Wisdom + Wonder = Mid-Life Renewal
I’ve never been a dare-devil or a risk-taker, but I do like to think of myself as a free-spirit. I relish independence and the great creative impulse I get from aimless wandering and pondering. But, most definitions of that truly adventurous free-spirit are much less grounded, practical, and orderly than I actually like to be. I tend to appreciate the framework of daily rituals and practices quite a lot. Until I don’t.
In my 20s and 30s, I would embark upon life’s next and expected dutiful experience, giving it my best, until it stifled me. I’d continue in that stuck and airless place for a little while, feeling helpless and victimized, whiny and depressed. But eventually, just as I felt I was on my last breath (or maybe because I was), the freedom-seeker within, that wide-eyed little girl, would sing her merry playground song and lift me out of reasonability and into revelation and renewal and eagerness for adventure! I would go, with a drive and fire that almost scared me for its unanticipated energy, from pit of despair to mountaintop of expectation, opportunity, and joy. Wheeee!
New experiences so excite me! Complete life reboots or even mental and spiritual shifts in perspective, are the lines of my story that get bolded in the narrative, setting themselves out from the regular text as guiding points and special moments to be savored over and over. They describe freedom, and that’s my favorite theme.
So, how does one go from stale and stagnant to fresh and free? It can seem to be a mystery to me as I get older, as mid-life somehow makes the lively sprite out to be a damn fool with foolish dreams. I find myself looking back with awe and wistfulness, for example, at the day in my 30s that I picked up and moved to New York, to write poetry and see what was next. Turns out, I was “called” to spiritual healing and began a new profession, leaving my home and old regular day job behind, selling a car and giving up a salary for the pleasure of feeling inspired and alive. I explored and listened and learned and loved Manhattan…until I didn’t. Until its countless buildings and loud life stopped being a cause for excitement and started feeling sunless and overwhelming. Then, I moved on and found new love and new music in an old home-base of mine, Austin, TX, where freedom was peace and open sky and warmth. Reboot. Refresh. Revive.
And speaking of Austin, that compels me to share my first free-flight from little claustrophobic life boxes. In my early 20s, the first sign of my escape-hatch mentality reared its head. Plodding along at an uninspired job, having left college after two years of general misery, I felt inspired to go back to school, study broadcast journalism, and to do this in the exotic place (for this Yankee girl) of Austin, Texas! My first day in that city is one of those bolded days in my life tale, and I, too, was bold back then. I knew no one in Austin and the city itself and my own enthusiasm were my best friends. They were perfect companions. It was heaven — shiny, new, freeing! I have to admit that when I get deep into my child-heart today, I want to relive days that feel just like that eternally! And yet…
I got older. Much wiser, but also more attached to what I knew and to responsibilities to others who had become a part of my life. The free-spirited me began to feel like what she wanted and loved was no longer a possibility. That option was off the table. Too late. Too tired. Too old. Not meant to be. Too many obligations. Too many “practical” reasons why not.
But, here’s the good news. The greater Spirit of Life tells me that the naysayer is a little liar, grounded by fear, but not by reality. As I’ve very, very earnestly reflected and prayed about this, it has come to me clearly that the freedom of my youthful morning is even more attainable at this noon of my life. And I completely believe this is true for all of us, and the sooner we realize it and live it, the better!
Nothing is really holding us back now that we’ve reached a “certain age.” Think about it. We have wisdom. We have a life half-spent that has developed a greater understanding of ourselves, what really inspires us, and what we no longer will tolerate. This wisdom is sharp. It is strong. It is reliable. What it isn’t, is a killjoy! For it is not wisdom to accept less for ourselves or to let time and age and circumstance hold up the force of Life that yearns to break free, and by doing so, to bring a healing and reviving energy to ourselves and to the world around us as well.
I’m asking you. I’m actually begging you. Join me in wiping the chalk-board of our lives clean. Don’t worry. You won’t erase that solid steadiness that is your strong foundation. Your wisdom is right there keeping the slate you will compose upon firm and in place. But the clean board invites you to take out those colored pastels of wonder and to begin to write, to draw, to reveal and to revel in what is still possible for your wonderful life, and now more than ever before.
You have a choice. Yes, you do. Every moment gives us the opportunity for a fresh start. The spirited girl within isn’t even necessarily looking for a change of career or relationship or geography. What she is seeking is a feeling that life is hers to design, to feel in control of it, both making and breaking the rules as best serves her wise and wonder-filled self.
Now is the time to be reminded and demonstrate that she fully deserves this moment, more than ever, to fly, because through all those years of trial and error; moments both of feeling the ebb and being totally in the flow, she has simply been revving her engines. Now, she’s powered and ready to go-go-go!
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on April 10, 2017.