start my podcast ‘The Flexible Neurotic’: a midlife reinvention podcast to bring midlife women on a journey for golden nuggets from experts, all aiming to normalize the ‘ughs and newfound fabs’ of midlife.
The box stands as a reminder to never give up on myself, no matter the sh*t I’m going through on any particular day. And, of course some tissues for the intermittent crying that is happening since my firstborn leaves for college in August. And, he’s the nice one right now!
There is also a room-temp glass bottle of water with electrolytes in it and a glass straw, of course (and in the drawer are the ‘lovies’ that my kids had as babies).”
“My beauty and aging philosophy comes with two core mantras: 1) You still got it, and 2) You do you.”
My go-to beauty hack or wellness ritual
“My beauty and aging philosophy comes with two core mantras: 1) You still got it, and 2) You do you. Be hot AF in your own way and don’t judge others for choosing them. Some of us will highlight our hair, get Botox, and wear makeup, and others will do the exact opposite. Who f*ckn cares what other people do? They are choosing them and you are choosing you!
We might choose the beauty and style of our twenty-something self—or it might be time for a total rebrand. Thankfully, the modern world offers women a ton of beauty tricks and styles to choose from. Hotness is joie de vivre and loving yourself. You get to define what’s beautiful and sexy.
However, the one thing that is absolutely non-negotiable is taking care of what I refer to as the midlife check-engine light. Annual paps, mammograms, dental exams, colonoscopies, midlife moles, thyroid function, and frozen shoulders: these are things a girl can’t ignore. You also must go ‘Under the Hood’ to cover the care and feeding of our vintage vaginas. Womaness products help with this! It is necessary to move every day in order to fight the midlife arm bat wings and the muffin tops. It is essential to eat right for nourishment and 100g a day of protein. I can’t look at more chicken or sashimi. Have the cookie, but don’t talk about it all day. It’s a balance that you will learn how to define for yourself. What is your ‘good enough'?
Finally, I love my midlife naps. I’ve started to embrace meditation and everything woo-woo in order to combat the brain fog. I encourage everyone to do so as well. Meditation is a broad term. Go for a walk without your phone so then you are aren’t sitting and yelling at your thoughts or falling asleep like I do. One more tip: I get my midlife peach fuzz beard dermaplaned every 5 weeks...makeup sits well that way!”
My inner age (the age I really feel) and why
“I met my husband when we were both in 9th grade (OMG, I know). In some ways, I feel like we’re still those 15-year-old kids who had no idea what the f*ck life would have in store for us—like I could wake up at 5am, eat carbs, go to an Ivy League school and get a Ph.D., and get to work on time with flawless hair and makeup. The sh*t we do in youth.
Since starting my podcast, there are some days when I wake up and feel that young and invincible, while other days are pajamas and unlimited carbs.
But as I’ve continued on my midlife journey—or what I call my ‘midlife remix’—I’ve started to embrace feeling my age, rather than trying to run away from it. The midlife self-reinvention journey is hot & sweaty & moody & fab & invigorating. There are going to be clunky days and flowy days, but the good news is that the MIDLIFE RUNWAY IS THE GOOD KIND OF LONG.
By no longer defining myself by my past, I have freed myself to create the abundant life I want—here and now—so that I can thrive in the second half. No one should ever be defined just by what she did up until age 40 or who she used to be. We have a whole Act 2 awaiting. Look, my husband even got a rebrand, the husband of the woman with the midlife VJ podcast, not even kidding.”
“By no longer defining myself by my past, I have freed myself to create the abundant life that I want—here and now—so that I can thrive in the second half of life.”
Advice I would give to my younger self
“No one is coming to rescue you from the midlife hamster wheel of routine and boredom. Cherish the safety of the routine, while keeping your doors wide open. Surprise yourself and step away from perfectionism and being willing to ‘learn on the go.’ Keep your skill sets wide and your horizon open to new opportunities. Say yes to more sh*t you love and no to sh*t you hate. Life is short. Don’t do things because other people expect you to!
When I hit 45, I was struggling with a severe case of the ‘midlife itchies.’ I was on what I call the ‘hamster wheel of sameness’—while I had been a stay-at-home mom with a dusty Ph.D., my kids were turning 14 and 16 and needed less of my time. My husband was nourished in his career. And every day was Groundhog Day. I wondered if this was f*cking ‘it’ for me? I adored my husband and teens, but needed something to call my own that wasn’t a new purse (although nice) and 32 school emails with forms.
No one was coming to save me. Self reinvention was my responsibility. I had to do it myself. Self-responsibility was—and remains—key. I had to wake up every day and take my golden sh*t shovel—my literal and metaphorical tool of choice—to dig through the layers of sh*t in my life to get to a second act that is as meaningful & fab & flowy as my first act was (except carpool). I chose to start a podcast that would normalize and inspire other women in the trenches of midlife feel less alone, bringing my irreverent, sassy style to topics from my midlife vagina to teen parenting tips.
First thing was first: I had to dust off my Ph.D. in educational psychology. Start small. Enlist Teen Son and Husband for tech help. It’s okay to be scared; I was and still am. But I kept going. Any time I would not want to take the next step, I repeated this mini-mantra to myself:
Quiet the inner mean girl and carpool mom voices.
Be willing to learn on the go.
Keep going, even through the midlife boob sweat.
Midlife flexes don’t have to be Fortune 500 companies. Some women will start companies, other women will write a book, other women start pickleball and mahjong, some start volunteering. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you want to get out of bed for it in the morning. We make our kids try new things, yet we don’t put the same expectations onto ourselves.
I had to come to terms with the fact that I will never be ready. Nothing is perfect. We can’t wait for perfection. It’s a myth. I could start messy. I sure as hell made my kids try new things they hated at first. No one wants to be a beginner.
I could start small. Starting small was creating an Instagram account as a complete social media virgin. Starting small was recording my first podcast with only Husband as a guaranteed listener. It didn’t matter. I found the thing that made ME want to wake up for MYSELF in the morning, and kept doing it. Day after day after day. And, now I can proudly say I have a top 1% rated podcast.”
We don’t believe in “The Pause.” Tell us, what are you not pausing on?
“Myself! Throughout my reinvention journey, I’ve come to embrace the philosophy that self-obsession is absolutely approved in midlife. We all want to feel ‘normal.’ We want to know that other women are feeling the muffin tops, the rage-y hormones, the ‘WTFs’ with teens or college-aged kids, low libido, and more.
Yes, it is normal to feel hormonal, hot, and sweaty. Yes, it is normal to feel like your VJ needs a tune up. There are many juxtapositions and contradictions in midlife; it can sometimes be overwhelming to feel all those contradictory things at the same time. That’s why I am the “Flexible Neurotic.' And it can be weirdly comforting to know that other midlife women are also feeling all the feels. We are not alone.
“...it can be weirdly comforting to know that other midlife women are also feeling all the feels. We are not alone.”
But in order to access those feelings, I needed to learn how to not cancel on myself anymore. Being self-obsessed was the permission slip I gave to myself—my commitment to my midlife remix journey. There are so many labels that women experience in midlife (you should be the perfect Pinterest wife, the kick-ass career woman, the woman who plays golf when she retires or takes up bridge to keep the mind sharp). All this did was create unnecessary pressure—that I had to strive for some sort of perfectionism.
In order to get away from the limiting effects of these boxes, I started a ‘Midlife RIP’ list, the sh*t I didn’t want to do anymore. If I didn’t want to send out a family holiday card, I didn’t f*cking have to. If I didn’t want to get lunch with the person who always drains my energy, I didn’t have to. (I also started doing the things that I actually wanted to do, without fear of judgment. I wanted Botox, the fillers. I wanted to be the mom with a full face of makeup in the carpool lane. This wasn’t high school anymore. I could do whatever the f*ck I wanted.)
By setting these boundaries, I was able to put myself first: show up for myself and create the space for new opportunities. Sometimes we need to cancel, yes—but we also need to turn toward the new. Committing to ourselves can sometimes mean staying in for the night or taking personal time in the morning for coffee and journaling or just spacing out. But it also means that on this remix journey, we don’t cancel the workout, don’t cancel the dinner with friends, don’t cancel attending the talk or lecture that we are interested in. And, yes the midlife naps are approved. Midlife self-obsession is approved.”
What's your favorite Womaness product?
“Ok, let’s get real! We have so many ‘upkeeps’ in midlife. The VJ is complex so I will stick with the neck saga. Being half Italian I have that ‘good skin,’ but it's thin and crepey AF. OMG! So until I take the matter into the plastic surgeon’s office, I am using Let's Neck. I have already made sure that it is TSA-approved for travel. For my neck rings, this product is a godsend, and the roller applicator is divine! Can you say next year’s holiday gifts for all?”
Word that best describes your Womaness
“I approach my Womaness the same way I approach my podcast: with a healthy dose of TMIness. My podcast aims to cull together the very best wisdom, insights, tools, and hacks to help women scratch their own midlife itch. The journey is deep, messy, sexy, sassy, irreverent—but more than anything, it’s raw. I put myself on the line every episode to dig deep, sharing moments from my own midlife mess in order to both put listeners at ease and offer the ‘ahas’ and hard-earned wisdom that I’ve collected along the way. In talking through everything from my vagina to my libido to my midlife muffin top, my listeners describe me as ‘wickedly smart,’ ‘irreverent,’ ‘edgy,’ and so relatable that you might just think I am your real BFF. While Husband, Teen Son and Teen Daughter call it TMI, I think TMIness is the only way to go through midlife. If not now, when?”