Living a Passionate Life: Finding Fulfillment

Go ahead, have an affair -- with life, that is! Here's how to reconnect to the passions that make you feel most alive.
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Realizing Your Passion

Passion is the central motivation of all human activity. And the pursuit of a passionate life is a conscious choice -- one that is never too late to make.

What do I mean by the pursuit of a passionate life? Let's start with what I don't mean: It is not merely a search for a new hobby or a new romance, as rewarding as those may be. Rather, it is a new concept of self in the world, one that generates exhilaration and commitment to the future. As women approach midlife, even those who are basically content, who enjoy an exciting professional life and an enviable marriage, may start feeling an indefinable itch, a sense that something is missing. That something is a new dream.

Coming to a new dream will draw upon a dimension of yourself that either has fallen dormant or was never allowed expression in the first place. You may have to reach way back into adolescence to touch it. Think of an activity you loved so much that hours would slip by unnoticed while it occupied you. Imagine the person you used to dream of becoming. From your current vantage point, these reveries may seem impractical or irrelevant. But they may set off a spark that will bring color and vitality into your everyday existence, preventing it from becoming a long trudge down the same old road.

I bumped, quit literally, into an embodiment of this principle on a New York City sidewalk one evening when I heard my neighbor Madeline singing "On the Street Where You Live." She wasn't just humming; she was swinging her arms and warbling at full volume. Madeline is an attractive woman in her 50s, someone who usually projects a confident, cosmopolitan attitude befitting her seemingly glamorous existence, living half her time in Europe with a successful husband.

What I didn't know, until I talked to her in depth, was that Madeline had been depressed and in limbo for at least five years. It had taken her that long to extract herself from a marriage that had lost sexual and emotional intimacy. After surviving an affair with a younger man, the departure of her son for college, and a bout with breast cancer, she had tried living by herself. Valiant attempts to immerse herself in the singles scene had only deepened her loneliness. At that point she realized that, for her, the path out of darkness would not be through sex or romance. "I've just come from a voice lesson," she whispered that night on the street, sounding as excited as a child. "I keep singing this song! It's like not being able to eat enough chocolate."

She explained that singing was something she'd always loved, but whenever she sang, her husband and son would shush her, saying her voice was drowning out the radio or stereo. It was only now, at 57, that she was finally indulging her passion by taking voice lessons. No, she'd never achieve her girlhood dream of singing backup for Stevie Wonder, but that was hardly the point. She said that singing gave her physical pleasure and had revived her hunger for intimacy, physical touch, someone to dance with. "It gives me a passionate thrill," she confided with unguarded delight. "I can only liken it to that feeling of having just met someone you really like. It feels as if I have a crush on singing."

Continued on page 2:  Reaching Second Adulthood


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