LIFE’S THIRD ACT DOESNT HAVE TO BE A DOWNWARD SPIRAL
It can be an upward spiral staircase.
I just noticed that almost all my friends in their 50’s are in some sort of the shits these days. I read somewhere that ‘older women are the largest demographic n the world now’ so I felt this article was appropriate today.
I’ll just share a few of my friends situations with you.
My friend Rhonda is 56 years old and single. She is a multi talented woman, has done many jobs in her life and is now unemployed and job searching.
She says ‘I’m getting past over by the younger, prettier people even though I am very qualified’.
She is frustrated beyond words, living on benefits that are running out and has a cat to support and feed. She has no clue what her future holds.
Another friend Fran is 50 years old and also single. She has bad family drama/karma and still hasn’t gotten over it. So she bought a large RV and she is now travelling the United States with her 4 cats while living off of of family inheritance.
She says ‘I need to finally find myself and not believe what my family has told me all my life about who I am’.
Another friend Mary is 58 — an artist but hasn’t felt in the mood to create any art since her mom died about 3 years ago. She is still in the midst of a pretty severe depression.
She says ‘Maybe I’m too old to do anything at all? Maybe I’m lost in the shuffle’. She got a job at Chipotle for a week or so but got fired for some random disagreement with a supervisor. She is a mega-gifted artist so I told her ‘That was probably not the place for you’ but it didn’t comfort her too much.
Jenny, one of my very best friends is 55, single and has stage 4 cancer. She’s been through chemo and radiation.
She is very frustrated with medical ‘experts’. She is now in chronic pain almost 24/7 but the doctors won’t give her pain killers. “They think I’m an addict’, she told me, ‘so I cant get pain relief!’
Another friend Ellen, age 58 is also unemployed, single and feels lost in the world. She used to have a pretty successful business selling advertisements to local tv stations but the computer/digital age she says made her job obsolete.
Her computer skills are very lacking so she can barely keep a job after getting one. She did get hired a few times but when her bosses figured out she is computer illiterate they fired her.
Another friend Connie has an un-diagnosed illness and is undergoing loads of tests at three doctors offices. She said “I’m playing the waiting game, but I just have to accept it, whatever it is’.
At the moment she’s on disability.
(There is just a short list of women my age (mid 50s’) that I know who are all going through challenges.)
LIFE’S THIRD ACT CAN BE …POSITIVE!
We are living on average 35 years longer than our great grandparents. That’s an entire second adult lifetime that’s been added to our lifespan.
Many people are making a new life at the Third Act. The last 3 decades of life.
Instead of thinking of it as a downward spiral, where our health goes bad and our minds follow maybe we could think of it differently —
As an upward staircase!
‘The upward ascension of the human spirit’ says Jane Fonda on her TedTalk on aging.
I like that. An UPWARD ascension.
We can choose to see aging not as a pathology but as potential. True wisdom can only be found in aging sometimes.
Studies have shown overwhelmingly that people over 50
- feel better
- are less stressed
- less hostile and anxious.
- tend to see commonality more than differences
So we over 50 are…happier!
‘It take a long time to become young’.
Some aging is a matter of luck. Yes, 1/3 of it is genetic and there’s not much we can do about that. But 2/3rds of how well we do in the Third Act we CAN do something about.
What can we do to make these added years more successful? Some equate aging with entropy.
The word en·tro·py is a word meaning
‘lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder. The state of decay.’
Everything in the Universe is in a state of decay (entropy) but one thing:
The human spirit!
We can continue to evolve.
Upward Ascension can happen even in the midst of extreme physical challenges.
For instance, there was a 57-year-old woman/ writer who was diagnosed with ALS. It’s a fatal disease that wastes the body but the mind remains in tact. After she was diagnosed and she knew she was probably in a state of decline she said
‘As my muscles weakened my writing became stronger. As I slowly lost my speech I gained my voice. As I diminished I grew. As I lost so much I finally started to find myself’.
Many older people are holding on to past regrets, judgements and pain which don’t help the aging process.
- Perhaps our parents weren’t able to love us the way we wanted to.
- Perhaps we suffer from a psychic wound that we cant figure out.
- Perhaps we feel unfinished.
Well, maybe the task of the Third Act of life act is to finish up the task of finishing ourselves. Coming to peace with all this stuff. Forgiving others and ourselves which frees us from the past — then we can then change the relationship to the past and have happier twilight years.
Science has shown that changing the relationship to the past has opened up new neural pathways in the brain too.
German psychiatrist and Author of the classic life changing book ‘Mans Search for Meaning’ Victor Frankl spent 5 years in a concentration camp.
‘Everything you have in life can be taken from you but one thing… your freedom to choose HOW you will respond to any situation. This is what determines the quality of the life we’ve lived.’
So for all of my 50 something friends I‘d like to tell you all to hang on and remember that
‘What determines our quality of life is how we relate to our realities. What kind of attitude we cling to about them.’
It seems simple. Our attitude is key. Perhaps the question we can ask ourselves in the Third Act is ‘What attitude do we wear?’ (I’m talking to myself too. I am 55 years and going through many life changes myself.)
In our Third Acts it may be possible for us to circle back to where we started. Ascend our spiral staircase of the mind, redefine ourselves and then a cultural shift might take place in the world making life better for all..