Joan Larsen Reflects: The Third Chapter of Our Lives

Posted on September 27, 2017


By Joan Larsen

ButterflyHappiness is like a butterfly:  the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and softly sit on your shoulder.  Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)


Writing a heartfelt, personal letter to a friend — so dear that I can so easily spill my whole heart out onto the page — gives me the most pleasure.  When my dear friend Jeanne asked if she might share the private letter sent to her with others — believing there was a message in it for all of us who have stepped into our 50s or beyond — I was agreeable, of course.  The letter – the first of several others – travelled far and wide.  The responses – from men and women – made me believe that I had touched a chord, given new life, new hope, to those who had not previously shared my beliefs that the best of life is only beginning as we approach 50.  Words reaching out from one to another, creating friendships of like minds, of kindred spirits, is the true spirit of blogging.  And so I offer this – my own beliefs that have come true, making my heart sing and my later life like a dream.




Dear Jeanne,

When you wrote me that without planning out your own future, you “feel” that you have arrived at a new chapter in life, a bell rang within me.  You are younger than I am . . . a little over 50 but not that much.  It was when I was about your age that more “windows” were opening in my brain – opening in the beginning without my being quite aware of what had happened.

But then – then – I noticed that I had come into my own in so many ways that I had never seen before.  What did I notice?  A confidence at a level I had not experienced before.  A faster stride in my step – my actual step.  It had become a step with purpose.  And then – of the utmost importance — the beginning of wisdom, just the beginning . . . but as time went on it became more noticeable to me.  And yes, I believe, to others.  There seemed a newfound respect.  People listened like I was one they could actually believe.  To be honest, Jeanne, sometimes I felt like one of those monks high on a mountain in Nepal in a cave with people coming up to make a pilgrimage to gain my knowledge.  I did not speak unless I felt sure of myself because, often, other lives would be too affected to make missteps.

Jeanne, perhaps I am reading through your words.  Frankly, I don’t think so.  I see you as I was when I was fully coming into my own.  It is a good feeling . . . but I really want to say that as talented, having to make adjustments with all sorts of life’s traumas and still coming out on top, juggling all the facets of living and life and seldom dropping a single ball, I have to believe that you are at the beginnings of the best chapter in your life if you make it so.

I watch people our ages, observing them closely.  Instead of opening up fully around the age of 60, they begin slowly closing up like a Japanese fan.  But that is not you and me.  I know that you may still find it hard to believe, but I am telling you the best of life is yet to come to you.  The best way I can explain it is that after being closed all these years, more and more windows are opening up within you.  And the wisdom you never had will be flowing out.

Wisdom, wisdom you are going to be able to use in so many ways in all directions in your life.  You will feel that there nothing you can not do – and succeed in.  You begin to fully flower – as you only thought you did before.

Just so you know, I never ever use the word “retirement” as too often it smacks of sitting on the sofa watching TV and letting life pass you by.  Instead of that, for you it will be like a new door opening and another chapter beginning.  If you can visualize, begin to think of the whole of life as a series of sidewalk pavements.  Most often we are not aware that we have stepped over the line to the next pavement – the next part of life –for quite a while.  Isn’t that right?  But the idea is to always be moving forward, always LIVING LIFE and being sure you do every single day.  No vegetating, OK?  I usually equate it with slowing down – and all you have to do is look at your friends who have given up really living – you will know you never want to do that.  I have seen that “giving up” begin as early as 50  .  .  . before the best of life really begins.

Oh Jeanne, don’t let a day go by that you are not learning — as you also are, hopefully, enjoying life and growing by leaps and bounds.  I am sure there are days you wonder – but all that is “you” is a part of a larger jigsaw puzzle that will fit together which you then can give your “all” to every talent you have.  Try to believe me as this is what I have done – always reaching out, always learning – and I find life thrilling, productive, and in my heart of hearts, I have come to feel like a woman of worth (without the bragging part).

Just wait to see what lies ahead for you.  Your own great life has just begun – and it gets better with time.  Or so I have found.  I have come into my own – and what a feeling that is!

I want you to know that if you are always looking at what lies over the next hill of life, I promise that the wonders that still lie ahead will be all you would want and more.  I can say that as this is what I have discovered, and still discover for it seems to be never ending.

Much love to you. . . and I wish you those moments of  joy and happiness that drop out of the sky when we need them, absolutely filling our hearts,




Writer 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.”