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by Donna Bennett
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September 2010 Archives

You: A Work in Progress

You are not finished. There's more to be done. You've just begun to be you.

In his book, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, James Hollis offers a challenge to those of us who are between thirty-five and ninety years of age:

"In this new century, we have twice the length of adult life than our forebears were granted. Thus we are faced with an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility to live more consciously.... We may wonder, 'Since I have served the expectations of my culture, reproduced my species, become a socially productive citizen and taxpayer, what now?' What in short, is the second half of life about... if it is not to repeat the script and expectations of the first half of life?"

Since Hollis's question implies that we spend a large part of our lives being who we need to be, the challenge, then, in our second half of life, is to be who we are.

And who, you may ask, might that be?

The "unprecedented opportunity and responsibility to live more consciously" begins with knowing yourself inside out. If you find this difficult, begin with the obvious: your gender, age, roles, and experience. Move on to your strengths and weaknesses, what you like and don't like, how you spend your time, and what you value. Then, think about your dreams, your passions, and your gifts. Be prepared to notice what stops you as you venture away from old scripts and expectations. What thoughts, emotions, voices (yours and others) deny you a new life script?

The second half of life is the time to honor, respect, and loyally dissect the parts that are you. It's the time to keep what you want, and discard the rest. It's the time to acknowledge and share your personal greatness. Each of us has it. It shows up differently in all people, but it's there. It becomes greatness when "who you are" is manifested authentically.

That is, personal greatness is most powerful when it is mined for the needs of another person, people, or place. I've witnessed it in my friend and colleague who spent her hours and her gifts of knitting, creating beauty, and generating compassion by making shawls for the families of abuse victims. I've seen it in my lawyer friend, who took time to become a Master Gardener, caring for and beautifying the earth. Another friend and colleague is preparing for her second act by training to be a yoga teacher, using her gifts and passion for teaching and serving others.

It takes courage to stand up and profess your authenticity. It can be painful, exhilarating, filled with fear and the criticism of others.

Yet, there is also freedom in accepting yourself as a work in progress. One who is not yet finished, and is willing to begin to be one's self.

The poet Anaïs Nin says it so beautifully, "And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."