The Second Half: Subtle changes

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

“It’s the little things,” we tend to say, “that are the most important in life.”

Subtle changes are easier to see now that I’m in my Second Half, changes that I may have missed in years gone by. When you’re in your first half of life, big things seem to dominate: graduation, job promotion, marriage, birth of a child. While big things still exist in the Second Half, I notice the importance has shifted to subtle changes and events.

Take weight loss, for instance…in my 20s, I could say, “I need to lose 10 pounds.” A few weeks later, it would be gone, and everyone commented about how great I looked. Each decade since then, losing weight has been harder and harder, but now I try to focus more on my continuing health efforts.

There are subtle changes in my body: I can now lift a 70-pound bale of hay without straining, I’m craving salads and fruit instead of sweets, and while my weight has stayed the same for several weeks, my clothes keep getting looser.

These subtleties tell me more about my success if I don’t get waylaid worrying about the weight thing. I think I’ve solved that problem, though—I hid the scale in the laundry basket where I’ll hardly ever see it. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Some of you may remember that I began studying yoga during the holidays, as much for the mental health benefits as for improving my physical strength and balance. I just finished 12 weeks of classes, quite a commitment for me this winter. I admit I felt a little wimpy at first—after the first class, I went home and groaned, “It’s really hard!” My adolescent body once performed these twists and stretches without a second thought, so how could this possibly be so difficult?

Grandpa used to tell me, “Honey, the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I totally get it, Grandpa! In the beginning, I was just happy to get through a class without grunting, farting or falling down. Happily, every Second Half yoga student I talk to feels the same way. On the other hand, we all agree it feels pretty great when we’re done with a class…reminiscent of a certain recreational activity those damn hippies engaged in back in the day. All peace, love and serenity: now we can call it “getting high on life.”

Just this week, Yoga Master Rachel Bixby of Lazy Dog Yoga Studio took me through my paces, and she had me red-faced and sweaty in no time. At the end of class, she told me, “That was great…I can really see a difference!”

I didn’t ask her what she meant because I already knew my balance and ability to perform is vastly improved. Besides, she might not have elaborated enough to send me to the moon emotionally, so best to leave my radical success in my head.

My chiropractor, Dr. J of Loves Park Chiropractic, agrees that the changes are subtle but distinct. He told me, “You adjust much easier now, and you stay in alignment longer.” We both agree that feeling better overall is the best change, and it beats the hell out of stiffness and outright pain.

On the other hand, when I shared with the rest of Dr. J’s staff my enthusiasm for yoga, Dr. Andrea asked, “So are you going to start looking like Madonna?” Typical response for someone in their first half of life: looking for super-star results and the big finish. She’s young and gorgeous, and has some of the best hands in the business—what she can do to my neck makes me moan in pleasure. In light of all that, I didn’t tell her that her time is coming, or wag my finger at her, or even complain about “young people today…” I just promised, “When I do finally look like Madonna, I’ll buy us each a pointy gold bra.”

Eat my dust, Material Girl!

A Second Half friend sent me an e-mail that emphasizes the subtle difference between the first and second half of life. It was titled: Perks of reaching 50 or being over 60 and heading towards 70!

The focus here is on being positive—check out a few senior “perks”:

→ People call at 9 p.m. and apologize, “Did I wake you?”

People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

→ There is nothing left to learn “the hard way.”

→ Things you buy now won’t wear out.

You can eat supper at 4 p.m.

→ You can live without sex but not your glasses.

→ You enjoy debating about pension plans vs. 401-Ks.

You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.

→ You sing along to your car’s satellite radio channel tuned to music from the ’60s.

→ Your eyes won’t get much worse.

→ Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.

→ Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.

→ Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.

No one expects you to run—anywhere.

→ You can’t remember who sent you this list.

Lest I get too pleased with the subtleties of the Second Half of life, my e-mail friend added a caveat: never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the March 17-23, issue

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