I’ve lived most of my life as a black-and-white kinda guy. Good or bad. Right or wrong. I was raised that way. And it fit my personality just fine.
And then, some six or seven years ago, the shades of gray in the middle began to emerge. I thought the shift was a sign of maturity… or a more intentional prayer practice… or perhaps it came through the influence of some of the great authors I was reading, or the great preaching I was hearing. Probably all of the above.
I began to think: I’ve been wrong all my life. Very few issues are black-and-white. Nobody is all good or all bad. Few issues can be reduced to a simple declaration of right or wrong.
Recently, a new awareness has begun to emerge in my psyche: Those years of living in a black-and-white world were foundational and crucial to spiritual growth. They provided the “container” for who I am… and who I am becoming.
Richard Rohr has written extensively and well about this concept. He calls it “Second Half of Life” wisdom.
“Second half of life” wisdom requires prayer and discernment more than knee-jerk responses toward either conservative or liberal ends of the spectrum. You have a spectrum of responses now, and they are not all predictable, as is too often the case with most knee-jerk responses. Law is still necessary, of course, but it is not your guiding star, or even close. It has been wrong and cruel too many times. The Eight Beatitudes speak to you much more than the Ten Commandments as you grow older. Life is much more spacious now. The boundaries of the container have been enlarged. You are like an expandable suitcase, and you became so almost without your noticing. Now you are just here, and here holds more than enough.
– From Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr, pp. 118-119
I’m not there yet. And I never will be. And that’s OK.
As I passed the six-month anniversary of retirement, I’m still trying to get my sea legs. But I’ve learned a new way to think about this new chapter in my life: I’m not retired… I’m Free! Free to deploy my talents, time and gifts in new and exciting ways.
Nothing really prepares you for this phase of life. There’s no rehearsal. There’s plenty of advice, but until you actually walk the walk, its all just words.
I know, intellectually and spiritually, that my true worth is not a result of my work and accomplishments. But that knowledge runs counter to the culture in which I live. So the idea of not drawing a regular paycheck for services rendered sometimes leads me to question my significance.
Its not that I’m sitting around every day in my rocking chair, eating Bon Bons. I’m working hard on the film project and launching Belltower Pictures. I’m enjoying doing some freelance video work. And I’m helping out as a volunteer on other projects. I’m finding time to read and exercise more. But most days, the schedule is “flexible.” Quite different from the way I’ve spent the last 46 years – focused on deadlines, production, and checking off the to-do list.
Now I must admit to frequent struggles with:
- guilt… I see younger people working hard, getting up early, struggling to move forward in career and business. And since I still have lots of energy and passion, I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t have to get up every morning and go to the office.
- doubt… Did I retire too early? Should I have stayed on until the normal retirement age instead of leaving at age 62?
- fear… Will the retirement funds hold out?
Several retired friends have said that retiring was the best thing they ever did. I’m confident I will say that one day. Not yet. But for now, I’m basking in new-found freedom, learning exactly what that means, and eagerly anticipating what the second half of life will bring.