As I turn 40 this month I’m writing a few reflective posts. It’s always good to take step back and ask, “What have I been learning and experiencing these last few years… or better yet, decades?”
Tim Coons Life Goals
from 7th Grade Health Class (and yes, this is real. Proof in the above picture.)
2. Learn to surf
3. See Europe
4. Play high school football
5. Scuba dive
6. Be good at tennis
7. Go to C.U.
8. Party a lot
9. Get a Geo storm
10. Be famous
When I was in seventh grade I created this gem of a bucket list. My mom has kept it on a poster-board all these years and gave it to me recently. I still cannot read through this top 10 without laughing out loud. And for those of you who know me, you realize just how far this middle school version was from my actual self.
What is doubly incredible is that I failed to achieve any item on this list. I have yet to see Europe or scuba dive. I was never any good at tennis. I went to UNC instead of CU Boulder. I still don’t feel like I’ve partied a lot. And just where is my Geo Storm? My 13-year-old self’s dream car? That’s probably the biggest question.
I’d love to say out loud right now, in response to these lame dreams and aspirations…
Thank God my priorities have changed.
I’m so thankful that we “grow up” in life. If we happen to live long enough we are gifted with both painful and joy-filled experiences that open our eyes. We evolve and the values we held at 10 may be different at 20 and 30. And I hope that keeps happening for me past midlife!
I think it will, as I believe our souls are constantly becoming our true selves.
Two Halves of Life
In the book Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, he presents the idea that there is a major shift in the first half of life to the second half of life that many of us experience. And perhaps our goals and priorities in life’s first half will drastically change in the last.
The first half of life is preoccupied with making the container of who you are.
It’s our job and family-building
and career-establishing time.
It’s about the development and enhancement of our Ego and its mind-set: ambitions, plans, competitiveness, judgments about others, looking after oneself, one’s career, one’s family.
It’s a natural and important part of life!
The second half seems to be about undoing much of what has been accomplished in the first half in order to get at a deeper heart of human life. And it’s around midlife we begin to sense this.
We ask, What does it mean to keep growing? for the soul to keep becoming?
The second half of life is about pouring out from this container you’ve created. You’ve climbed some mountains and now it’s time to help others up the peaks.
“Most of us think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of our physical life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling can largely be experienced as falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul has found its fullness, is finally connected to the whole, and lives inside the Big Picture.”
-Richard Rohr, Falling Upward (153)
Rohr recounts four stained-glass windows he sees in a church in India. It is a Christian church but the windows represent the four stages of what a Hindu would call a great life.
The stage’s actually really surprised me.
The first part of life you are the student.
The second is the homemaker,
where you are establishing your family and home and vocation.
These first identities made sense to me and it could be said these make up the first part of life.
What’s fascinating is as Americans we stop there. While driven by so much by the story of capitalism, we are constantly urged to continue the game of this first half of life until we own three homes and have more stuff than we can possibly know what to do with. It’s only about our ego formation; mine and my own. Then we retire at 65 to travel, disconnect, and enjoy our stuff. Or if we don’t achieve this we note a label of failure hinted at by our culture.
But in the stained-glass windows was presented an aspect of the second half of life that seemed so new to me.
The third phase being forest-dweller.
I think of the great American poet, Mary Oliver, walking through the woods of her property and coming back with lines of wisdom. The forest dweller realizes there is more to know about the world than the building of their own small kingdom and begins to leave home to seek out that insight.
Then the last stage of life is, of course, sage. The elder person brimming with wisdom who you find yourself loving to be around with their gentle humor, easy joy, depth of mind, and compassion.
These stained-glass windows certainly hint at what I’m feeling, this mid-journey. When it comes to my own growth, I’m feeling this.
In my vocation I still have work I’m excited to do and albums to produce. But I know that work and career doesn’t completely define me.
The idea of entering into the second half of life feels true to me. It is both scary and exciting as all great adventures are. In some ways it feels like a death: the death of dreams not yet realized and the difficult reality of just how fast life really goes. But of course with death you always find a rebirth and I can feel that resonating within me too.
So here’s my new list.
I know it will change in vocabulary over the coming years and I welcome that as I continue to grow. But here’s a first attempt.
The new, 40 year old Tim bucket list:
1. Be a soul who abides in Love.
2. Share this life with my wife in deep partnership
3. Be a present father for my children.
4. Belong to and be connected with the family and friends I’m blessed with.
5. Produce good, life-giving, and fruit-bearing work and experiences.
This bucket list is much more ethereal and harder to quantify. I can’t checkmark these of these dynamic goals off, because, like the soul, there’s never really an arrival point for any of them.
It’ll be much harder than the tangible purchasing of a Geo Storm.
But I find this list to be much more satisfying for where I’m at in life.