Joan Larsen: The Chapters of Our Lives

Posted on September 4, 2013


A close friend — a bit younger than I — suggested that I might share my own private letter to her with a larger audience who, too, have been reflecting on the chapters of our lives.  We often need that wisdom within from one who is further along the road of life, she said.  The words should resonate with both men and women as they too use these wonderful years of midlife to the fullest — each in their own ways — realizing that we are in the midst of what can be the most fulfilling times of life in a personal sense as well as one much wider.  As we travel the roads of life and their byways now, we will find that more windows will open that we ever dreamed of… and if we make them so, they can indeed be our very best years.  So this letter is now for all who are going to be finding:  I have only just begun. 


Dearest Jeanne,


Speaking for us all, I don’t think any of us are living the life imagined even 10 years ago — certainly NOTHING close to our young adult dreams.  Like you, we do more than ponder it… and not one of us does not take peeks back on our earlier lives when we are in our 50s.

Though few of us share them with others, there are stirrings of feelings, questions we ask of ourselves.  That door denoting the earlier chapters of our lives never slams closed if we are honest.  We do look back.  The largest turning point in my life?  Well, I was 34 — with children.  But – to be honest — only then, learning to be a real adult.  In one of those “aha moments” I realized that – to assure that my children became responsible adults — I wanted to be sure that I was the role model myself.


But more than that, I began to become  — what? — “sharp,” I would say.   With much thought given, I discovered steps I could take to quietly direct my children on the paths that have more than an even chance to assure that the later adult children  would be self-sufficient, assured, and  ones who had become independent . . . and not returning to their parents’ home in their 20s to sit them out.

But Jeanne, as you also know, the spark within me – one that had lain fairly dormant – was ready to send out tiny fireworks.  I called them “tests.”  But now that I had teenagers, there was more time to take the first steps to become my own person.

Oops . . . that should be in big letters:  MY OWN PERSON.  In my case, the “fit” I found had little to do with my college degree — though the degree years had given me a great deal of confidence in myself.

But the world began to change about that time.  Not slow changes as we had previously known, but whirlwind changes that were hard to keep up with.  As you have done, I “tested the waters,” discarding any pursuits that would  be strictly hobbies only and not bigger challenges.  I have found there is room for both.

1-coupleHow does a great husband feel about that?  If he is smart, he is going to applaud your successes.  And more than that, understand.  He no doubt has risen far in life — and so did it happen to me — and he also needs a woman who feels good about herself, can hold her own in social situations and in life in general.  But hopefully, he also understands that he has married a woman who also wants to live all aspects of life to the fullest.  He doesn’t put her down if he is the person she married back in those early years.  He is proud and applauds your own successes.

By the time you are 50, you two should not be joined at the hip – if you ever were.  You should be able to pursue your own dreams . . . but I mean pursue them without guilt!  If it means time apart or moments in time that take precedent, I have found “the reunions” (and we know what they mean) are exciting.  Oh my gosh!!! . . .  far more!  Bits of heaven.  IF you both understand that you are treading on what I call  “prime time waters in your 50s and early 60s,” you will agree that now is the hour to make it happen – each in your own way.

Jeanne, I am telling you that in later life you do not want to have any regrets.  You don’t want to think “I wish I did, I wish I had . . .”   This is prime time for partners to let each other fly.  I will tell you that by doing that, your own happiness keeps you both aglow and feeling YOUNG… and the quality of the “reunions” make your earlier days in marriage pale.  I can tell you that first hand. 🙂

Make the time now for you to begin to fully come into all your potential — for your own potential is as sky-high as I have ever seen it.  I have been there — I have been you — and – being a bit older – I know a bit more what the future holds already.   It will only get better.  To me, the best of life begins to occur when you are in your 50s . . . if you do not have that awful belief that you are already “over the hill”.  THAT thinking is a real dead end.  Believe me, you aren’t!

And you want that sunshine pouring down as never before in your lives.  We all want that.  We don’t want to “settle” when the world is opening up much further. . . and, believe me, it does!  And we find we have eyes to see its potential in ways  that we did not have before.

I know that.

Now, Jeanne – while you are now in your 50s — this is the hour.

So much love, dear friend, so much hope for you as you look at the days and weeks ahead . . . and you really think about the paths you might wish to explore.  You will not believe where they will lead you . . . but “wonderful” comes to mind.  I have a feeling you will soar!




And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

                        – Abraham Lincoln

JoanAvatarWriter Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”