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What’s Your Second Act?

Have you given some thought to your upcoming Second Act? Eventually, whether we welcome it or not, our lives are set to change and we are going to be faced with the daunting task of creating a new life for ourselves. Retirement, loss of job, sickness, injury, divorce, death of a loved one—all those depressing situations can leave us wondering how we are going endure, and for some there may even be thought of succumbing to the inevitable emotional abyss that accompanies such a predicament.

Getting bludgeoned by life is part of life’s journey and we all go down for the count at some point.  But it’s the person that we emerge as—the one who arises from the emotional ashes—that really embodies our character.

The key to success during this trying time is holding on to your self-image, while at the same time learning to redefine yourself. There is much more to whom you are than you could ever have imagined, unfortunately, it is often only during these difficult times that we are forced to explore those other areas—leading to a rise of that dark curtain that threatened to envelop us and giving birth to the Second Act!

I’ve recently begun my second act. Although fashioning it, honing it and making it my own was hardly an easy task, persistence was the key.

To become a neurologist, I spent years in school and even years more in training. Being a doctor defined me, or so I thought.  When you are engaged in one of those high-profile professions like medicine, there is an adrenaline rush associated with always being needed, respected and revered; a state which serves to bolster one’s ego and feelings of self-worth.

For twenty-three years I had a successful practice, helped many people and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle—and then I slipped down a flight of stairs.  At first, I did not realize how debilitating my injury was going to be but quickly thereafter it became all too obvious that a brief moment had changed my life forever—my practice days were over.

I had to retire. Dealing with chronic pain is and was a difficult issue, giving up so much of my life was another, and then there were the emotional consequences of depression and low self-esteem that such an abrupt change brings about.

As a doctor I knew that keeping mentally active was very important. I had seen so many patients fail once they lost their purpose in life.

It took time, but my type A personality eventually kicked in. I had to find something to keep my mind active. After many pursuits that did not quite pan out, I entered law school and quickly withdrew, but not before I had sowed the seeds for my Second Act—writing.  And had not been for my brief sojourn in law school it may never have surfaced.

 I had a whole world of imagination in my head that I had never known about. I loved creating. I loved researching. And soon my first book was completed and posted on the internet and then my second—to date, over 900, 000 pages of Red Death and Kerberos have been downloaded.

Next step—finding a publisher.  In April 2010 I released my first published book, Papal Rogues

If someone had said to me that I was going to become a published author of thrillers I could not have imagined it, nor would have my English professors! But it just goes to show how diverse we all are.

So, when you are lying there someday bemoaning the loss of a really important part of your life, remember that it is okay to grieve that loss. It’s okay to feel depressed and sad. But it’s more important to realize that no matter your age, a Second Act awaits you.

Getting Revved Up for Your Second Act

Okay, your life has changed, but that doesn’t mean  there won’t be many wonderful times ahead of you. You simply need to  embrace the excitement of starting a new life chapter!  So how do get  excited about the future when you’re  down and depressed ? Well, the first step is to mentally review the  changes and challenges that you’ve encountered in the past and the methods that you employed to face and deal with them.  This simple act should reinforce the fact that you have the innate ability to overcome and at times sidestep the obstacles that life tends to present us with.  It might help to delve deep into the past and list those instances so that the printed sheet serves as a constant reminder.  Of course, that’s not to say that all of life’s obstacles can be overcome by this somewhat simplistic approach but it is the first step along the sometimes bumpy road to an analytical solution to the problem at hand.  And when images of past successes and failures begin to come into view, and that old feeling of isolation––I’m the only one with this problem––begins to exert its depressing downward pressure––remember, you are definitely not alone and that there are far more people in your predicament than not.

So what if you are among the unfortunate few who don’t have a really inspiring story in your past?  Or distant feelings of doom and gloom? OK. Look  to your family and friends. We all know people who have  triumphed in the face of tough times. It’s time to  get inspired by your past success or the grit and determination of someone you know and respect.  Once you come to realize that we all face incredibly difficult challenges, it will help you to realize that the world is not against you.  Life is full of ups and downs––there are tough times.    

As a doctor, I would be remiss if I failed to mention something about depression. We often bandy about words such as depression, but you have to be aware of what it really means. We use many words to describe that down, sad, gloomy and  melancholy feeling  that we experience when coping with difficult times, but that feeling often begins to subside once you start making the positive changes that will lead to your Second Act. But what happens if that darkness still hovers? The sun doesn’t break through and it’s now been quite a while since anything has made you smile? Well,  that may be suggestive of clinical depression. When you find yourself incapable of foreseeing the potential for betterment, when the simple act of getting out of bed in the morning seems like an insurmountable chore and when friends and family begin to take notice of your lifeless demeanor, it’s time to seek professional assistance and a good place to start would be with your family physician.

Tips for Staying Mentally Fit 

Did you ever notice that stress and tough times can make you feel mentally foggy, impair your clarity of thought?  Growing older can have that affect as well! So, what’s the key to staying mentally fit and getting back on track?  Try using your mind in new ways, present it with a challenge!  We’ve all seen those games and puzzles that demand your utmost attention ... these are great,  as are trying new things and having new experiences, of course, taking into consideration any physical limitations that may render certain activities inappropriate.  So, in some respects, building your Second Act may actually have you feeling younger and more alert in the end! For myself, and many others, writing is very stimulating. Some people journal as a cathartic release, others go back over their past and record the many amazing experiences that they may have encountered along life’s highway. This can be a nostalgic means of jogging your memory, potentially releasing some interesting insights that may be valuable to your progeny.As novelist––my second act––creating story-lines and characters, with all of the required research and resultant new knowledge, has been therapeutic and represents my approach to staying mentally fit––yours may be different.  But key to the whole process is the challenge that it presents and the hordes of new information that your brain is required to digest and store.So, what will your challenge be?  Increasing your vocabulary with your newly purchased Thesaurus?   Building model ships?  Donating your time as a mentor?  Learning a new profession or using already existent skills to branch out into something different?  Or could it mean starting a new business based upon a beloved hobby?  The possibilities are infinite, they are out there waiting, along with your healthy mental future.

10 Most Important Points to Help Prepare for the Second Act

1. Recognize that all those negative feelings that you have been experiencing are normal and, with some effort, can be abolished.

2 Take solace in the fact that you are not alone in your plight but at the same time recognize that only you alone ca resolve you inner disquiet.

3. Take stock of who you were before your “life change,” you are still that same person.

4.  Embrace your self-image, your sense of who you are, with all your might, because it will be one of the most important propelling elements in your assent from the depths of despair.

5.  If you life change was the result of job loss, this might be the time to reassess your skills or to learn new ones with an eye toward finding something that really piques your interest.

6.  In regards to #5, you may have to begin thinking out-of-the-box to find something that really excites you.

7.  Review past and present hobbies.  See if one of them can be expanded to an income producing enterprise if that is your goal, or simply spend more time doing what you love in order to keep yourself occupied, if the former is not part of the equation.

8.  Do not allow yourself tp dwell on the past, meaning, the job that you lost or the event responsible for your life change -- it will only serve to drag you back into the darkness.

9.  Be positive!  A perpetually negative outlook may hold you back, whereas a can-do attitude can open doors to many opportunities.

10.  And finally, try to enjoy life.  Pleasure can be found in the simplest of activities if you simply open your mind to the possibility.

 

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