Wednesday, January 31, 2018

On My First Half Century: Maiden, Mother, Crone

The other day I celebrated my 50th birthday.  I had fretted about it for several months prior, just trying to grapple with the whole concept of having lived a half century and getting older and considering that I most likely had much less than another half century of living to come.  But I feel fine now.  I mean, what else would I do?  I'm happy for each new day I'm given even though sometimes I complain or worry about generally trivial things.  Life is good.

When I first started this blog I was in my mid-thirties, my children were still quite young and the future was still wide open, at least in my mind.  I have lived a large quantity of experience in these last dozen years.  Most of my intensive mothering life has happened as my children are now young adults.  My youngest will turn 18 later this year, and that freaks me out almost more than my own turning 50!  As mothering goes, the hardest part for me was about the time when my previous blogging slowed significantly.  I just had less time to write as my family needed more of my attention.  The kids were involved in school band, and my oldest particularly excelled and required much more of my involvement with his success and extra activities.  I absolutely love that I got to be his mom during all of his experiences and accomplishments.  I've enjoyed my teenaged children most of all their growing up stages.  

To be totally honest, motherhood was a bit of a struggle for me at the beginning.  I loved my babies more than anything, but it was so hard for me to reconcile my maidenhood and motherhood aspects.  By maidenhood I mean the youthful independence and freedom of self that comes from not having the responsibility for another's life and well-being.  Losing my own mother to cancer less than a year after becoming a mother myself was especially difficult.  I had no guidance and no motherly direction or support.  I was on my own and had to just figure it out.  Books were of little help, frankly, because every child and family is a bit different and no "authority" of parenting and mothering fits everyone.  I did get help from my mother-in-law, but that was more relief than anything else because she would babysit while I tried to keep my sanity.  Those breaks allowed my inner Maiden some time to finish some of the things she needed to do before passing the full-time baton on to the Mother.  Blogging was one of those things, as was dabbling in digital artwork and physics and some other random interests.  Eventually, life demanded a full-time Mother so the Maiden laid to rest in hibernation.    

(Gustav Klimt, "The Three Stages of Woman")

All females have these three stages of life - maiden, mother, and crone.  The youthful Maiden will surrender to the Mother as life requires us to focus on new roles, needs, and goals. And as the Mother's responsibilities of raising children into adulthood are fulfilled the Crone is allowed to emerge.  But all three aspects co-exist within all females throughout their lives.  It's just that the changing demands and expectations of life will require the prominence of one over the others.  Oftentimes in young girls the Crone will be there in the back of the mind with her wisdom and intuition.  She can also be there for the Mother.  I think my innate Crone helped somewhat in replacing my own mother when I was just a young mother myself.  As my Mother aspect has grown and matured the Crone is emerging with a renewed sense of Maiden-like freedom from the heavy responsibilities of young motherhood.  Once a Mother, always a Mother, but once the children are grown we can again begin to look at our own hopes, dreams, and goals.  I'm not saying that mothers can't have their own lives.  That is not my point at all.  This is just the psycho-social-spiritual idea of changing stages of female development throughout life.

So now that I have turned 50 I've decided that I am glad to welcome the Crone.  The truth is the Crone has been eagerly awaiting for her time to shine.  I've always liked my prematurely graying hair.  I have already accepted the physical changes that come with "middle-age."  I really could not care less about being sexually appealing to every man I meet.  The Maiden's need to be desired in that way has expired, thankfully, and what a relief it is.  There is a lot time and energy gained with the freedom from constant sexual thought.  I don't know if men ever have that freedom even at an advanced age.  It is an idea that my youthful Maiden certainly would have difficulty understanding or even seeing as normal and acceptable.  But there are stages of to our lives and normal changes in desired activities.  Just as little girls eventually lose interest in their dolls and toys, it is normal for grown women to lose the need for other youthful impulses and activities.  I do worry that my husband misses the sexually spirited Maiden/Mother aspects, but good lord, it's not like he didn't have many many years of fulfillment and if he didn't get enough then that's his own damned fault.  He got the best of my youth and beauty and vitality, and now he needs to honor his vows to make the best of what is left of me.

Our society worships sex and its obsession with youthful virility has caused widespread depression, divorce, and other dysphoria and dysfunctional aging.  The whole "anti-aging" industry is worthy of its own damning blog entry.  The measures people take in attempting to recapture or artificially maintain some unrealistic ideal of youth and sexual prowess are costing too much in money as well as healthy aging.  To each his own, I suppose, as long as those who refuse to accept the natural life stages don't judge and mistreat those of us who are fascinated and enthusiastic about getting to know all of the wealth of experience that our changing lives provide.  This hard-won wisdom is something our world desperately needs in these days of instant gratification and virtual reality.  The arrival of the Crone and her age's cogent perception, intuition, and testimony are welcome in my life.

The one life experience I hope to enjoy before my time is finished is to be a grandmother - the perfect blend of Mother and Crone with a little Maiden thrown in too sometimes.  My own mother was a reluctant grandmother who feared and rejected the Crone aspect of herself.  Her favorite scene from the movie "Terms of Endearment" is the one where Shirley MacClaine's character screams "Why should I be happy about being a grandmother?!?"

I really don't know why being a grandmother seemed so objectionable to her other than that she associated it with being old.  It's terrible and ironic that she died at a young 54 and less than a year after becoming a grandmother for the second time with the birth of my oldest son.  Her first was 11 years before when my sister had her son.  By the time I had my first baby my mother had been a grandmother for quite some time, but she still seemed reluctant and even a bit uninterested.  She had her job and didn't have time to babysit or just come and help me learn to be a mom.  As an early feminist she generally put her needs first.  Probably part of my embracing of the Crone is in opposition to the way my mother approached aging.  She almost seemed relieved that cancer would take her before she had to get very old.  That just seems sad to me and maybe the two decades without her have hardened my memories of her.  Maybe my mother just never learned to reconcile her own Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects.  But I do know that I want to live much longer than she did and I will accept whatever aging brings me in exchange for the time to continue to enjoy my children and hopefully their children.

So here's to another half century, or at least another quarter century!  

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