Can I have a constructive midlife crisis?

Today I began reading Bob Buford’s book, Halftime:® Moving from Success to Significance, and I’m especially curious to learn whether Buford’s book departs from or confirms the ideas put forth by Richard Rohr. As I read the preface, I anticipated that Buford’s experience might be very different.

Instead of facing a crisis as I approached middle age, I discovered that a new and better life lay before me. I called the process of discovery “halftime,” and the eventual outcome of this process led to my “second half.” The metaphor fit because, after a successful first half, I needed a break to make some changes in how I played the second. I had plenty of success over the preceding twenty years, and I wasn’t burned out or frustrated, but I felt something was missing and I needed to change my game plan. In retrospect I can see that I must have been divinely protected from chasing down the usual trails people take to find what was missing.

Compared to Rohr’s description of “a necessary suffering and humbling pain” moving people into the second half of life, Buford’s experience sounded a lot easier.

  1. Build a successful first half: family, friends, faith and vocation.
  2. Pause for reflection — Choose between irrelevance (decline, boredom, ineffectiveness) or self-renewal (be more creative, more impactful, more meaningful, more adventurous, and filled with more learning and contribution).
  3. Move on to work that is significant for it’s service and expressions of love.

Buford did pose a few questions that are definitely worth pondering.

  • What will I lose (family, friends, faith) by gaining in only one area (job)?
  • What would my life look like if it turned out absolutely perfect?
  • Can I have a constructive midlife crisis?

I was beginning to feel like I had nothing in common with this man’s experience, until he noted that we can only learn so much from books. Daily life with family, friends, coworkers — interacting with anyone in a meaningful way — will ultimately enhance that education.

But be careful. Growth is not always easy. – Bob Buford, Halftime, chapter 5, page 56

Buford closes Part 1: The First Half by sharing his story of learning from that which Richard Rohr describes as the best teachers: love, death, suffering, God and eternity. Once again, God proved to be the only firm foundation, the Wonderful Counselor who carried Buford through “utter emptiness and brokenness.”

I learned that God truly is sufficient and that his strength is made perfect in weakness. I learned that in my life on earth, I live as one who is on adventure that could end at any moment. I am not in control! – Bob Buford, Halftime, chapter 6, page 60

Now he has my attention — and respect — since he speaks as a fellow traveler on a journey that we didn’t plan or imagine.

Can I Skip the Crisis?
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Tracie grew up with three sisters and a brother in a farmhouse surrounded by cornfields and relatives. She draws on that early foundation to write about her Christian faith, creative activities, and family life.

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