When I got the book, I was a little taken aback. It’s…outside my usual reading. And…it’s talking about the second half of life.
I’m not yet 40, but I’m closing in. Most of my close friends have passed 40 and even 50. (My husband jokes that he’s closer to 50 than 40 these days.)
But I have little kids. I’m not thinking “second half of life” as it relates to me; I’m thinking “second half of life” for other people. Not me.
But Mladinich is forcing me to think here, to stretch in a way I just haven’t had the mental space to really consider before.
In True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life, Lisa Mladinich has tapped into a holy and hopeful perspective that I didn’t even know I needed. She has a beautiful and poetical approach to aging that, honestly, makes me glad to see a few more sparkly hairs on my own head.
One thing that doesn’t change as we age is our need for friendships. In a chapter that made me smile (and makes me smile as I revisit it now), Mladinich explores beauty and how we truly look at each other.
She also taps into the importance friendship has for each of us:
When I ask women over sixty to talk about the value of their friendships, they describe an interesting progression. Earlier in life, careers, vocations, or children offered situations that promoted enjoyable relationships. During those years, life was intense and friendships were abundant, so the mobility and relative instability of friendships was of little concern. However, for a lucky few, some of those early relationships endured beyond their original context. Over the years, the friendships that survived became increasingly precious, as available options thinned out for a variety of reasons: changes in marital or vocational status, mental or physical incapacitation, retirement migrations, death, or other circumstances that created obstacles to closeness and connection.
I was forced to consider the friends I hold dear, the people who I have stumbled across through no fault of my own. God has, undoubtedly, placed these dear souls in my life. Some of them have already gone in a different direction, leaving me with a memory of their impact and whispered prayers for their well-being.
Others are in my life now, blessing me with their wisdom, their humor, their little insights. They’re the people offering me texted prayers, sending me photo smiles, supporting me when I don’t even know I’m struggling.
And there are maybe one or two who will last. In 50 years, though I’d like to say I know just who those friends will be, I suspect that I can’t really tell. (I’m going off observations of those with a few more decades of experience than I have.)
We women need each other. Having children and entering this intense phase of life, when my friendships are plentiful, has only underscored that for me.
When there are things I don’t understand, during the times I can’t cope, in the moments when I need a laugh: these are when those friends, like daisies in the spring, crop up like a bouquet sent from God himself.
I closed True Radiance and felt humbled by the company I keep. I was reminded of just how blessed we each are by those who have gone before, by those who will follow, by those who journey with us.