54 – Second Wind for the Second Half
Twenty Ideas To Help You Reinvent Yourself For The Rest Of The Journey
In this issue I have taken the unusual step of excerpting the introduction and first page of my new book Second Wind for the Second Half. I would like to ask you for a favor. I feel strongly that this book can be enormously helpful to men ages 35-60 about the issues of midlife and beyond. Every day in America 10,800 people turn fifty, and the greatest felt need they have is what to do with the second half of their adult life. Now the favor: Will you help me get the word out? After reading this article would you pass it along to a man who might profit from hearing about this book? Thanks.
One day at the age of 48, I was standing in our kitchen ironing a dress shirt. As I worked the iron back and forth across the cotton, my thoughts began to drift. I saw myself standing in that exact same spot doing the exact same thing ten years later at the age of 58.
Frankly, I was startled. I wondered, What will have changed ten years from now? The answer seemed to be, Nothing, unless I begin to put some things in motion now. That’s what this book is all about –putting some things in motion so that you will be pleased with who you become over the next ten years.
My fascination with the midlife experience began in 1974. As a young, aspiring 25 year old real estate broker, I sold a building for a man mired down in problems at the midpoint of his life.
Donald (as everywhere in this book, the name has been changed) had been the shooting star, the proverbial golden boy, of the Orlando real estate market. His company got caught in an upward spiral of ever-increasing development successes. When a severe recession hit in the early 1970s, the overhead “nut and debt payments brought his whole leveraged empire tumbling down on him.”
Actually, I met Donald after all the employees had left, after he had left his wife, and the dust was starting to settle. He was darkly depressed, living alone in his office. And it was a real pigsty. Trash, dirty clothes, file folders, microwave dinner tins, and Chinese take-out boxes were strewn and piled everywhere. In addition, he had moved all his remaining earthly possessions into this one room in the building he wanted to sell–one of his few remaining assets. He wanted to sell, it turned out, so that he could run away on his sailboat. I was there because I had a buyer for the building.
I must tell you, however, that there was something about this man that struck a deep chord within me. Even though Donald was despondent, mopey, and hard to talk to, he still possessed a shadow of that charisma which had led to such meteoric success. One could not help but like him.
As I scanned his hovel of an office I could scarcely take it in. It shocked my sensibilities; it was chaos. There amid the filth and scattered out business papers, my eyes fell upon the semblance of order, symmetry, and beauty in the entire place. Standing elegantly on the credenza was a single, framed photograph of a small girl standing on the back of a sailboat.
As I studied the picture for a moment I noticed that Donald had made this photograph (consciously or not, I do not know) the focal point of his entire office and, because this office at that point was his entire life, the focal point of his existence.
“Who is that?” I asked.
At that, it was like someone had opened a vacuum-packed can, and fresh air rushed into the room. The heavy mood of the moment was immediately replaced by a light airiness and he said with great pride and affection, “That’s my daughter, Jennifer.” Also, etched across the stern of the boat was the name, Jennifer.
I was overwhelmed at how quickly the simple thought of his daughter had lifted the thick, gloomy clouds suspended in the air about him. It was clear that his daughter, Jennifer, was the anchor of his soul, the slender thread tied to his spirit that kept him from drifting off into complete despair. The mere mention of her name gave him a second wind.
I was so deeply moved by the intensity of his love for her, and the power that the mere mention of her name had to restore a sense of hope to his soul, that I vowed to myself if Patsy and I ever had a daughter her name would be Jennifer.
We did have a daughter. And her name is Jennifer.
By God’s grace, very few of us will ever sink as deeply as Donald did into an all out, old fashioned midlife crisis. In fact, one of my purposes for writing this book is to show you how to avoid such a crisis. Yet virtually all of us will at some point be disappointed that life returns less than we expected.
If you are reading this book you are probably going through a midlife experience right now. Or maybe you’re just coming out of it, or suspect you’re heading into one. Or perhaps it’s because your spouse is struggling.
The question is, when you do go through your midlife slump–whether a minor “funk” or a great ordeal–what will be the anchor for your soul? What will give you the semblance of order, symmetry, and beauty? What, or who, will be the focal point of your life? How will you replace the heavy moods? What will give you pride and love? What are the threads, or ropes, that will keep you from drifting away? How will you restore a sense of hope in your soul? Where will your “second wind” come from? These are questions I hope to help you answer in this book as you reinvent yourself for the second half of the journey.
Some books seek to help those in a crisis. By contrast, this book is written for the majority of us who, though not desperate enough for professional help, could use a hand to sort out midlife’s sometimes bewildering sense of sadness and loss.
The purpose of this book is to raise the issues common to all of us at midlife, to offer practical ideas to make peace with the changes that occur, and to show you how to reinvent yourself to experience a deeper, lasting sense of significance and joy during the second half of the journey.
I hope you will not simply read this book, but experience it. Let it be a time to take stock, a time to find humor, a time to adjust to the impossible changes taking place, a time to accept disappointment, a time to adjust your expectations and, most of all, a time to rediscover the joy of your humanity and your God.
My prayer and belief for you is that your second half will read like Job’s: “The Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning” (Job 42:12).
By the way. Donald eventually did come out of his difficult season and is doing well.
The New Meaning of Midlife–Not a Monolithic Experience
You cannot discover new lands unless you leave shore for a very long time. Andre Gide.
The beautiful, mysterious St. Johns river meanders through Central Florida not far from where we live. Near the headwaters where the river is young it runs swift, but the waters slow as the river deepens and the journey lengthens.
Halfway to its final destination, the river opens into a huge lake. Without its two banks, the river has no direction. The waters spread out and barely move. Each droplet of water entering the mouth of this lake travels a different course. But this is not the Dead Sea so, eventually, two river banks gather the waters and the river once again runs steady.
Midlife is like a lake. Early in our lives we run swift like a river, but shallow. As we put years behind us, though, we deepen. Then one day, we enter the opened jaws of midlife. Where once we felt direction and velocity, suddenly we find ourselves swirling about, sometimes aimlessly, or so it seems. Each of us, like a droplet of water, will take a different path through this part of the journey. For some of us it will only be slowdown. Others will feel forgotten and abandoned by the father of the river. Some, unable to see where the waters converge and once again grow strong, will despair.
Time, however, stops for no one and nothing. Eventually all the little droplets of water, however depressed they may be, find themselves regaining speed as the river banks once again gather the waters, point them forward, and give them purpose.
I hope you have enjoyed these stories. Want to learn more? Let me encourage you to visit your local Christian bookstore and pick up a copy of Second Wind for the Second Half. The book is also available by mail order through Man in the Mirror. Also, if you cannot afford a copy call me and I will see that you get one.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© 1998. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.