At midlife, at and in early retirement, and later life, people paying attention to their own life sooner or later find themselves with new, evolving, and maturing questions. All sorts of questions, mostly difficult ones.
- Psychological ones like, “why isn’t life working out as I expected?”
And what can I do about that, now?”
- Spiritual ones like “what’s the purpose of my life, now?”
- Religious ones like, “what is it about death that bothers me, now?”
- Emotional ones like “why has my get up and go got up and gone?” –And where did it go?” “Why do I feel so life-less?” “What am I really anxious about, now, and why?”
Note how many times the qualifier “now” appears in that list. A peculiar thing about “fulfillment” is that it is a present tense state or act of fulfilling a dream or hope. It is the feeling of being fulfilled—again, in the present moment. The point is that it is not some future act or state of being. One meaning of fulfill is “to put into effect,” “to achieve,” “to carry out,” or “to realize.” Although the act or state of fulfillment is a noun, getting to it is a process. A dynamic process of knitting active verbs together, flowing and unfolding as indicated by the intent and action inherent in put, achieve, carry. The point here is that fulfillment is an outcome of purpose-oriented actions we take one day at a time. More to the point, we do not and cannot think or feel or pray our way into fulfillment devoid of action, and likely some behaviour change.
Now the thing about our actions is that they are limited by our thinking. Which, in turn is a product of our history—our experience, family and social conditioning, education, etc. As pertains to fulfillment at midlife, at retirement, and beyond, it requires us to be conscious of that as our life changes in its 2nd half, repeatedly. And that we need to learn and relearn new ways of living and valuing our unfolding life. Let me elaborate.
All of us comes to each new today with our own life-history-generated questions, concerns, and fears, as well as our expectations, hopes and aspirations for our unfolding future. Many things interfere with, or feed, these; unexpected health or relationship changes, for example. Especially challenging for many are the conscious and unconscious traumatic consequences of childhood adversity; which often—if not typically—tend to resurface in adulthood to influence our choices that shape the trajectory of our life. And then resurface again in life’s 2nd half when we are unable to find, or unwilling to look for, suitable answers in our changed and changing circumstances. Or worse, try to ignore them all together. Although many things can and do interfere with our hoped-for future, childhood adversity so completely conditions, if not dominates, our life trajectory that many, if not most, adult challenges flow from it; which are often self-inflicted.
Although some people tend to believe they can ignore, outgrow, or simply ‘tough out” childhood adversity—men especially—there is lots of evidence that we can’t and don’t. What we actually do is push our questions, concerns, and hurts—as well as our unrealized hopes and aspirations—as far away from consciousness as we can. Although we can simply forget about and/or outgrow some things, we typically “stuff” them somewhere out of sight and out of mind, with our “gut” being a common repository. (Which is why so many people have stomach issues.) But what really happens is that fear, shame, hurt, and unrequited hopes and dreams languish in our soul. Churning and festering, even as they seek release and relief. Strangely, even our hopes and aspirations for a better life experience get stuffed when we have learned not to trust that others will support us in our quest for them. Or distrust our own worthiness of them. And so, we often unconsciously self-sabotage both our dreams of, and hope for, better aging. Along with this, our sense of self-esteem.
As I discussed in an earlier article, Talking About Things We Never Get the Chance to Talk About, there is great value in being with and talking to others who understand and share our hurts and hopes. This is why On May 11 we will again be offering an opportunity for interested people to talk about making sense of their unfolding and maturing life in their own pursuit of better aging. Our focus will be on the utility of 8 Keys that have been identified as elemental tobetter aging and Fulfillment in Life’s 2nd Half. Our four aims for this event are:
- to encourage and assist participants to name and claim their innate right to better aging within the reality of their context and constraints of their history;
- to encourage them to trust the wisdom of these 8 Keys can result in better aging for them; and…
- that the sooner they begin take hold of one or more of these 8 keys, and begin to apply it /them the sooner they will experience the benefit of better aging.
- To help them get started on their path to better aging and fulfillment.