What do I dedicate myself to in the third stage of life?

by | Mar 11, 2024 | Faith, Family, Writing and Reading | 6 comments |

When we woke to steady rain on Saturday morning, I wondered, “What do I dedicate my time to today?” Not yard work or dog-walking or housecleaning or cooking, since Keith was going to our church’s Men’s Breakfast and would only want a snack later. Yes, to reading, writing, critiquing, practicing, watching a recording of a writing craft webinar, and adding a few notes to the Women’s Ministry retreat presentation, “Called to Care.” 

Then I wondered, how does the way I dedicate my time in the third stage of life differ from the previous stages, and to what purpose?

Dedicate my time

As a first-stager, I dedicated my time to being a student—and playing with my sisters and friends, helping with chores, learning how to clean, do laundry, grow, gather, and cook food. Second-stagers dedicate their time to making a living, and many to raising a family, too. 

The third stage of life, the harvest time, has been filled with opportunities to learn, reflect, and grow. As I wrote in a guest post for Brevity Blog in 2022, “Time to take the internal journey and heal past wounds from loss, rejection, and inexplicable disruptions. Time to explore, discover, seek meaning, share wisdom, and serve others…”

Dedicate myself to a purpose

I suppose one may find one’s purpose during any stage of life, but I found mine between the stages. When I was twenty-one, I dedicated myself to teaching, a career that spanned four decades. It took a few years after I left teaching for me to find my third-stage-of-life purpose.

Theologian, elder, and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister had this to say about one’s path to purpose in the third stage of life: “This is the period of life when we must begin to look inside our own hearts and souls rather than outside ourselves for the answers to our problems, for the fixing of the problems. This is the time for facing ourselves, for bringing ourselves into the light.” So, here I am, dedicated to seeking the light by writing and, in so doing, yes, teaching.

Dedicate my book to Keith and our daughters

And here is the culmination of how I’ve dedicated my third-stage-of-life time to my third-stage-of-life purpose—and for whom. My book description below, the photograph that inspired the cover and dedication above.

“In 2010, I left my 34-year career in education to build a mountain home with my husband. Literal house-building moved forward, but I could not figure out how to do the same metaphorically. I had reached that point in life where I had to look back to make sense of the past in order to build a purposeful third stage of life. Four mysteries presented themselves: who was my husband’s deceased daughter, who I never met; who was I now that I was not teaching or raising children; what really happened in 1957 when a man came to rob our house and hurt my mother; how and why were these mysteries connected?”

Wisdom Builds Her House, available for pre-order soon.

Linkup with Five Minute Friday: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2024/03/07/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-dedicate/


  1. Sandra K Stein

    Yourbook description is quite a teaser.

    • Carole Duff

      We all have mysteries, even secrets in our pasts. I hope you will read about my journey of discovery.

      • Valerie Oates

        Hi Carole – I love reading your posts! I am about to enter my own Stage 3, retiring from Ursuline and full time professional commitment this summer. It’s been many years now, but I have fond memories of working with you. Ursuline and its students were lucky to have you❤️. Sign me up for a copy of your book😍

        • Carole Duff

          Congratulations on your retirement, and welcome to the third stage of life! I look forward to hearing about your next mission. -C.D.

  2. Ellen

    Wow! Congratulations on completing your book!

    • Carole Duff

      Thanks, Ellen! I’ll keep everyone posted about the release date.


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