Falling Upward and Embracing the Second Half of Your Life

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There comes a moment in every person’s life when she realizes she has just entered the second half of her life.

With the average lifespan of a woman in the United States being 81, I technically crossed that line three years ago. Yes, that’s when my waist disappeared and the pregnancy questions started; my squiggly gray hair came in and I purchased my first pair of readers; I started doing things like placing ketchup in the freezer and cereal in the refrigerator; and the medical appointments on my calendar started to outnumber the social gatherings by a ratio of about 10:1.

A month ago I went through the rite of passage to the second half of life: my first colposcopy with an added bonus of an upper endoscopy. As I lie in the preparation room for this christening event, I read the book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. He writes:

There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life. The task is to build a strong “container” or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold. The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean we do it well. The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion.

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7 thoughts on “Falling Upward and Embracing the Second Half of Your Life

  1. What a totally awesome post! I can soooo relate.

    Wow! I can’t believe you suffered through all that BS with the publishing company, etc. Sounds like they all failed you.

    Good for you for coming out stronger. Hope all your tests went well. I’m due for mine. : )

  2. Thanks for this beautiful article, Therese. My mom is a little older than you, but I think it won’t make her appreciate this article any less when I get her to read it. The issue of age is an undercurrent in my thoughts, even as a late teen. With age comes expectations and a whole host of other things we are never perfectly ready to handle. After all, age is the passing of time, and together with the years come the building on of experiences, life itself.

    I don’t think many of us do or have the opportunity to devote this time and insight into age, and I really appreciate your thoughts on it even though I’m kind of rushed for time right now and didn’t read this as closely as I would otherwise.

    I’ve been thinking more about identity, the concept, recently. And age is tied into that, something like a sum total of a life’s experiences perhaps. From individual identity arises what we do, what we emanate. I mean, identity is kind of what you are. I think people have probably always struggled with age, and in a modern time where a lot of social expectations and stuff like that is being … challenged, our ideas about it will be evolving too.

    “If you are truly a second-half person living out the wisdom of your hard-earned humility, you don’t need the noise of Twitter or to brag on Facebook.” I find that insightful, and reassuring in a time where social networking is a buzzword linked to what can be a lot of pressure.

    ‘“Where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold,” said Jung.’ Something to remember when things get especially hard. I like this quote a lot.

    “The good news is that as we move deeper into our second half, we are no longer as humiliated by our let-downs. We come to expect various forms of illusions.”
    I don’t remember where I heard this but someone speaking to a younger person said something about how as they would go forward into life, there would be a lot of things that would look/be very- like good things, to pursue, but that they’d have to be careful because many of them mightn’t be. The idea of coming to expect various forms of illusions involves some acceptance, and adapting of the ability to handle them. Which can be hard to come to and take a long time, but may be worth that journey.

    “When we are enjoying success, who really wants to look deeper? We literally fall into the latter task by shedding the goals, boundaries, and identities that seemed so critical to us for most of our lives, only to find out that they have nothing to do with who we really are.” Introspection can be wrenchingly painful, because there will probably always be things within that we aren’t ready to or don’t think we’re capable of confronting. But it can be part of the journey to setting yourself free, like as it says in the Bible, that ‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’

    Thanks for this article again :) No matter how you look or the natural limitations and setbacks that come with age, your words continue to bring and help others to find truth, and peace.

  3. Yeah – that publishing thing. Nasty business – I have been screwed over in that industry too many times to count. Self publishing is the way to go. As for second half of life – hmmm- I think one needs to completely eliminate all expectations (difficult), don’t rely on anyone in life but yourself, and always have a dog as your confidante.

  4. Therese, this may be the most insightful piece you have ever written, at least it is to me. I am older than you (64) and have been struggling with my lost identity as a visual artist. I had already accepted the fact that I would never be famous, now I am wondering if I will ever even be even close to what I once had been. I will be saving this post to remind me that life must, and should, change. And every time I read it, I will certainly be making a trip to the freezer to find my glasses! Thank you for what you do with your life. It matters.

    1. Thank you, Teresa. I appreciate that. Keep on with your art even if you won’t be a household name. I hope you find peace in your second-half journey :).

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