That Second Half of Life: No one said it was going to be this way
Tears Of A Clown
That’s what I thought to myself every few years, after I was over-50. Now, I find out that I am not alone.
“Necessary suffering” is what Richard Rohr calls much of what goes on in the second half of life. A Roman Catholic priest, Rohr recently published “Falling Upward.” Yes, suffering is a predicable a phase in life as we age as was adolescence after childhood.
During the first part of life, explains Rohr, we humans in theU.S.are preoccupied with getting ahead in a career, building the nest and a nest egg, and struggling with an identity. Then comes the time of reflection about all that, plus, as the cliché goes, life intervenes.
We may find that we indeed get ahead in our professional life. However, we -also realize that the ladder we climbed was placed against the wrong wall [image via Thomas Merton]. Or, the profession we love is gonzo. Our soul-mate unbundles from us. We don’t like who we are. The money is not enough to retire. And, most of all, we are clueless how to handle all this pain.
The trick is not to run from the pain, counsels Rohr. Embrace it, look it over, and then figure out how to leverage it on our own behalf. Yes, it is a prerequisite to growth, both professional and personal.
The pain of the recent recession, once I stopped denial, has turned me into a top-notch marketer and a salesperson who closes. Today, I nailed down an account with a major brand name auto company. Of course, I’m still not a cheerleader for suffering. The difference is that I no longer fear more pain coming. That’s dumb, I now know. The reality is: pain is our continual companion as we age. That’s why we gain the reputation for wisdom.
Rohr’s thinking turns out to be the meme of the 21st century. Another influential book is “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. The lesson is the same: embrace what is, including who we are or who we have become. The funny thing is that, as Carl Jung observed, once we accept who we are, we can change. Another is “Self-Compassion” by Kristen Neff. Since we are such suffering creatures, we better learn the hang of tending to ourselves, flaws and all.