Fatherhood at Fifty – Halfway There…

Have I ever mentioned that I plan on living to be at least 100 years old? It’s true. I don’t even really know why I’ve always felt this way, but I’ve actually visualized living well beyond 100. Maybe even until 120! And I’m not talking about hanging on in a nursing home hooked up to oxygen tanks from age 90 sort of living. I’m talking about full on, cognizant, contributing to my family and humanity sort of living.

Here’s some other good news though. I’m not attached to that specific outcome or a number. I just intend to live a full life and I believe that there is so much more “fullness” out there in the my story yet. From a practical standpoint, living to 100 word serve me well since I’m not getting started on this fatherhood thing until my fifties. I guess you could say that if I plan on living to a hundred and I’m becoming a first time father in my early fifties, then the story of this incarnation of my life is about halfway told. I’m comfortable with that. It helps me live in a place of contentment without too much irrational fear. I still have half a life to get a few things figured out!

I even have certain level of expertise in this living to 100 thing going for me on my side. My paternal grandma Dorothy lived to age 97 if I remember correctly. We never really knew if she was older or younger than grandpa so we can’t be sure what her age actually was when she died. At least one and maybe even two of my mom’s grandparents lived to over the age of 100 and that was back in the day when the average life expectancy was more like 40-50 years. There’s a nice lady name Toni who comes to lunch with my friend Merle every couple of months. She’s 104. She’s graceful and sharp as a tack AND she comes straight from the beauty shop before lunch which makes her look not a day over 85! My first wife’s grandfather is still alive at age 110! We believe he may be the oldest living male in the entire United States. If I could figure out how to set those last two up on a date they would have 214 years of stories to share with each other. It’s like I’m surrounded by centenarian role models at every turn!

Speaking about halfway points, Christiana and I just reached one of our own. We just reached the halfway point of our pregnancy. In fact this week is the week of our 20 week ultrasound test, even though it’s actually happening in week 21. Scheduling in real world time must allow for a few variations in time and space.

The halfway point ultrasound will tell us many exciting things about our little bundle of joy. It will tell us about the position of the fetus and how things are going related to average tendencies. We will see a number of images of our little one who at last report was the size of an artichoke. I must admit that news made me feel a little strange about devouring an entire fried roman artichoke last week at dinner at my favorite Italian joint, Il Porcelino, but I got over it. Most importantly, the halfway point ultrasound will tell us the gender of our little bundle of joy, who will then have the distinct privilege of being referred to as our son or daughter instead of our little bundle of joy.  (Wagering tip: do not weight you prognostication on the fact that I mentioned one gender first over the other. At this point all possibilities are still in play equally until we officially reveal on Sunday October 1st…)

To me, the truly interesting thing about reaching the halfway point of things in life is that you have the opportunity to pause and reflect on the transition that is taking place. In one aspect of my life at age 53, I am truly becoming an elder. I lead men’s circles, I travel and speak at conferences, I have a book in progress with an editor in New York City, the motherland of publishing and writing. In another aspect of my life at the halfway point to becoming a father, I am a complete novice. I am full of uncertainty and mystery and even a little fear. I throw myself at the feet of the many mentors I have already had in my life and I welcome in more who can share their wisdom and advice on growing as a parent.

Just last week I wrote a post called Final Lap about how each chapter that closes in our lives allows us to make space for new chapters to open. In essence each Final Lap is the start of a new trip around the track or another lap across the pool if you will. It made me think about how when I’m reading a good page-turner, I don’t want the book to end so I slow down the pace of my reading as I get deeper into the story in order to savor the winding down process and delay the ending. That thought made me think even further and ask myself a hypothetical question….

What if I applied that same logic to the second half of this pregnancy…. and to the second half of my life for that matter? What if I just slowed down the pace a bit and savored a bit more? Wouldn’t that make sense in the grand scheme of things? Isn’t it me who decides whether I want to stop and smell the roses or plow them over with the lawnmower of life? I think sometimes we tell ourselves that some other driving force is in control of our energy and that we are at the mercy of a multitude of external circumstances. I’ve been a slave to that taskmaster of my Universal self for far too many years. So like a referee at a Detroit Lion’s Football game, I’m going to throw a flag on that play, call for a replay and force a 10 second runoff!

For the next 20 weeks I plan on celebrating every moment in the moment without exclusively planning for what has to happen next. Notice I said “not exclusively” instead of not at all. I’m still going to plan. 

More importantly, I think I’ve finally accepted that it’s okay to go about the second half of my life a bit slower. Not because I’m not capable of keeping up the pace, but rather because I no longer want to live at a pace that doesn’t allow for saving time to do nothing once in a while.

Lately I’ve been making a little more time to read. It helps me with my writing. My old paradigm taskmaster mindset would tell me that time spent reading would only cut into my writing time. For the past few months my new paradigm/inner referee has thrown a flag on that mindset. I’ve read and re-read a number of books that have mattered to me and I tend to pull whatever speaks to me the loudest off of the bookshelf when I’m deciding what’s next on the reading list.

A couple of days ago I pulled Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love off of the shelf because it spoke to me the loudest. I can’t decide if it’s a read or a re-read. I would swear that I’d read it before, but it feels so new to me that I’m thinking that I might have only thought that I had read it before. Either way I’m seeing it with a beginner’s mind and it has been powerful and inspiring. I have actually hoped that the book I’m working on has a similar feel to Gilbert’s masterpiece: A series of short stories told from the heart that unveil a transformation of self. I pray to be so blessed with my writing. This morning I ran across this little phrase in pat one from her time in Italy. In speaking to her friend Luca Spaghetti, Liz asks if the Italians have the same trouble as Americans in relaxing and letting go of things. He responds by saying:

“Oh No! We are the Masters of il bel far niente….” 

Translation = the beauty of doing nothing 

Twenty more weeks in one journey. I’m visualizing another 53 years in another journey. That should give me plenty of time to master the art of il bel far niente. My guess is that the secret in that mastery is to stay calm and to not try too hard at the mastery. I remain the eager student….

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About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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One Response to Fatherhood at Fifty – Halfway There…

  1. Amen my brother. I feel the same way. At sixtyeight I feel like life is fresh and new new (most othe time anyway). I don’t plan on being old. Wise, conscious, aware, sharp yes…old…no way. Bravo!!!

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