The Second Half: Handbook for life–part four

Editor’s note: The following is the fourth in a four-part series. Part one appeared as an Online Exclusive in the April 21-27, 2010, issue at Part two appeared as an Online Exclusive in the April 28-May 4, 2010, issue, and part three appeared as an Online Exclusive in the May 5-11, 2010, issue.

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

My Second Half pal Kate sent me “The Handbook,” a guide for living with four areas of focus: health, personality, society and life. I don’t know its origin, but the guidance seemed appropriate for springtime. Here is your final installment.

The Handbook on Life

1. Do the right thing! How do you know if some deed, or job, or relationship, or calling in life is “the right thing”? You don’t!

For example, as I entered my Second Half of life, I was inspired to write children’s stories. They didn’t generate a lot of interest, but I wrote them anyway. A few people even made fun of my efforts, “Kind of silly for someone your age, don’t you think?” I had fun with them, anyway.

Eventually, I moved on to an older audience, putting the children’s stories in the proverbial drawer. But, recently, one of those kid stories was a finalist in an international competition and filmed for the Web site Smories, “stories for kids read by kids” (check out The Magic Trick with a kid you like at

Somebody thought my effort was worth it! My point is, we all know “right from wrong” in the do-the-right-thing category. In the broader sense, you don’t always know if something is “right” for the time, or place, or people involved.

My advice: Forget your age…if you are inspired, DO IT! You never know how it will impact a life—yours or the life of someone else.

2. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.  Let go of all the stuff you think you should keep: activities, habits and acquaintances. A Second Half pal reminds me all the time, “We need to stop ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves!” (i.e., “I should visit James, even though we no longer have anything to say to each other,” or “I should stay in my sewing circle, even though I’m bored silly!”)

Forget the “shoulds”! Out-dated obligations to people, places and things are a waste of energy. To try this week: find yourself a couple of things that bring you joy, and get rid of a couple of things that make you go, “Ehhh”—if it doesn’t make you say “Wahoo!” it doesn’t bring you joy.

3. However good or bad a situation is, it will change. Second Half sweetie Dennis always says, “The only thing constant is CHANGE!”

Author Washington Irving gives us a backhanded look: “There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.”

4. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.  Hmmm…it’s 9 a.m. on a Monday morning and, even though I’m working, I’m still in my pajamas and flip flops. I did make coffee and feed the dogs, so I guess I’ve been productive, and I’ve been writing for an hour—that counts, right? The consensus among my pals is varied.

At a recent writers’ retreat, I found out that the other scribes often write all day without getting dressed.

“I get in the zone,” Deb tells me, “and I can’t stop for something silly like getting dressed!” Writers just see things differently.

Second Half pal Pat says: “If I don’t feel like getting dressed, so what? If teen-agers can go to school in their pajama pants, I guess I’ve earned the right to stay home and clean house in mine!” If she stops by and I’m still in my jammies at noon, I know she won’t judge.

Another Second Half pal, Paula, gets up every day and immediately showers, does her hair, puts on makeup and jewelry, and dresses very nicely. I always feel a little dowdy around her unless I give it a little effort, but she doesn’t really notice my attire—thank heavens. Her efforts are for her.

I figure I’ll get dressed eventually, even if it’s to get ready for bed.

5. The best is yet to come. Refer to No. 3.

6. Be happy. What makes you happy? The problem for many Second Half folks is that we were taught to be practical first and let happiness appear of its own volition. We were never encouraged to seek happiness first.

Think about Albert Einstein: he couldn’t find work teaching physics, so he took a job in the Patent Office. During that time, he never gave up his dream and continued to do what made him happy. Much of his groundbreaking work in physics was being done while he worked there, gaining recognition and leading to his goal of teaching.

Carly Patterson, 2004 Olympic gold medal gymnast, put it nicely: “There’s no quitting in the person who wants it bad enough.”

So, find something that makes you happy and keep after it. I can’t recall who said it, but I like the sentiment: “You ain’t done ’til you’re dead!”

7. When you awake alive in the morning, give thanks. A Second Half friend once told me, “I don’t know if I believe there is a Higher Power, but it can’t hurt anything to say thanks once in a while.”

I’ll tie this up with a thought from the early 20th-century satirist, H.L. Mencken: “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”

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 May 12-18, 2010 issue

One thought on “The Second Half: Handbook for life–part four

  • May 22, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    At the top of the column, you state you don’t know the origin of this advice. It was written by Regina Brett and was orignially published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2006. The author, a columnist for that paper, expanded these life lessons into a book, “God never blinks.” It’s an inspiring read.

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