Walking Into My Third Act

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I became a walker in my sixties. Gone were my years of roaming the world as a young adult. Gone were my years of nurturing and loving as a wife and mother. With the death of my husband and children off to college and beyond, I went for a walk to reclaim myself. Who was I at this stage of life?

I had been a counselor to others in my profession, but now I had to counsel myself. Born and raised in Europe walking came natural, and I turned to it to sort out my life. I went on a 12-day trek in the Himalayas, with a guide and horseman. I had trekked in Nepal in my twenties with a boyfriend who was an avid mountain man. I had come along for the adventure. Standing on the Mount Everest glacier put me in awe of mountains. Walking day in day out under rugged circumstances drew out my strength, and it felt good. Would I still have that strength 35 years later?  While I trekked in Ladakh, I found connection. Connection with myself and my place in the universe, alone and yet not separate. I found strength, but it was more mental than physical.

I knew I could be happy again after loss; I knew I could walk myself happy.  This became a pivot point for my 2nd act. In the years that followed I ventured out into the mountains of my home state: I climbed Mount Shasta (14,000ft) for my 60th birthday; I went for 3, 4-day backpacking trips, becoming independent in my backpacking experience. I learned the freedom of carrying my home on my back, disconnect from news and media and rebuild my outlook on life. I figured out what I could contribute and what I wanted for myself.

In the year I turned 65, I decided I could take a longer vacation from work to walk the length of Oregon State. I started in the North of the state and walked home to the South. As they say, the rest is history. I was hooked, and I have walked 2000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail in yearly sections since then. Hiking the PCT has become my walk to inner freedom.  While I walked I found the courage and inspiration to put pen on paper and write my story. Retirement became a new adventure of writing and walking.

My first book, “Walking Gone Wild, How to lose your age on the trail”, came out in 2018. “Walking Gone Wild” is a call to walking for women who are figuring out their 2nd Act. My memoir “Fly Free, a memoir of Love, Loss and Walking the Path”, will be published this summer (2020). The memoir covers the trek in Ladakh of 2005 and addresses how to rebuild yourself after an enormous loss in your life. As we enter our later years, loss is a given and we better figure out who we are as individuals so we can absorb the loss and become more resilient.  I’m in my 70ties and facing the aging of my body.

My spirited self has to find new avenues for expression. The 2nd act has its bell curve. The changing hormones after menopause give women extra oomph to do unknown things and conquer adversity. That’s the upward curve of the bell. Aside from walking, I took up competitive rowing and forged a strong, fit body doing so. I found my physical edges and was more fit than I’d ever been in my life. I traveled the world, kayaked the seas, climbed high passes and was on an ever-expanding trajectory of peak experiences.

When I reached my mid-sixties, I saw the physical decline, a little more every passing year. Even though I’m healthy and fit for my age, I don’t have the reserve in my tank, the inner drive to go further, paddle harder or do more. I want the joy without the work. I’m ready to retire and live on the other side of the bell curve and be in my 3rd act. I want to funnel the physical strength I gained in my 2nd act into an upward curve of kindness, understanding and compassion. The wise women can show herself. I don’t see an end to that adventure unless my mental capacities decline.

My 3rd act is the Act of Wisdom.


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