My friend just sold his company and retired.
I asked how he was doing.
He replied, “Ok. I’m living in the middle.”
I nodded. I understood.
Or thought I did.
I think living in the middle means staying within the lines. You’ve completed the rudimentary work of the beginning. Haven’t approached the complexity of the end. You’re in the middle.
But the middle, if you’re not careful, can last a lifetime.
It is said that life can be divided into thirds. The first third dealing with childhood and family. The second is that part of your life as professional, spouse, parent. You’re busy.
The final third is tough. Most of us try to avoid it and simply continue the second third. We keep doing a version of the same job. Become a hands-on grandparent. Live on the golf course.
But, it is said, to be truly fulfilled, the final third can’t be a redo. It needs to be about you now. A time of pushing the boundaries. New experiences. New travels. New occupations. New friends. A new understanding of life. Finding out who you really are.
My friend recognized that he hadn’t gotten there. He was still in the middle of life.
Immersed in the safety of sameness. Seeing the same friends. Traveling to the same kind of places. Eating the same breakfast.
Following a known routine.
If one were a sailor, you’d be in irons. Floating. Not moving ahead.
But, isn’t life an assignment of discovery? To be truly lived? All the way through.
At least this is what I tell myself.
Because pursuits now are not easy. I’m older. I’m tired. I’m no longer working, so I have to push myself and be my own motivator. I’m no longer a hands-on parent, so time is my own. I am my own scheduler.
I am trying to write a book. I make pronouncements about my intent. Put it at the top of my to do list. WRITE Mary WRITE!
I am trying to redecorate my house. To energize myself by creating a new environment. For ideas, I cut pictures out of the few magazines still in print. And tack them on my board.
I sign up for online classes in subjects I know little about.
I drive to the store on different streets so it’s not always the same.
I sign up for places I want to travel to. Find people I want to get to know.
Attempt to truly live in the moment. Be present.
But have I really moved out of the middle? Or am I dawdling. Running in place. Merely pretending to move ahead.
Is it all busywork…or am I actualizing something?
Maybe I’m fooling myself.
I hope not. I want to feel like I’m constantly changing my life. Learning at each step. So, at the end, I can feel I’ve lived a series of unique experiences all toggled together.
Wherever I am in this spectrum, I do know that the wash of a new discovery…the high of accomplishing a new goal …or the coming together with a new friend…feeds me. Puts a little zip in my step. Brings me back to the vitality I felt when life was coming at me at a speed I hardly registered.
Maybe that’s the difference.
In the middle, life initially came at me like an onslaught. I reacted.
Now I have to create my own wind. My own velocity. My own motivation.