The Vessel

You spend your first half building your vessel and the second half filling it.

You spend the first half of your life building a vessel and the second half filling it.

My morning to read list includes a book by Richard Rohr called Falling Forward. It is based on Swiss psychologist Carl Jung’s “two halves of life” in which the first half of life you create your life, often times built around expectations, societal pressures and what you think life should be (aka box checking in my world) while the second half you search for the meaning behind the life you’ve built. The halves of life are not a specific timeline, but rather a moment or transition in life where we quit chasing other people’s version of success for our own. Where we quit asking what next and instead ask why and what for?

Enter existential crisis number 7-billion in this gal’s life. I recently heard a knock-off of the two halves of life on Tim Ferris’ podcast where he interviewed Steven Pressfield. I find Pressfield’s books on doing the work and the art of creativity solid, while I somewhat question Ferris’ approach to optimizing life to a 4-hour Work Week. To each their own. But this podcast hit home and I’m excited to read Rohr’s book which approaches this concept from a religious perspective (yet another existential crisis).

As I’ve mentioned before, my 2023 word is alignment. My focus this year is about trying to create margin in my life to do the work. By work, I mean rediscover what brings me joy and ensure my life is in alignment with that. The truth is, I’m happiest when I’m pursuing hard things that move the needle forward – only the needle is changing for me. My needle used to be promotions or career changes, college degrees, pregnancy, marital status, home ownership, debt reduction and bank balance, board service, freelance bylines and contracts, acne count, weight and wrinkle reduction, and perhaps the occasional random hitting on me in a bar (keyword being occasional).

Now, the needle is different. The needle is about margin or space for exploration in my life. Margin for meaningful conversations, weekend adventures with my kid, reading on my deck, hiking, gardening and sipping margs with my friends and deep seeded belly laughs over real talk. It is about sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and a writing prompt with no pressure to produce. Dare I say, it is about challenging myself to be creative in story telling I’m not sharing with anyone but myself right now. A word I used to frown upon because creative writing didn’t pay the mortgage. Website copy did. It is about redefining my version of healthy and tackling some long-term demons surrounding my size and all the baggage that comes with that. It is about showing up how I want to, even if it means disappointing some folks, while still recognizing that I have lots of runway to grown and learn from my mistakes.

I wish I could report I’ve nailed it. That I’ve figured out how to be the ambitious, competitive person I am yet still pursue margin and joy in a mere 6-months. The truth is I suck at it. I’m at the prequel of this story but believe it has the power to be an extraordinarily ordinary approach to a bold, beautiful vessel filling adventure. That the good things are hard. That despite what all of the influencers and self-help/personal development gurus offer as hacks and quick fixes, it is about being intentional and doing the work. Hard work at that. 

So here I sit. Slowly but surely piecing a puzzle together at 45 that surface level looks a bit like a beat-up rubix cube intertwined in a mangled slinky. But I’m here for it. Perhaps it is that 4th grade Future Problem Solver in me who once believed I could solve the acid rain crisis in a 2-hour Saturday morning meet. That girl’s alive and well, still chatting with her hens about what comes next. Turns out some things never change.

I hope you’re finding time this summer to fill your vessel as well and if you’re still building it, if I could give you just one piece of advice, build a vessel that’ll hold the life you want. Not the one someone else wants for you. I learned that lesson the hard way a few times before I got it right – and for me – that’s a rambling, rural gal living her best life in a stoplight free county with 4 hens, a psychotic cat, a geriatric dog who just celebrated her Sweet 16, a forester and a son that’s a mirror image of me in Sisu and sass.

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