Nearly four years ago, I left my life as a partner in a big law firm and became a person applying for long-term disability. I have walked – or more often run – through my fair share of doors in life. But there is something peculiar about walking through the door of retirement at the age of 53 years. This is a one-way experience, much like walking through the tinted glass sliding doors at International Arrivals, where exhausted travelers are released to the outside world. The doors slide open before you and then close behind you and there is no going back. In my case, unless a brilliant surgeon invents a medical procedure that can regrow the millions of dopamine cells that have died and accumulated deep in my brain, I will not be returning to the practice of law. When I switched off the fluorescent lights in my office for the last time, I knew I would not be returning. I removed the magnetized metallic “Timothy Andersson” nameplate from my door, stuffed it into my bag and disappeared.
Life as a retired person is nothing like I experienced before. After graduating from North Park College in Chicago, I spent the better part of my life becoming a lawyer, developing, and then refining my skills in corporate and international law. I spent the vast majority of my waking hours obsessing about my clients and how best to address their legal challenges. I dutifully recorded every six minutes of each hour in one billing system or another.
In a Faustian deal, during seasons of my career I willingly traded my soul in exchange for the big law partner lifestyle, which nearly cost me my marriage, my family and my sanity. At times, in fact, I was very much insane, and I’ve got the therapy bills to prove it. I am not alone in my insanity. Eckhart Tolle writes:
The collective manifestations of the insanity that lies at the heart of the human condition constitute the greater part of human history. It is to a large extent a history of madness. If the history of humanity were the clinical case history of a single human being, the diagnosis would have to be: chronic paranoid delusions, a pathological propensity to commit murder and acts of extreme violence and cruelty against his perceived “enemies” – his own unconsciousness projected outward. Criminally insane, with a few brief lucid intervals. Fear, greed, and the desire for power are the psychological motivating forces not only behind warfare and violence between nations, tribes, religions, and ideologies, but also the cause of incessant conflict in personal relationships. They bring about a distortion in your perception of other people and yourself. Through them, you misinterpret every situation, leading to misguided action designed to rid you of fear and satisfy your need for more, a bottomless hole that can never be filled. Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (pp. 27-28).
My career as a corporate lawyer had come to a screeching halt. Suddenly, I was billing zero hours and had no calls to make or agreements to draft. Life couldn’t be more different than it was before. In this blog I intend to share stories from my life, with its innumerable ups and downs, mountaintops, delusions and moments of clarity. I will sometimes share my experience as a person with Parkinson Disease, a degenerative brain disorder for which there is no cure. Parkinson disease does not define me, but it has taught me a few lessons and given me more than a few things to ponder. More often than not, I will simply share my observations as a man beginning the second half of his life.
I have been doing a lot of reading since I stopped working. At this pivotal time, I am searching for meaning and context for my life. One of my favorite authors is Richard Rohr. In his book, Falling Upward, he writes: “the first half of life is discovering the script, and the second half is actually writing it and owning it.” He explains: “It was Carl Jung who first popularized the phrase “the two halves of life” to describe these two major tangents and tasks, yet many other teachers have recognized that there are clear stages and steps of human and spiritual maturation. Process language is not new; it has just used different images.” Rohr, Richard. AARP Falling Upward (p. 8). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
Since retiring from the practice of law in May 2019, the signs are unmistakable: I have embarked on my second half of my life journey – my second mountain.