I am privileged to be experiencing the second half of my life. (That is, of a lifespan that most of us reasonably expect to have.) And, it is a stage of life that I have felt totally unprepared for. Not supported by the culture I live in. Not talked about. Not really even acknowledged as a thing.

We all know we have around ‘three score and ten’ years on this planet, notwithstanding accident, disaster, war.  During that timespan things change, but not just the obvious inevitable physical deterioration, that despite our best efforts none of us will escape. From early life we’re looking forward. There is a smorgasboard of possibilities in front of us, in our future. What I’m talking about could be summed up by the saying ‘the world is your oyster’. I do acknowledge that is an extremely privileged thing to say, and that early life isn’t like that for everyone. But, perhaps there is always the looking forward, hoping.

A research study of n=1

This is a research study of n=1, me, and possibly a few more voices that I’ve heard on this topic. I’m not sure whether it applies to disadvantaged cultures as well? When we’ve travelled over the crest of the hill, i.e. there are more days behind us than there are in front of us, something happens to our internal orientation. Instead of looking forward, we start casting back over the ground already covered, trying to make sense of it. Reviewing whether our expectations were met, whether they were realistic.

It can be a time of grappling with a lot of disappointment. A time when we’re no longer prepared to ‘tow the party line’ or ‘play the game’. It can be a time of yearning for a greater integrity, authenticity.

Perpetually living for tomorrow

I stepped off the treadmill when I was 52. I was not retirement age. I just couldn’t do it anymore. All that striving and perpetually living for tomorrow. Longing for that ‘one day’ when I’d have my dream job, enough money, the mortgage paid off, achieved something extraordinary.


It wasn’t easy. Suddenly, I felt…….. a………… lot………… less……….. relevant. Without my job title, steady income stream and status within the hierarchical world, I was a little lost. I had not bargained for how challenging it would be to follow my heart and pursue a livelihood by offering what I love to the world.

A heavy, grey mood set in, like a cloud that I carried about with me for the next several years. It was a liminal space. I had stepped off the merry-go-round, and was glad of that, but I didn’t know what my new life, life in the second half, was supposed to be like. In hindsight I ponder why it isn’t something that is talked about.

Coming out of age

I contrast it to puberty when, for me at least, there was lots of excitement, advice, it was something to be celebrated – coming of age. Coming out of age, on the other hand, I was met with a paucity of anything! Shared experience, congratulations for making the journey, tips on how to navigate the internal re-orientation – nothing. It just didn’t seem to be spoken about. I had already lost both my parents, perhaps that was a big missing link for me. But, I’m not sure? I suspect it’s cultural.

Cultural values

Our culture prides itself on the values of productivity, performance, and (I think it’s fair to say) youth and of course capital worth. For the first time in my life I felt marginalized. Outside the mainstream. That has been this stage of life’s great blessing to me. It has helped me to develop compassion and understand, or at least get an inkling of, what it is like to exist outside the mainstream. I’m grateful for the insight it has given me.

A little less jarring?

I wonder what we can do as a culture to make the transition into the second half of life a little less jarring? Why don’t we see it as a valuable time of life? Why don’t we appreciate our elders? Ageing, as is dying, is something that we fear as a culture. Something that our culture has done it’s darnedest to closet. Ageing and dying are not polite topics for social conversation. Why not? They’re both as sure as taxes.

Ripe with opportunities

In my experience, the second half of life is ripe with opportunities for spiritual insight and understanding. During this time of our lives we are undeniably becoming closer to returning to the source from which we came, so it is a little less difficult to remain in denial about the mystery of life. It can be a beautiful time to embrace the Mystery.

As I approach the start of my 60th year on this planet, I find myself calmer, less reactive, more responsive and more peaceful and easily contented then at any other time in my life. Who’s with me in celebrating the second half of life?