Seeing from the second half of life what is possible.
Why do I choose sticks over carrots? Why am I compelled by the fear of consequences instead of rewards? Surely there’s more.
I’ve been reading Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest. His underlying theme is that there are two halves to life. In the first half we’re consumed by building and achieving. The second is all about being if we’re willing to make a difficult transition. We must first fall in order to rise.
I choose sticks because I’ve still got a foot firmly planted in the first half (though I’ve begun to negotiate my way into the second). Silly me, thinking I can dictate the terms of my surrender, the loss of a carefully crafted and meticulously maintained identity. I should instead consider the greater purpose and beauty of carrots.
My quest to become more self-aware is a difficult though rewarding path. It’s only in understanding what has driven me that I’m able to step aside and choose the better path. I’ve been motivated by fear my entire life, and if you’re honest you have been too.
Be a super achiever or else.
If you’re not at the table you’re on the menu.
Get to the top of the heap or else you’ll be on the bottom.
Accumulate things to prove worth and value.
Do this, don’t do that.
These were inculcated deep within me early on in the first half. I was taught to memorize the Old Testament, never the Beatitudes. Thou shalt not instead of ways to blessing. I communed with sticks, not carrots.
“Laws are necessary in society and individuals to motivate good behavior, to ensure success”, justifies my logical first half brain. And indeed they were and still are. Order has its place. If the first half teaches order, the second offers freedom from it.
A greater responsibility now exists to push past the law. To understand the better definition of success. To embrace true wisdom and grace. To love myself and others. This greater responsibility propels me to satisfy the intent of the law: to know true peace with God and man.
Easier said than done. Particularly so when I still wear first half lenses. Ruling oneself (and others) through threats and consequences – sticks – is not the way now. I must willingly choose to enter a second half that does not threaten, but promises wisdom and clearer vision. Carrots.
If you think this is about being resigned to “these happy golden years”, you’ve missed the whole point. This is no resignation but declaration. It’s about seeing something so vast, so meaningful, that words can’t contain it.
CS Lewis, in his writings on the Kingdom of Narnia spoke to a principle of the Kingdom of God. When the great lion Aslan led the children through and beyond that gate, they saw that the further in they traveled the bigger the place was. What looked narrow and limiting from outside the gate was actually broad and expansive. So it is, says Rohr, with the second half.
Right now on the cusp and at the gate, my second half appears to me to be a diminishing of all I’ve accomplished in the first half. But it’s not. I see a glimmer of something worth so much more than what I will ever lose.
Long ago my parents abruptly sold their beloved ranch that they’d labored to build for forty years. They moved far away from our home without a backward glance. Until today I never understood how they could give up what they worked so hard to build. To step away when they had achieved what they set out to do was unthinkable.
In retrospect I think they finally saw carrots. The presumed loss of their dreams and purpose instead became their greatest blessing. They moved to be near grandchildren, plant gardens, and just be. They were free from the weight of their dream.
Society tells us that the second half is a downgrade. No one will listen to us, we’ll be ashamed, useless, and cast aside. Not so. The second half can reveal in blessings what sticks never will. And society will never realize (until each person arrives themselves) that for the first time, some of us no longer care. We’re too busy chasing carrots.