Where to even begin with Barbara Sher’s book It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now: How to Create Your Second Life at Any Age. Quite a mouth full for a book title, huh? Well…the rest of the book was pretty much the same way. I should say that I have rewritten this review four times in the last week. Barbara Sher has given me a lot to process and has left me a tad bewildered as to how to accurately describe, summarize and rate this book.
When Barbara wrote this book she clearly had lots to say on the subject. I do subscribe to the idea that in order for a reader who is eager to learn, to benefit from a book of this sort, one must be exposed to volumes of constructive and instructive material. There were some thought-provoking points made and myriad efforts made to sound optimistic and sanguine. I found her candor and directness to be refreshing. However, so much of this book seemed judgmental and torpid. Her written tone also read well…rancorous at times. Yes, the author’s tone seemed bitter. As I was reading it, I kept getting the impression that she was espousing her past experiences and the supposed lessons learned in an effort to zealously convince herself and the reader of her personal progress. It read like affected self-confidence.
The book is comprised of two books; the first book divided into two parts. The entire book is 324 pages long. Yet the first book, whose title is Nature and Instinct: Your First Life is a whopping 223 pages long! Imagine! Almost 70% of the book is dedicated to telling you where the reader is in life (which is painfully obvious since they’re reading it and therefore needn’t be discussed at such length) and where the reader is currently miserably failing at life! Ha! Often times, I literally laughed aloud due to discomfort. Ironically, though I may seem harsh in my assessment, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the book. Once you’re able to get passed the author’s unapologetic frankness (you’ll need to set your ego aside to read this book), you’ll notice that her advice is truly spot-on and compelling.
In the first book, she breaks it down to you without holding any punches. As they say, “she keeps it real” in the first half. In the second book, she softens up a bit and tells you how to move forward now that you’ve accepted (or should have accepted at this point) your (harsh) reality. Barbara Sher addresses every delicate point and newfound doubt in mid-life that most mid-life crisis victims (or should we say perpetrators) face. She addresses concerns about losing physical stamina and appeal, romantic love, being-noticed, wanting to seem important and so on. You’ll NEED to be ready to learn some harsh realities about one’s self. If you’re really not quite there yet, then I highly recommend you not read this book yet. It’s only for the introspective and thick-skinned.
The chapter on love fascinated me. This will probably be the chapter that will bother most readers the most. “Romantic love at midlife is the most expensive of all the illusions.” “Romantic love actually prevents real love.” “America’s favorite sweetheart – sex.” Barbara doesn’t hold back. In fact, I was surprised to see how much both Barbara Sher and Joan Anderson (the author of A Year By The Sea from my previous post) talk about sex. Barbara’s observations were numerous though a lot more technical in nature than Joan’s. Joan made me blush uncomfortably a couple of times and I’m not a prude! I think her sentimentality about sex was what made me squirm a bit in my reading hammock. Ha!
“The force that will drive you in your second life is the love of what is new, the magnetic pull you feel when every project feels like a treasure hunt you can hardly bear to interrupt, the energy generated by your fascination with new enterprises, the robust exhilaration of exercising your underused talents and watching your skills improve every day, the delight of being a genius and doing the things you were born for…Your midlife crisis has happened precisely because your narcissism is crumbling like an unsafe old structure, and what that structure was hiding is a self so original you can no longer ignore it. Originality is genius. If you respect and care for it, it will take you on the ride of your life. And whenever work you love is undertaken with the simplicity and directness of a genius or a child, you’re going for greatness.”
“An original mind. An intense interest. Great patience. That’s the prescription that will turn the years ahead into the sweetest time of your life.”
I gave this book three (3) stars on Goodreads because it had too many exercises and examples for my taste. Plus, the first couple of chapters were brutal until I acclimated to her style. But…there is a big BUT here…I still recommend the book! Enjoy!