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Excerpted from It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now: How to Create Your Second Life After 40 by Barbara Sher. Copyright © 1998 by Barbara Sher. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"I'm a tough realist. I never make a habit of looking at the rosy side of things. In fact, I'm as surprised as anyone to be able to tell you what I've found on the other side of midlife."

Barbara Sher, It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now, Part 2

I want you to understand that this is no variation on what's come before. Your second life is a different world, as different from your first life as college is from grade school. And it all starts as soon as you wake up from the illusions of your youth, the ones that govern your first life.

What illusions am I talking about? The ones that midlife seems to be taking away from you: the youth and beauty that gave the promise of great romance and glory, the delicious sense of endless tomorrows with endless possibilities, the certainty that you'd never grow old (because nothing could be worse) and that you'd never die. None of these beliefs is holding up too well against the passing of time, but your impulse is to hang on for as long as possible.

And that's not a good idea.

If you struggle to hang on to those illusions, you might not wake up for years to the opportunities waiting in your second life. And then you'll look back and say, "Why couldn't I have seen this fifteen years ago? Oh, the things I could have done with all that time!"

So let me say it loud and clear: Your first life belongs to nature. Your second life belongs to you.

What's coming is a gradual loosening of the hold that culture and biology have on you, and the arrival of your authentic self. You are losing nothing real by getting older. In fact, you're moving into a life that's sure to be more conscious, centered, creative, and energetic than anything you've known so far. And there is no way to live a life this exciting until you're over forty.

If you're reading this with cynicism or doubt, or you think I'm about to launch into some candy-coated Pollyanna bromides, think again. I'm a tough realist. I never make a habit of looking at the rosy side of things. In fact, I'm as surprised as anyone to be able to tell you what I've found on the other side of midlife. As you read these pages, I predict you're going to be surprised too.

But why is it so hard to see that good times are coming? Why do we suffer so when we begin to lose our youth? I pondered that question for some time, and when I first got the answer, I almost laughed, because what causes our blindness is so hidden and at the same time so obvious that it's almost like a trick.

Nature wants you to hate getting older. It's part of your biological makeup that you feel anguished about it. Because if everything after midlife looks distasteful, you will naturally resist getting older. And as you'll see, that makes you a lot more useful to your species.

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