looking back and going forward
The Third Chapter – Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years after 50 by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot was a book I picked up just as I was leaving the library the other day. The title sounded interesting and goodness knows, I am experiencing passion, risk, and adventure almost 25 years after 50. This is my life. How are others experiencing these years?
From the introduction:
Perhaps it is my age. I am sixty-two, and for the last several years my conversations with friends, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances have often been punctuated by what I have now come to call “confessional moments.” Certainly there is the expected chatter and grumbling about minor and major infirmities or unwelcome signs of deterioration–lower-back pain, varicose veins, bald heads, and gray hair–and there is the usual whining about offspring, now finished with college, maybe even married with young children, who return home to live and still need to be provided with health care and spending money. When I refer to confessional moments, however, I do not mean the habitual grumbling about our inevitable decline as we grow older. (One of my friends refers to these gripe sessions as “organ recitals.”) Nor am I referring to the odd and troubling sensation of gazing into the mirror and seeing not yourself, but someone decades older than you imagine yourself to be–someone who looks very much like your mother.
I am, instead, talking about moments when we manage to resist the signs of burnout, make peace with the old/new mirror image, and refuse to be preoccupied with our chronic laments about aging or our sadness about our vanishing youth. These are moments when our faces light up, when there is a palpable surge of energy and we begin to reveal stories about learning something new. These are stories told most often by people who are–like me–in the “Third Chapter” of our adult lives, the years between fifty and seventy-five, the generative space that follows young adulthood and middle age. And these stories are recited with intrigue, passion, and self-discovery–stories that reveal themselves like mysterious secrets; tales often striking in their contradictions and paradoxes.
My friend Jacob, an ardent intellectual and distinguished journalist with a Ph.D. in political science, has a quick mind and a subtle wit. Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the only son of Jewish immigrant parents, he is a man of expansive warmth, whose greatest pleasures are relational and social and whose currency of discourse has always been language: a rapid-fire delivery blending a New York Bronx dialect with a sprinkling of Yiddish, for emotional effect. Now sixty-two, he tells me of his first experience attending a seven-day silent retreat where–after much resistance, fear and panic; then resolve and determination–he began to let down his barriers and inhibitions and learn to live in the stillness. This still-raw understanding and practice of meditation has opened a whole new discipline and perspective that seem to “challenge old inhibitions and raise questions” about who he is “becoming,” and about his capacity to be alone with himself. He says dramatically, “meditation is the most counterintuitive thing I could have possibly tried to learn to do.”
The author quotes Anatole France at the beginning of her first chapter “Loss and Liberation”:
All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
Posted on September 25, 2009, in Books and tagged adventure, after 50, books, non fiction, passion, reading, risk, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, self-discovery, The Third Chapter. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.