The Midlife Journey

Here’s Episode 58 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

You can join our members-only facebook group here to watch live and join in the lively comment conversation on this episode. You can also watch previous episodes there, and on our YouTube channel.

This week we explore together those giant transitions in life where we get remade from the outside in and from the inside out, if we’ll only let ourselves. We talk about some of the ways we resist being changed – out of fear and shame – and how life conspires in myriad ways to keep teaching us what we need to learn. And we consider the vital role of elders and community in helping one another to let go and step more fully into the lives that are calling us, and in finding the courage and making the unique contribution each of us is here to make.

Our source this week is from ‘Hidden Blessings‘ by Jett Psaris:

The Midlife Journey

Generally we cannot take the midlife journey before midlife. It takes actual life experience for our constructed self, our ego, to mature. And, paradoxically, it takes ego strength to go through ego dissolution. We have to have the strong ego built during the first half of our lives in order to make the midlife transformation because the ego must involve itself in its own metamorphosis by failing to take us into the next stage of life…

The impulse to avoid the journey is understandable… Many of us will cling to our old lives while looking for a guarantee that new lives are possible and will be better. Even as the old well is drying up we try to maintain our lives until the passage disables us altogether. Or we rearrange the furniture of our lives to try to make things better: we trade in an old spouse for a fresher model or scurry out of our own lives into someone else’s in hopes of reviving the selves we have known up until this point…

When we arrive at midlife torn, confused, desperate, burned out, unmotivated, or fearful, what we don’t yet understand is that there isn’t any more life force in our old habits and patterns because we have used it all up! A new direction is needed. It is unimaginable to us that the old system is actually not reparable. But at midlife we undergo radical change; our old way of being is not something we can tweak and rejuvenate. We need to start over from the ground up. It is not an opportunity for a fresh start; it is a mandate for one. Carl Jung wrote, “we walk in shoes too small for us.” If we resist the call to transform at midlife, all the makeup, money, and medications in the world won’t stem our grief over having aborted the possibility of living the authentic, soul-centered life that belongs uniquely to us.

from ‘Hidden Blessings‘ by Jett Psaris

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

Schooled away from Gratitude

nicole-honeywill-424236-unsplash

We are systematically schooled away from gratitude.

It begins as soon as we start comparing ourselves with each other. We learn to do this at school (there’s always a better grade we should be getting). And, later, our workplaces often draw on our comparisons with others as a way of having us push harder (forced-distribution performance ratings set this up in particular, see here for more on this).

Add to this the deeply ingrained understanding, in the West at least, that human beings are intrinsically broken and not to be trusted, expressed most fully in the work of Augustine (see this post for more). In an increasingly secular society we hardly see how much we’ve internalised this orientation, even as we feel and fear and hide our sense of incompleteness from others.

And we’re subject to an endless wheel of media and marketing that gnaws and needles at our capacity to trust what we have. There’s always something newer, cheaper, more fashionable to own, and a whole set of comparisons which go along with this. How back-to-front is it that the American festival of thanksgiving has – at least in the UK where I’m writing – been expressed entirely as Black Friday, a chance to buy more and fuel our sense of lack? It’s a manipulative reversal of the opening to life that giving thanks is intended to inspire.

Gratitude can be hard to find in all of this. We get caught up in our self-pity and comparison and fear, drawn to everything that is missing, all that somehow was denied to us. We find ourselves in the grip of an enormous misunderstanding that we keep under wraps because we’re afraid of admitting just how afraid it has us become.

But… we have more resources and more freedom than just about anyone before us in human history.

… we live in a period of unprecedented geological stability that greatly increases the otherwise infinitesimally small chances of any of us being here (see Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything for more on this).

… and we are given the gift of a life that we had to do nothing to get, and a body with which to move and express and feel and love and contribute.

Are we really going to keep on fueling our cynicism and despair? Or are we prepared to wake up to just how great are the treasures we are always in the midst of receiving?

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

 

Active Hope

Here’s episode 57 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

You can join our members-only facebook group here to watch live and join in the lively comment conversation on this episode. You can also watch previous episodes there, and on our YouTube channel.

This week we ask what it takes to take action in the world – to actually stand up, speak out, and put ourselves at risk. We explore together how shaky it can feel to do this, and how necessary in a world that deeply needs each of our gifts to be brought and contribution to be made. We wonder together what kind of faith in life, and what kind of sense of belonging with others, can help us to step out beyond the bounds of our own comfort and familiarity, and do our part to set things right.

Here’s our source, from Joanna Macy

Active Hope

Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued 
by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that
there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to discover the strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.

~ Joanna Macy

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

 

Vast

There is a part of me that is tender, hurt, grieving and super-sensitive. He feels like something very young. Of all the parts that make up this mysterious something that I call ‘I’, he is among the smallest.

Deeply loving, filled with emotion, he easily gets caught up in a story of abandonment. His fears are specific, and strongly predictive. ‘You’ll leave me’, he says. By ‘you’ he means just about anyone – friends, lovers, family, teachers – and bigger entities too – community, this country in which I live, life itself. And by ‘you’ he also means ‘me’ – the one of whom he is a part, the one who is his home.

‘You will abandon me’, he says, ‘and I will not be able to tolerate the loss itself, nor my grief at the loss. And what’s more, I know when I get abandoned it will be my fault. I’ll cause it by my actions, or by my inaction. Or because I was not able to prevent it’.

He’s onto something, of course. Loss is a given of any human life. He – as I, as you – will eventually lose everything and everyone that we love. And his grief and tenderness is real, and appropriate to the scale of the coming bereavement. But this part, so young and with such a small horizon, is scared to live in the world because the loss feels like it is now. The abandonment he fears, ever present.

He has some quite sophisticated strategies to try to head off the losses that terrify him. He wants me to feel his fear, always, so that we won’t make a mis-step. He’ll do his best for me not to feel, nor let on to feeling, the grief that he holds, nor any feelings that might make me vulnerable. He holds on very tight, and sometimes as a result I hold on very tight too. And he’s a master at getting his abandonment in first, finding ways I can get resentful and abandon other people before they can abandon me. He’s done this many many times – I have done this many times in his name. In a way, he feels vindicated when people do actually leave, because it shows that his world view, and his deep fear, are justified.

He wants us to live in a very narrow space of possibilities. He’s only open for being seen by others in a very particular way (only with love and appreciation, never with judgement) and if he doesn’t get seen this way he’s quickly wounded, withdrawn, sullen, quietly rageful or doing his best to manipulate others so that the world is back to the way he wants it.

Because this part is in such difficulty, he grabs my attention frequently. And when he does I identify with him. I take him to be me, and me to be him. And this is the big mistake. When he is in the driver’s seat I forget that there are things to feel that are different to what he is feeling, ways of seeing that are different to what he’s seeing, and different ways to act. When I think I am him, I am at my smallest and most afraid.

Over time I have come to see that my work is one of self-remembering. Remembering that I am vast. That I contain multitudes. That as well as this part, there are others. And that my work is not to turn away, not to run from this tiny scared part of me – it is so easy to push him away, to visit upon him the very abandonment that he fears – but to hold him close, to cradle him, to honour him and his gifts. It is my work to welcome him home. To say to him, “Yes, I see you. I have you. You are safe here. You cannot fall”.

And my work too is to know that, just as I know he is held in the vast something called ‘I’, I too am held in and am part of something vast that has no given name but might best be called ‘life’. When I know myself this way, as one expression of a phenomenon which brings me into being and out of which I cannot fall, I am freed from being a prisoner of my fear and available. I am freed to love in the way I want to love, to create, speak out, be vulnerable and intimate and angry and truthful and real and to risk the risks that are required to be fully alive, the very risks that he is too afraid for me to take.

Photo by Dmitri Popov on Unsplash

How to Tell the Truth

Here’s week 56 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

You can join our members-only facebook group here to watch live and join in the lively comment conversation on this episode. You can also watch previous episodes there, and on our YouTube channel.

This week we take up truth telling, which turns out to be a deep and rich subject. In our conversation we explore what it is to work against our own habits and preferences – always the move that makes development possible – and what it is to listen, deeply, even when we don’t want to. And we talk together about the life-giving possibilities of listening as if we’re wrong, even when we think we’re right.

Here’s our source:

How To Tell the Truth

When you just have to talk,
try being silent.

When you feel reluctant to say anything,
make the effort
to put what you’re feeling into words.

This is a place to begin.

Pushing gently
against the current
of your own impulses
is an effective technique
for dislodging
and discovering
your truth.

How to tell the truth?

Taste it
and remember the taste in your heart.

Risk it
from the bottom of your love.

Take the risk
of telling the truth
about what you’re feeling.

Take the risk
of telling your loved one
your secrets.

It’s true
you might be misunderstood.

Look and see
if you’re willing to trust
yourselves
to misunderstand each other
and go on from there.

When someone speaks to you
and you feel yourself not wanting to hear it
try letting it in.
You don’t have to agree that they’re right.
Just take the risk
of listening as if they could possibly be speaking
some truth—
and see what happens.

Listen as if.
Listen as if you can’t always tell
what the truth is.
Listen as if you might be wrong,
especially when you know you’re right.
Listen as if
you were willing to take the risk
of growing beyond
your righteousness.
Listen as if
love mattered.

By Paul Williams 

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash