When you were young, you drank so deeply from the well of life. As a child you played and played and played. Then you worked hard in school to go to college. In college, you played and partied (and sometimes went to class). Then you started your career and met the person you started a family with. Your twenties and thirties and forties were crazy busy and crazy fun.
And now, here you are, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh said in Gift from the Sea, in the afternoon of life. But so many of us fail to see this or fail to adjust. “We Americans,” she writes, “with our terrific emphasis on youth, action and material success, certainly tend to belittle the afternoon of life and even to pretend it never comes. We push the clock back and try to prolong the morning, overreaching and overstraining ourselves in the unnatural effort.”
No, now it is time to come up with a new routine, a new set of priorities, a new pace. One that is more sustainable, one that puts something else–someone else–at the center. Our kids have us beat. They have more energy than we ever will again. The same goes for our younger colleagues and our younger selves. But what we have that they don’t have is wisdom, perspective, a sense of where peace and happiness actually comes (that is to say from stillness and contentment, not activity and accomplishment).
Don’t be sad. Don’t be delusional. Adjust. Accept. Appreciate. Because, as Lindbergh perfectly puts it, “in our breathless attempts we…miss the flowering that waits for afternoon.”