Another Chance at Childhood

Recently I celebrated a birthday, moving to the cusp of forty. And for the first time that I can recall, I grasped that my time on this earth is limited. I am entering my second half of life.

I remember laughing with my mom at one point when she shared that when buying a new mattress, the 25-year warrantee was no longer a selling point for her. All of a sudden, I understand. And it’s not all that funny anymore.

The combination of my birthday, planning for a new year, and a number of deaths that have taken place around me lately, has caused me to contemplate life more deeply. What is it all about? When my time nears an end, what do I want to make sure I am leaving behind? What will I claim as success?

I think about things a lot. But this combination of circumstances has made me reflect on my life even more than usual. I realize that there are some pragmatic things that I want to have in place before I go. I want to know that my family will be taken care of financially. I want to know that I have nurtured a sense of confidence and resiliency in my daughter so that, no matter what, with integrity she will make it through whatever life presents.

I had already become aware of the fact that rather than needing more responsibility in my life, I need more fun and adventure. I need to stop being so damn serious all the time. Even my six-year old pointed this out to me one day when she insightfully asked, "You know, fun? Don’t you remember fun?”

What I realize is that I’m still working toward that balance. And it reminded me of author Barbara Sher’s concept of midlife as a second childhood. It’s a chance to return to a sense of childlike (not childish) delight, freedom and passion. Watching the kids in the school playground is a clear reminder of what that looks like.

If I’m honest, I didn’t have much of a childhood. It probably ended by the time I was five years old. Then, I became "mature” before my time. Now is my chance to reconnect to that part of myself that has been buried over time.

This journey of reunification within is perhaps the work required of us in our second half of life. Instead of seeing our qualities in terms of "good” and "bad”, it is about accepting the truth of it all and finding ways to honour our full selves.

In the book, Living Your Unlived Life, author Robert Johnson describes these two parts of oneself in terms of the Eternal Youth and its polar opposite, the Wise Elder. Both exist within us and are required for balance.

Johnson describes our reunification with our unlived life as we age. He writes that, "Of course, it is morally good and right to repair what you can in outer life, but psychically, the only requirement is that you become aware, put the opposites back together.”

This growth for me does require that I reconnect with characteristics of childhood that I have long forgotten. I need change. I need fun. I need creativity. I need adventure. And instead of pushing that aside for something that I think is more responsible, disciplined and socially acceptable, I need to honour it and find ways to bring it back into my life.

Rejoice the Eternal Youth and our chance for a second childhood! What’s holding you back from a full life?