Heading into the New Year — and a book: Inventing the Rest of Our Lives by Suzanne Braun Levine
January 11, 2016
Near the end of 2016, I will turn 60. Although many people dread such a number, I am (oddly, perhaps) looking forward to it. Although my 50s brought great grief, they also brought great joy, learning, expansion of horizons, experiences beyond my hopes and dreams, and tremendous opportunities.
I look forward to my 60s, wondering, as Piglet would put it, “what exciting will happen.”
As I proceed toward that 60th birthday, I want to build 2016 into a great year of anticipation, preparation, and achievement. Part of that will include reading books that inspire and challenge and help me to grow.
One such book is Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood — what matters, what works, what’s next by Suzanne Braun Levine, published by Viking in 2005. There’s a reader’s guide for the book here. You can read my friend Becky Levine’s fabulous take on the book here. (The two Levines are not related.)
Suzanne Braun Levine’s basic tenet from which all the rest of her wisdom flows is that in our later years (after 50, that is) “we are not who we were, only older.” That resonated with me. I am a very different person than I was ten years ago, fifteen years ago, and certainly thirty years ago.
She suggests that in the second act of our lives, we have the opportunity to assess our lives, discover what matters to us now (without discounting that which was of utmost importance in earlier years), and seek ways to re-invent our lives to make the coming decades fulfilling.
In this reassessment, Levine says we pass through a time she terms “the fertile void” in which we feel “the energy and spirit of adventure stirring, without knowing what kind of action to take.”
Note that it isn’t just a blank void, it is a fertile void. Since I grew up on a farm, seed analogies come naturally to me. After a field is seeded, it may seem black and devoid of life, but underneath the surface, life is stirring. The Fertile Void is a time of germination, preparation, and anticipation that leads to growth.
As I prepare to leave my fifties, I have felt that fertile void time of knowing growth was possible, although I wasn’t yet sure how it would manifest. I have also felt the excitement of bursting through the soil and pushing up new, green shoots, and have felt the great possibility inherent in that growth.
I learned a lot about myself after my parents went into nursing homes at the end of 2008. I found strength I didn’t know I had, I discovered I was capable of making weighty decisions, and I learned much about quality of life and death.
After their deaths, I continued to learn and grow and to overcome fears. I started to travel again, after many years of not doing so. I expanded my horizons. I became involved in the wonderful online writing community. I made friends that I never would have encountered before the internet came into being.
I’ve had experiences that I never could have dreamed of — and I’ve started to learn to seize opportunities whenever possible and open myself to the benefits of doing so. That said, I still have a lot to learn, and I still have a lot of growing and “inventing myself” to do.
As I head toward 60 and beyond, I want to encourage that growth further, and see how far I can stretch. This book, and others I will mention as the year progresses, will help me nourish that anticipated growth.
I encourage you, if you are at or nearing this stage in your life, to read this book and see how it might speak to you. If you are at another stage, know that there are always possibilities for growth and new experiences.
As we head into 2016, I wish you a year of hope and strength and courage to seek out the possibilities that are waiting. Here’s to growth and change and action!
What do YOU hope for in the new year?