How will you spend the second half of life? Who will you be, what will you do, where will you go? Maybe you’re a woman over 50 who is looking for meaningful ideas for the rest of your life. If so, you are not alone. I’m turning fifty in four months, and I can’t wait!
I want to make the second half of my life more meaningful and fulfilling. The first half of my life was good…but not deep enough. I want to go deeper. I’ve been thinking and talking to God about how to spend the second half of life. I’m trying to listen, but I keep hearing God say that I am free to do whatever makes me happy. I am free…and confused.
Last week I wrote 5 Things to Consider Before Going on a Pilgrimage to India. That’s my first adventure the year I celebrate my 50th birthday: I am flying into Kathmandu, Nepal and traveling to Delhi, India. I am going alone. I want to learn how to be more dependent and faithful to God. I want to walk with Jesus and lean on the Holy Spirit. I want Sofia to guide me (the Greek word for wisdom, echoed throughout Scripture). Those are the most meaningful ways to start the second half of my life.
I also want to discover how to spend the second half of my life. Maybe Nepal and India will reveal some answers…and maybe not. Maybe I’ll come home exactly the same as the day I left…but I doubt it. Something will rise to the surface.
Here, I share my five pre-pilgrimage ideas for my 50s and beyond. Are you a woman looking for ways to spend the second half of your life? Maybe you’ll find a few ideas here. At the very least, you’ll know you’re not alone 🙂
How to Make the Second Half of Your Life Meaningful
These tips begin with an angry, critical comment from a reader on my article for women over 50 who are starting over. It’s the perfect jumping-off point! This reader — Alegria — is right in some ways. And she’s wrong in others.
And that is one meaningful way to start the second half of my life: look at feedback, assess what might be true and what might her own issues, and learn.
1. Listen to what others say about you. Sometimes they’re right.
“The author chose this topic because it is relevant to many people and she would get readers, not because she has any true understanding or empathy for people in our position,” says Alegria on Starting Over With Curiosity & Confidence for Women 50+. “Her list of what to do is for people who are bored and lacking in focus or direction, not for people who are desperate. eg: “make friends”, which is equivalent to saying “cheer up”. In fact this entire article is one of those “never mind, chin up, things can’t be all that bad” coming from someone who has no effing idea – with a Masters in Social Work, having been to Africa for years. What does she know about being rock bottom? Zero!”
She’s right about this: I write meaningful articles that are relevant to many people (especially women over 50 because that’s who I’ll soon be). And of course I try to craft my blog posts so I get readers! I want people to find my articles online, I want to show women they’re not alone, and I want to encourage and inspire readers.
But Alegria is wrong about not having “no effing idea” of how hard life can get. I grew up with a schizophrenic mother, getting food from the food back, sleeping in cardboard boxes in back alleys, and moving in and out of foster homes. If that’s not rock bottom, it’s pretty damn close. But that’s neither here nor there! I want to talk about how to make the second half of life meaningful, not dig up my past.
2. Learn how to separate the wheat (good) from the chaff (bad)
I am a mixture of good and bad, saint and sinner, Holy Girl and ungrateful brat. So are you, I imagine. It took me a long time — almost 50 years — to accept myself as a child of God, precious and good and beloved. At the same time I am shockingly selfish but still dearly loved by the Lord who created me, cherishes me, and is eager to fill me with life, joy, love, peace, grace and compassion.
Here’s a most excellent way to spend the second half of your life: learn how to accept yourself fully for who you are, good and bad. Practice accepting feedback and criticism with a grain of salt. Regarding Alegria’s criticism: the truth is I did spend 10 years writing blog posts to try to attract readers, help them solve problems, and use advertisements to make money as a writer. And the truth is that I wrote articles I now wish I hadn’t. Another truth is that you can’t take anything off the internet — it’s like taking pee out of a swimming pool! So it is what it is and I am who I am. And it’s better than okay: it is excellent. That’s how I’m already making the second half of my life meaningful.
3. Let it go, let it go, let it go
If you’re a woman over 50 who regrets how you spent the first half of your life, you know you can’t go back. Bells can’t be unrung, mistakes can’t be unmade, wrongs can’t be righted, and words can’t be taken back. You took risks, maybe even made bad decisions. Hopefully you’ve fallen down and failed a few times; failure means you tried something new and pushed out of your comfort zone.
Maybe you have no or few regrets, but you wish you could relive the old days. If so, you may find comfort in reading When You’re Homesick for Your Old Life.
About regrets and making the second half of your life more meaningful: “We may look upon the whole course of all our past decisions as a dismal failure and a terrible loss,” writes Lynn Bauman in A Handbook to Practical Wisdom. “We may have indeed chosen badly over a period of many years, suffering all the consequences of those actions, but at any given moment when we start to choose differently, at that very instant we begin a different path in a different direction.”
4. Take time to reflect on the first half of your life
One of my favorite books is Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Father Richard Rohr. If you’re searching for ways to spend the second half of your life, take a few weeks to reflect on how you spent the first half of your life. How are you and God? That’s the single most important question to ask yourself. If you and God are good — and always growing closer together, even in the dry seasons — then you will experience peace, joy, love and freedom no matter how you choose to spend your 50s and beyond.
“When you get your, ‘Who am I?’, question right, all of your, ‘What should I do?’ questions tend to take care of themselves,” says Richard Rohr. Truly accepting and loving myself as a child of God — seeing myself the way He sees me — answered my “Who am I?” question. And that is helping me know how to spend the second half of my life.
“Much of the work of midlife is to tell the difference between those who are dealing with their issues through you and those who are really dealing with you,” says Father Richard. This reminds me of Alegria’s comment on my article for women over 50 who are starting over. She seemed pretty angry and critical. Was my blog post really that offensive?
“In the second half of life, people have less power to infatuate you,” says Richard Rohr in Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. “But they also have much less power to control you or hurt you.”
5. Start choosing how you will spend the second half of your life
Back to Lynn Bauman’s A Handbook to Practical Wisdom: “Though we may feel totally ‘off course,’ and know that we have made many bad decisions and are now far from the destination we want, yet when we start to choose differently we begin moving immediately in a new direction, closer to our goal,” she writes. “That moment is the first step in the journey heavenward. It is never too late to make another choice, even knowing that past choices have narrowed our options.”
When you’re searching for ideas for the second half of your life, start with what you have right now. Embrace it. Work with it. Include it, and transcend it (as Ken Wilber says). Include the first half of your life — your mistakes, failures, successes and moments of glory — as you journey into the second half. This is how you make your life meaningful.
I’m finding surprisingly powerful depths of freedom and joy in the knowledge that I will soon be a woman over 50. How about you?
Maybe you’re still in your 40s, or even your 30s. Read 17 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Your 40th Birthday. Those tips will help you make the second half of your life more meaningful and interesting.
If you’re into “retail therapy” and want to buy a special gift for your birthday, read What to Buy Your Wife on Her 50th Birthday. I’m not a shopper (in fact, I hate shopping), but I actually enjoyed finding gift ideas for women over fifty. Maybe I’ll become a shopper in the second half of my life, who knows.
In peace and passion,