Joan Chittister and the Erie Benedictine’s have put out a new book called Following the Path for all of us who are trying to navigate the second half of life as faithfully as we navigated the first half. Chittister’s newest, along with Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward, are two excellent guides for this season of life.
“The only man I know who behaves sensibly,” George Bernard Shaw wrote, “is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”
Sometime in the early middle of life, we wake up one morning to discover that our measurements have changed. What we have been doing for years, we begin to realize, simply does not fit us anymore. We have outgrown the young life that we thought would go on forever and have found within us a whole new person. Worse, we find ourselves lodged in a life we no longer find stimulating or satisfying or exciting. We are unfamiliar—even to ourselves. We find that we are living some kind of creeping death, sloughing off what fit us in the past, in the old life we thought we loved, and unable to find a new way to fit into our present.
The feelings that come with the realization are overwhelming. One part guilt, one part fear, they make us ill in soul. We know what we cannot admit. If we do not stay as we are, we will feel forever unfaithful. If we force ourselves to stay as we are, we will go to dust inside.
There is so much at stake now. So much life behind us has been invested in what we now find to be lifeless. And yet there is so much life left to live. How can we possibly live it like this? And where did we go wrong? What happened to our commitment to the life decision we made in an earlier life? And what is at the root of this shift of centeredness: a lack of the kind of personal responsibility that sees a thing through? Immaturity? A lack of focus? What?
And the usual answer is “none of the above.”
Assuming that tomorrow will be the same as today is poor preparation for living. It equips us only for disappointment or, more likely, for shock. To live well, to be mentally healthy, we must learn to realize that life is a work in process.–Joan Chittister, OSB
From Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy by Joan Chittister