Have you ever sat around and pondered what you might like your second act to be?
Maybe you’ve never even thought about it beyond a dream because you feel constrained by the life chapter you’re in. Maybe you feel too old or too beaten. Maybe you lack the courage, or maybe you can’t even admit to that yet.
But who says you can’t rewrite your own book? Become your own hero? Change your life story?
I think often about what I want my second act to be, actually. I recently turned 39 and I’ll tell you what happened when I did. I was laying alone under my fluffy down comforter with my back propped up against the headboard, as I always do because my husband is a night owl. The clock on my phone had just hit midnight and so the date had flipped to November 10.
And as all of this happened, I decided to text my husband to tell him that I was officially a year older (I know, I know…but he goes upstairs to unwind at night and it’s just too hard to hear each other). I wrote my text and hit send, and then I just stared at the phone for a bit. Or maybe at the comforter? I don’t remember because I was really staring through whatever physical form was in my gaze.
This was all broken by the sound of his feet on the stairs and his squishy house shoes moving across the living room floor. He’d come down to wish me a happy birthday and to give me a hug, and I looked at him with one of those brave, fake smiles. And then I cried.
Not a disgusting, loud cry but more of a whimper with a quiet tear. And then it changed into a timid sob that I tried to beat down lest it turn into an all out bawl. “I don’t know why I’m crying,” I’d said to him with my face pressed into his chest, “except that I’m getting older and time is passing and I don’t want it to run out.”
Or something like that. It was late and my memories get jumbled these days when I’m up late.
I have a second act in mind that I hope I achieve before my days run out, but I’ve been reading a lot lately about how to stay present and find contentment right where I am. I'm realizing that anything I dream about for the future or am haunted by from the past are all constructs. They’re all things that I hope will happen but that don’t exist, or things that happened before but are over now. What's real is what's happening right at this very second, and that's where my focus should be most of the time.
And this is sort of how I’m approaching the whole idea of having a second act. It might eventually exist and I can strive to make that happen, but I don’t need to pine for it or bemoan my present circumstances such that I can’t ever be happy in the “now” because I’m not yet where I want to be. Think of how much life you waste on negative feelings about a future that hasn't even been written (or a past that's long gone), while not being fully present in what is actually your life.
I think that one of the keys to a successful second act lies in thinking about it from the perspective of how you can contribute to the world. It's not about bettering your own existence, although that should be a natural byproduct of getting onto the right path, but it's about what you can do with your talents and vision to help make the world better. It's the reason you came here at all.
And then once you figure that part out, you should work diligently toward that dream if you didn’t get it right the first (or fifth) time around. This requires putting a strong intention out there, working hard, and waiting to see how life unfolds. This is also where it's important to listen to your gut as you make decisions.
These days I go through this process by first asking the universe for help in attaining my dreams. I put them out there on a regular basis, making sure my asks are for a greater good and not for my own personal gain (financial or otherwise), and then I continue making small efforts toward achieving those goals.
In between all of that I take time to get quiet. I watch. I observe. I listen for direction and stay alert for feelings in my gut. I pay attention to doors that open, or to people who show up, or to situations that occur. I look for ways to use each experience to work toward the dreams that I have.
I also try to make peace with whatever happens to be my present story, because I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be even when some days feel like utter catastrophe.
Life provides us with clues to our purpose and quiet guidance for our lives every single day. We just have to learn how to listen with our hearts and spirits instead of with our ears and minds. I’ve only recently learned how to do that, and my life trajectory is starting to change. That second act is finally on the horizon and I think I'll get there soon.
Are you ready to find yours?
My first book, Halfway There: Lessons at Midlife, will be published in spring 2020. To be notified when it is available for purchase, sign up for my mailing list.
The Big Pause