This week’s guest blog post is by Kate Williams, Small & Local Business Champion who owns Social Biz Local Biz: Social media and internet marketing solutions for local businesses. www.SocialBizLocalBiz.com
I experienced the first half of my life as a journey out of the cold and darkness of an unguided childhood into my adult roles of worker, mother, friend and wife. Those roles gave me the gift of choices to make and a growing practical wisdom informed by the consequences of those choices.
Fortunately, I found some wise friends and teachers along the way, and supported my journey across many bridges over chasms of despair and depression with the gift of time to learn and competency, intelligence and curiosity.
Now, in the second half of my life, there are some new challenges (and some worn, familiar challenges) to be met in new ways. What I have discovered just recently is that time no longer feels like a gift that offers learning and growth and a journey with new views ahead and around every bend. The hourglass has been turned and now time feels more like it is offering a different and unfamiliar gift.
The knowledge and skills acquired in the first half of my life are not adequate to face and live the challenges of the second half.
In her book, The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom, Angeles Arrien conceptualizes the second half of life as “the ultimate initiation” with “four broad frontiers to face“:
- Retirement: from what, toward what?
- The possibility of becoming a mentor, a steward, or a grandparent.
- Coping with the natural challenges of maintaining the health of an aging body.
- Mortality: losing our loved ones, and the inevitability of our own death.
I’ve only barely begun a deep investigation of the four frontiers and eight gates of initiation Arrien describes, but even the beginning is full of opportunities to deepen the experience of life in these “second half” years of my life.
Knocking at the Gate of a New Beginning
“Perseverance is a great element of success.
If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate,
you are sure to wake up something or somebody.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I have come to this gate repeatedly in the past ten years, the years of my journey in my fifth decade, and find myself knocking boldly and then turning away. I find that I am frightened, not accepting. I am afraid of loneliness, loss, depression, and decline. I am not yet able to accept the aging of my body and mind. It is dismaying to me to face a future without the anticipation of the excitement I used to feel when the unknown seemed to promise new, fresh experience just around the corner.
The task for me now is to lean into this gate “connected to sources of hope and inspiration” and step across the threshold past the symptoms of my disconnection from what is meaningful and vital. I know that there are significant endings of things once so important to me:
- My professional career, always an island of competency and meaningful work as well as income (which seems to be ending no matter how mightily I grip it and dig my heels in to stay attached while it gallops away);
- A long term relationship turning from a gift of safety and security to an outgrown and constricting place of judgment;
- And, my role as mother, grandmother and friend where physical distance denies me my usual ways to stay connected and contributing.
The Fire of Mid-Life Transformation
I am only at the beginning of knocking at the gate of a new beginning and adventure. In Arrien’s Second Half of Life, she presents Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ graphic description of the fire of transformation:
“Deep in the wintry parts of our minds, we are hardy stock and know there is no such thing as work-free transformation. We know that we will have to burn to the ground in one way or another, and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were and go on from there.”
Arriens describes the Gate as the challenge we encounter, opening the Gate as working with the barrier or challenge at the threshold and crossing the threshold as the process of Transformation, the fire. The first piece of work for me at the Gate seems to be a question for reflection.
The question that seems to call to me to be reflected upon at this stage is a question of “return”: What do I want to return to that I have found meaningful and effective in my work? How can I apply that effectiveness to the issues I face now (physical limitations, underemployment, loss of relationships)? What actions can be taken towards effective “return”?
What helps you to re-connect to your regenerative forces, sources of inspiration, hope and creativity? How do you stay connected? Please share that wisdom with me while I persevere in knocking at the Silver Gate.