Around 5 or 6 years ago I found myself in a really disturbing place in life, a place that has only begun to make sense in the last 18 months.
After 40 years of going hard, pursuing achievement and recognition – often at quite a price – I felt inexplicably demotivated, and not at all inspired to look for the next mountain to climb.
I began to worry. Really worry. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I hadn’t been here before and my strongest impulse was to try and locate or create a project I could set my sights on and get my teeth into. This was what I had done previously, and done well. I figured all I really needed was a ‘vision’ and I’d be sweet – I’d be back to normal – back to my old self…
But nothing came – and I didn’t have it in me to make something up either. I just couldn’t fudge it and hope things would right themselves again. I began to worry that this absence of a compelling sense of purpose and focus might become permanent and I may grow into one of those aging, self obsessed old people I had always despised… You know? People who ‘did their time’ and now were in cruise mode. People who were now ‘thinking of themselves for a bit’?…
The tag line at the bottom of my emails reads ‘life is a daring adventure or nothing at all’. But I felt my life was starting to resemble an old Commodore that had once been a good car, but was now someone’s shopping vehicle.
What was curious was that as I spoke with my close friends several others were experiencing similar kinds of dis-location. Those who were once ambitious, competitive and driven were losing those qualities. We lamented together and laughed at where we were, but we also had no answers for one another. It was just good to know we weren’t alone in our lostness.
It didn’t dawn on me at the time that this could possible be a good thing. I sometimes told people (only a little tongue in cheek) that I was in the middle of a mid life crisis so not to expect too much. The absence of the familiar ‘goal – charge – conquer’ routine certainly felt more like a crisis than the beginning of a new adventure. I couldn’t see or articulate what was happening beyond feeling lost and confused that I was no longer who I used to be.
One of the really odd experiences that occurred in this time was a sense of contentment. I dismissed it as totally inappropriate and just one step closer to complacency and mediocrity. How could you be content not to have a burning sense of purpose and an accompanying desire to change the world? Contentment was a comforting word you used to describe what you got when you lost focus… I told myself..,
But in the last twelve months I have begun to settle and feel more at ease in my own skin. I have sensed God saying ‘this is ok’ and I have decided to enjoy the contentment rather than spurn it as weakness.
This week I have been reading Richard Rohr’s ‘Falling Upwards a spirituality for the second half of life’ and it has been amazing. I am not a Rohr junkie – in fact I got bored in ‘Wild Man to Wise Man’ and gave it up… But this book has been describing what has been happening for me and giving words to theconfusing experiences that are to be expected if we are to ‘grow up’. I began highlighting parts and I think I may have now highlighted most of it.
The basic premise is that there are two halves to life and the tools, practices and ideas that served you well in the first 40 or so years need to be put down, changed and surrendered if we are to pick up new tools for the next half.
Rohr argues that many simply refuse to walk thru the desert of confusion and disorientation, so they end up repeating first half behaviours at a time when they should be growing up and morphing into different people.
It has helped me see why I have much less desire to compete or to be harsh on those with whom I disagree. It has helped me understand why I don’t need to achieve like I used to…or be ‘seen’. It has helped me to realize that I can enjoy being content and that perhaps the best really is yet to come.
Maybe you’ve had similar runctions in your own life and wondered ‘what the heck is going on?’ Maybe the challenge is to enjoy it and celebrate it, knowing that God is re-forming us and growing us and leading us to maturity and life.