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Claiming Your Place at the Fire

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Richard Leider and David Shapiro helped hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people discover the true purpose of their lives with their classic bestseller Repacking Your Bags. Now they focus their attention on the second half of life, showing readers how to claim their rightful place as new elders, men and women who, the authors write, "use the second half of life as an empty canvas, a blank page, a hunk of clay to be crafted on purpose."

Claiming Your Place at the Fire uses dozens of inspiring and surprising stories of new elders, as well as thought-provoking exercises like the Fireside Chats that conclude each chapter, to help readers address four key questions:

Who am I? How do I stoke the wisdom gained in the first half of my life to burn more brightly in the second half?

Where do I belong? What makes a place the right place for me in the second half?

What do I care about? Where do I want to use my gifts and talents in the second half? What is my purpose? How do I leave a legacy that has real meaning for myself and my loved ones?

What is my purpose? How do I leave a legacy that has real meaning for myself and my loved ones?

For the next 12 years, there will be 10,000 people a day in the U.S. alone turning 50. Never before have so many entered into the second half of life so vital, healthy, and free. And never before have so many had such a hunger for direction in how to live this stage of their lives in a purposeful way. Claiming Your Place at the Fire shows how to embrace the lessons that we learn as we age and share these lessons in a manner that is relevant and meaningful to ourselves and the people whose lives we touch.

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Chapter1: The Flame of Identity: Recalling Our Stories

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14

New Elder
Richard Strozzi Heckler

At an age when most of his contemporaries were wondering what to do with themselves after retirement,Richard Strozzi Heckler embarked on a new and exciting journey uncommon to men at any stage of life.

The words of the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung seemed to have been written just for him: “Wholly unprepared, we embark upon the second half of life . . . we take the step into the afternoon of life;worse still,we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as before. But we cannot live the afternoons of life according to the program of life’s morning—for what was great in the morning will be little in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.”

We cannot tell if we have entered the second half of life solely by counting the candles on our birthday cake. We do not really step into the afternoon of life just because we reach a certain age. To know where we are in the process of becoming a new elder,we must learn to look inside.

 

Chapter 2: The Flame of Community: Refinding Our Place

ePub

New Elder
Ruth Shapiro

When Dave’s dad died,his mom,Ruth,who had lived in the same house in Pittsburgh for over 30 years,decided it was time to move. This isn’t an uncommon reaction; major life changes like the death of a spouse often impel us to make changes in our living situation. What was somewhat unusual about Ruth’s decision was that she didn’t consider heading off to Florida or Arizona or any of the other “elder ghettos”as she calls them. Instead,she thought about what makes a place “home”for her. It certainly wasn’t warm weather or an “active elder lifestyle.”Rather,what she deemed important was family and independence. Also, having had to take care of her aging mother by long distance, Ruth was determined not to put her own kids into that same situation. When her own mom was in the last years of her life,Ruth was constantly shuttling between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati,where her mother lived.“I just didn’t want to put you and your sister through that,”she tells Dave.“It was all so unnecessary. The problem is,you know,that people are afraid to admit the obvious—that they’re going to die—and so don’t make the necessary preparations. For me,the solution was easy; since neither you nor your sister has any intention of returning to your childhood home,then I would come to you. If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain and all that.”

 

Chapter 3: The Flame of Passion: Renewing Our Calling

ePub

New Elder
Mike McGuire

When we get our first job in our late teens or early 20s,we know very little about ourselves. We may be aware of our dreams and ambitions;we may have a sense of what we like best to do and what we do best—our gifts and talents— and we may know something about how to express those gifts insofar as our schooling has revealed them. But in terms of vocation—of what we are really called to do in the world—most of us are basically clueless. We have very little idea of what we’re really here for,of what sort of work truly fulfills us,of what we’re doing with our lives beyond earning a living,as opposed to making a life.

Unless we’re one of the lucky ones,like architect Mike McGuire.

Right after his 50th birthday,Richard and his wife, Sally,spent about a year restoring a house on a river they loved, the St.Croix. At times, the restoration was far from restorative—at least to their mental and emotional health. All the detail—windows,floors,the knobs on the cabinets in the kitchen—had to be considered and reconsidered. At times,Richard and Sally felt more like contractors than coaches. And yet—and in no small part thanks to their architect,Mike McGuire, it turned out to be worth it. Thanks to Mike’s help,the end result is a place where Sally and Richard feel they belong and where they feel a sense of belonging.

 

Chapter 4: The Flame of Meaning: Reclaiming Our Purpose

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104

New Elder
Frederic Hudson

“I refuse to become a marginalized person! So many people just disappear, lose their nerve,and disconnect. Not me. I’m at the end of who I was. But I’m at the beginning of who I might become. That’s exciting to me.”

These bold reflections from Frederic Hudson opened his dialogue with Richard on a sunny May morning in Santa Barbara, California. As the sunlight slanted through the living room windows of the Hudson household,Frederic took Richard on a passionate journey through his recent paintings. As he spoke,he was describing—as someone who is coming to terms with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease—what it is like to confront the limitations of the flesh.

“I’ve had to give up one era of my life,” Frederic claims, “in order to enter another. I’ve always been fascinated with how people deconstruct and reconstruct their lives. We all need to constantly do this, to reinvent ourselves.”

105

Frederic speaks slowly,crisply,and clearly. This friend and colleague of Richard,this new elder who one year ago worked with a vengeance—traveling,speaking,writing and creating, always creating. Frederic, founder of both the Fielding and Hudson Institutes,is one of the thought leaders in adult development and coaching in America. Today Frederic savors solitude.“The life force,”he says,“now is about celebrating life and about generosity—giving it all away. It’s all about being. The peace I’m gaining is coming from using my illness as a challenge,as permission to be.”

 

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