The clichéd response to what we know as a midlife crisis is to buy a hot car, get a facelift, or travel to an exotic locale. But as Franciscan priest and teacher Richard Rohr counsels in Falling Upward, such get-more-stuff responses do nothing to assuage the angst that naturally assaults most people as they crest the hill of adulthood, contemplate their final decades, and wonder, “Is there nothing more to life?”
In his two-part model, Rohr suggests that the first half of life usually is, and should be, the development of a healthy ego, the establishment of one’s career path, maybe marriage, maybe a family, creating a home. He describes this as building the “container” of one’s life. He says that while all healthy adults need to build this container, sadly some of us never move beyond that.
The second half of life, Rohr says, should consist of filling the container built in the first half. The container is the surface of things; its contents are the substance. The first half focuses on acquiring things; the second half, on letting go—of possessions, of judgment, of expectations. Only in this letting go is one likely to acquire some degree of wisdom, peace, and joy in the final years of one’s life.
At my own point of self-dissatisfaction, I had hoped that Richard Rohr’s little book would provide instruction for how I could move forward—how, frankly, I could grow up. Of course, Falling Upward does not provide such instruction. It does, however, offer insight, challenge, and some comfort in the midst of struggle. If you find yourself unsettled at midlife, Richard Rohr is a good companion.