The afternoon of life
The paradox of the afternoon of life is that just as we may feel we are finally hitting our stride – if we do not take a siesta, we risk burning out – never making it to the evening of life. I have found myself looking at living according to the rules of the first half of life and one point, even said that it is better to burn out than rust. The reality is that mind-set almost certainly leads to death; sooner rather than later.
Mindfulness – the key
The key for living in the afternoon of life is mindfulness. The consequences of not being mindful at any point in life takes a toll, but as we age it manifests increasingly in the physical being.
A perfect example of this phenomena occurred recently, serving as a good reminder to me of lessons I thought I’d mastered. Life is nothing is not a persistent teacher! Recently I’ve been very close to burn out and decided to take a much needed vacation. Shortly into the week, I was already feeling better, but true to my somewhat controlling nature, I was frantically counting steps to get back into shape so that I could better cope with the stress that I had put myself under. Yes you read that right – I was trying to control my relaxation in order to better or more quickly bring myself back to equilibrium so that I could intentionally continue to pile on more stress. A bit of a nasty cycle now that I think about it…
In the evening, my type A personality was still in control, when I tripped over an ill designed corner fireplace corner (really not sure what the architects were thinking but perhaps I should thank them?) and landed on my knees. My already compromised left knee took the brunt of the fall and I immediately knew I had severely injured it. It would set the tone for the rest of the vacation, and in fact the rest of my life.
When I started my coaching practice three years ago, I was determined to help people lead the life they wanted to live in the afternoon of life. In launching that practice, however, I used the approach that worked for people in the second stage of life, what the Hindi’s called the “householder phase”. Both Carl Jung and Gail Sheehy, the author of the book “New Passages”, have asserted that in this phase males and females are the most drawn to overly masculine or overly feminine stereotypes of behavior. While the feminist movement allowed many women to tune out this meme, most if not all men my age clearly did tune into the provider meme. The cause of this stereotypical behavior is the biological imperative to procreate so that the species survives. Whether that works out for the species in the long run is still open to debate.
I tried falling back to householder phase. And it simply does not fit.
The Hindi culture also points to the next phase which is the forest dweller phase, a time of detachment from the world. This detachment is the foundation of effective mindfulness practices. As we age, both genders cross back to the middle of the spectrum, in fact crossing over for men to slightly more feminine energy and vice versa for women who shift towards more masculine energy. Essentially, men become more nurturing and women more independent as they hit their late fifties.
I had been trying to balance my masculine outreach energy during the day with the compulsion to fit in more nurturing activities in the evening . This resulted in something many young women experience today when attempting to “have it all”. Simply put – I burnt out by trying to do too muc. This balancing was by doing more instead of being more. The “balancing” itself was really overusing masculine energy instead of integrating more rootedness.
As I recovered by resting, I downloaded the book – “New Passages”. I read the original book when I went through my thirties crisis shortly after it was published in 1976. It helped me perceive that my angst at the time was a normal passage. The new book was written in the nineties and I am surprised that I did not find it when researching how people shift in the second half of life because Gail identified that well before Wayne Dwyer and the authors of Quantum Change did in this century.
At this point, all I have re-identified is that I now know the questions to ask. This Monday blog series – Siesta – focuses on living in the afternoon of life by including mindfulness practices. What does it mean for men especially to embrace feminine wisdom and energy and live in harmony with it. This is not a new script for a Transparent type TV show. While gender fluidity is becoming the norm today, this particular exploration is not about clothing or dramatic behavior. It is about how does a sixty or seventy something male live a life of significance without burning out, coping out or dropping out, And how can we have fun doing it? It is the questions we need to ask ourselves.
If you are a guy who has turned sixty, how are you dealing with finding a reason to get up in the morning each day, now that we are living in a time for men where for the most part, the thrill of being a male is gone? If you’re a woman experiencing the shift of focus from nurturing to “doing” – how does that impact your sense of identity? Regardless of your gender – have you noticed these changes in your partner? How has it affected your relationship balance?
We would love to know your story.