• I recently watched Jane Fonda’s phenomenally inspiring talk about her journey into what she calls Life’s Third Act.

    In the video, she looks like a woman in her late 40’s. In reality, she is 74 – but physical appearance is so not her point. She’s talking about the process of healing and empowerment later in life.
    Jane starts out challenging the idea of age as an arch, where you’re born, peak at midlife, and then “descend into decrepitude.”

    Instead she talks about age as a staircase: “the upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness, and authenticity. Age not as pathology, but as potential.”

    The human spirit, Jane says, is the one thing we have control over – it defines the condition of our life at any stage, and particularly as we approach its final phase. So the question is how to harness and maximize that spirit so it matches the unprecedented longevity our bodies are experiencing.

    The first step, she says, is recognizing how far most of us are from being whole. So “perhaps the task of the third act is to finish up the act of finishing ourselves,” she says.

    She talks about the process she began in her sixties – a process of exploration of herself, her parents, her grandparents, and the relationships between them. It’s a process the psychologists call a “life review.” It’s a process of letting go, of forgiving others and yourself – a process of freeing yourself from your past so you can create the quality of life you want going forward.

    I’ve seen a few Third Act life reviews up close in my family. In 2007, I attended the second marriages of both my dad (age 62 at the time) and my maternal grandfather (age 93 – after 10 years going between their respective homes in Boston and Pennsylvania, they’d chosen to tie the knot so as not to be living in sin when they finally moved in together at an assisted living facility). Both married women within a few years of their own age, with whom they’d been friends their entire adult lives. Each had already experienced the heartbreak of watching a wife succumb to mental illness. They each reviewed their lives, looked into their futures, and chose to be happy.

    Watching these Third Act Second Marriages, I learned that it’s never too late for love and joy. I saw my grandfather live the final year of his life in matrimonial bliss, and watched my dad evolve and open into the wholeness, wisdom, and authenticity Jane talks about.  But watching those stories unfold had an even more profound effect on me – it encouraged me to seek wholeness and authenticity in my own life, in my relationships with my family and others.

    So why does this process have to wait until so late in life to review our lives and become whole? How can we support each other across the generations to embrace wholeness, authenticity and wisdom?

    Have thoughts? Please comment here:



    This entry was posted on Monday, March 26th, 2012 at 10:00 am and is filed under Stories & Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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