I first heard about there being a first half of life and a second half of life through Father Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward.
However, where I am learning the most about this idea is in my own life. I am living the difference, and the second half of life feels so good.
In my experience, this first and second half of life is not necessarily marked by age, although getting older is part of gaining the experience and learning the lessons necessary to enter the second half of life. It simply takes time to make mistakes and learn wisdom from them.
We do not become automatically wise because we age or because we make mistakes. But if we use our mistakes in life well, then we can gain a lot of wisdom over the years. Entering the second half of life involves stepping into a kind of spiritual maturity, which requires accepting life as it is.
My first half of life was full of striving, chasing, earning, pushing, rushing, enduring and relentlessly pursuing what I felt I needed and/or wanted. I felt fearful, desperate and insecure. I felt like I had to compare, compete, endure and work so hard to try to secure a place in the rat race of life. It was exhausting and wholly ineffective.
But I believe that my Higher Power has been showing me wiser ways to live, and now I get to relax, be at peace and be content as things are much more often than before. I do not have to chase down every little idea, relationship or hope.
I get to rest, be patient and allow my Higher Power to guide me in what to pursue, when and how. I get to pursue out of a place of peace, not out of a desperate inner frenzy to get what I think I want or need. I get to try things out to see what happens, and not worry when they do not pan out.
I get to watch my Higher Power work things out for me in the most amazing ways. Because I am closely connected to the one that has all the connections, resources, knowledge, awareness and attunement to me, I do not have to chase my hopes and dreams down anymore. I simply get to be me.
I get to be as authentic and genuine as I can possibly be. I do not have to do all the “right” things, but instead I get to do what is “right” for me. I get to go where I feel led. I get to go where the burden feels easy and light. I get to go where I feel a comfortable fit.
It very much puts me in mind of Matthew 11:28-30: “‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV).
The reason I get to live this new way is because I have the awesome privilege of relying on my Higher Power’s exquisite care for me. This is care that each one of us has access to and can experience.
My Higher Power creates situations and relationships that meet my innermost needs just right. The care is marked by deep awareness, understanding and sensitivity for who I am.
Instead of having to endure what feels stressful, heavy, burdensome and pressuring, now there is much more peace, calm, ease, lightness and contentedness. I get to pursue what I am passionate about. I get to pursue what fills me up and toss out what drains me.
Now I get to wait on the unfolding of my life with curiosity, excitement and patience. This new kind of waiting for me is very different from the “pins and needles” kind of waiting where something specific must happen.
It is the difference between waiting out of a place of desperation versus waiting out of curiosity, interest and openness. The latter feels really good and exciting. The former feels tormenting.
I no longer have to do the hard work of chasing, connecting, convincing and proving. Now, I get to peacefully wait on my Higher Power’s care and the unfolding of my life.
Additionally, something I have noticed is that the first half of life seems to be made up of a lot of survival strategies we pick up subconsciously as children. We have no idea what we are doing when we are so young and new to life. We just try on whatever beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, values, etc. that is there.
These survival strategies are “there” in that we may see them being modeled or just pick up on them as a way to survive something about our environment. And these survival strategies do work because we do survive, but they are not the same as thriving.
I believe the second half of life involves giving up these strategies for healthier ones. For instance, a big strategy I am learning to give up is people pleasing, and I am replacing it with authenticity. This unlearning helps us get closer to our true selves.
Entering this second half of life is more about realizing a spiritual, mental and emotional maturity than it is about reaching a physical age. And it is not as though any one of us has “arrived”! There is always more to learn and more ways to grow.
But there is much more peace in letting go of the old, unhelpful ways we learned and making room to practice higher and wiser ways that our Higher Power teaches us.
Mumper loves to write about spiritual, mental and emotional wellbeing. Her writings can be found here: https://aliciamumper.substack.com.