So many things could be said about the second half of life. First, this is not a chronological age, as in you hit 45 or 50 years old and are automatically in the second half of life. Midlife crisis can often be the invitation to enter the second half of life but most people never actually enter it.
Entering the second half of life requires dissolving, dismantling, healing and the digesting the first half of your life.
It requires becoming familiar with and understanding your survival story, how you put yourself together as a result of your childhood trauma and the story you told yourself around it. Not only do you need to become familiar with your survival story, you must discover compassion for yourself as the one who needed that particular survival strategy. It helped you survive. The first half of life is about survival. You did it! You survived.
Your survival story, as great as it was, is designed to stop working, to fail you at some point. To actually become a stumbling block to your future unfolding.
Your relationships fall apart.
Your body starts to break down.
Your job no longer satisfies.
Your efforts to control or hide or dominate seem to be backfiring.
Your kids leave to live their own lives, maybe even with their own beliefs.
The things you believed in no longer seem as satisfying or as true….there are cracks and the light is starting to get in.
You have come to the gateway of the second half of life.
Going through it is an invitation, not a command.
Much is required in going through.
In fact, one could say it will cost you everything.
For sure it will cost you your old life, your old way of being in the world and belonging to it.
For me, this unraveling started after the birth of my 4th son. Bless him…he was the biggest catalyst for change for me and I will be forever grateful. Up until this point of my life, I was pretty certain (a hallmark of being in the church…being very certain about everything) that if you give god everything - life- as in his plans, not yours- womb, authority, make him the corner on truth, give him your heart…well, you know, everything, then he would also deliver for you. He would, of course, give me the desires of my heart, which at that point, was to have a daughter. I was pretty sure he had spoken to me that this was FOR SURE going to happen this time.
All my eggs were, literally, in his basket. (See what I did there? Womb to the lord joke)
Ben was born and my unraveling began. People asked why this was such a big deal for me, after all, he was healthy, and didn’t I just care about having a healthy baby?
I cared about this exchange I was in with god, a vending machine where I plug in the right coins and I get the right things out. After all, I was a card carrying member and very devout. I do this, he does that.
Thankfully, I was committed to getting to the root of this for myself and for Ben. I knew Ben would be affected even more than he already had been, being in the womb of a disconnected mother.
Our journey and our kid’s journeys are connected. Our unlived life will be passed on to them if we do not do the deep work of dismantling.
I had an image of a valley. I knew that the person I wanted to be was through the valley and on the other side, and I had the awareness that it was going to hurt like hell to get there. Not sure how I knew, but I did.
At the time, I was still using church lingo (except for that swear word you just read) so I assumed my beliefs would be intact on the other side. Now, many years later, I can see that it was my first descent, my first invitation to the underworld, an image from Greek Mythology and common to people moving from the first half of life to the next. By the way, not a fast process. Most likely years in the making.
Our house of cards has to come down.
Our beliefs need to be questioned.
Disillusionment needs to happen.
The tragedy is when we find things to prop up our crumbling house of cards, find ways to shore up our failing beliefs, find more certainty. Refuse to ask the bigger questions.
Refuse to be undone.
Refuse to dissolve.
Refuse to descend.
Fear of the unknown and certainty of the old and familiar will keep us stuck in this place or in fact could keep us from taking the journey at all.
Imagine it like the old game kerplunk, if you will. The game with the tube, the marbles and the little sticks. You just have to start pulling at the sticks and eventually it will all come down.
Thank god I did.
I pulled and found grief.
I found expectation, the expectation of having a daughter who would not only meet my needs but she would also be more acceptable than I had been and therefore would do what I could not do and earn me a place of connection and acceptance, my old childhood wound story.
I found my striving, accommodating, conforming good girl survival story, even if I didn’t have the language for it yet.
I moved into a season of questions, not certainty.
Of unraveling, not putting together.
A discovery of who I had become in order to survive my childhood trauma, ways I was trying to earn and find favour as a way of protecting myself from pain, not who I actually was.
My cards started to come down.
I would say that this was a starting place for me but the actual unraveling took, hmmm, he’s 21 now so… 21 years.
I would also say that if you knew me then, you might not recognize me now.
James Hollis, my favourite Jungian Analyst, says that one of the main tasks of the second half of life is the recovery of our personal authority. Since I had out-sourced mine in pretty much every area, it has been quite a journey to recover it.
It started with Ben and that first descent.
I questioned my beliefs and opened to the possibility that I might not have the whole story.
I dove deeper into my childhood trauma.
I found my feelings.
I discovered the wider world around me and my bigger place in it.
I became intimately acquainted with my survival story, how I had formed it and why, how to heal it, and opened to what might be possible if I was no longer just surviving.
I discovered and healed through bodywork.
I discovered and healed through nature based wholeness practices.
I dug into the belief systems of others around the world, particularly becoming interested in the sacred feminine as I had only been allowed to have a sacred male image and, obviously, there was something missing in that story.
I opened to the sacred as feminine, but also the sacred feminine as me.
I dismantled the house of my first belonging….my first half of life.
I returned to myself.
Once, a number of years into this journey of dismantling, healing, moving forward and shrinking back, I had a life changing dream.
There is a snake in a tree and I am warning people to stay back. The warning is that if you let her out of the tree, there’s no telling what she might do. The irony is not lost on me that my foundational story was about Eve, in the garden, being tempted by a snake in the tree. And, just like Eve, it was time for me to leave the garden (first half of life). But unlike Eve, in my story, the snake gets out, takes up a lot of space, moves into a house and devours an orange house cat. Because I have been privileged to have guides to help me with life changing dreams such as this one, I was able to invite the snake of me to devour the domestic cat of me, another descent image, but this one even more intense. This process lasted 3 years.
Why was this necessary? Because my survival story was about being a good girl, accommodator, conflict avoider, pleaser and my Sacred Dance, my second half of life story is much more than that.
It’s about living some different parts of me.
Living in my wholeness.
Living the snake of me who takes up space, doesn’t mind making people uncomfortable, is good at shedding her skin, isn’t concerned about pleasing or accommodating but is concerned about transformation, her own and others.
She is her own authority.
She does not need saving.
My first half of life was about being the domestic cat of me, which was necessary for my survival until I had the healing, the tools and the resources to allow a bigger life to come forth.
In my first half of life I lived truth that was given to me.
My second half of life is about becoming something bigger, something more dangerous, something more uncomfortable.
It’s about discovering and revealing my own truth.
It’s about becoming someone that helps facilitate the dismantling of other’s survival stories.
Someone who helps people discover and reveal their own truth.
Someone that invites transformation.
The shedding of too small skins.
The becoming of all that we are.
The moving from our survival story to our Sacred Dance.
Are you ready?