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!  

Friday, January 19, 2018

I Can't Quit You Baby

"Well, I can't quit you baby
But I got to put you down a little while"

-Willie Dixon 

I really, really, really would like to quit In-Your-Face-book, but it unfortunately has become an almost vital outlet of communication in our world.  It is pretty useful in getting party invitations and other social information distributed quickly and easily, but I do hate all the other garbage that swirls around the bits of important stuff.  Yes, I've contributed my share of political crap to the mess, and I'm sure that more than half of the "friends" on my list have either unfollowed or otherwise filtered me out of their feeds.  What kind of friendship is that?  But I have unfollowed and filtered out people too, and I don't really feel any guilt about it because I've finally admitted that I am not an introvert but a misanthrope.  I bet a lot of self-proclaimed introverts are actually not introverts at all, but are, like me, those who just pretty much dislike most other people.  There do seem to be a lot of loud introverts on Facebook - so many memes proclaiming introversion and how to "deal" with it and so forth.  Well, screw that.  It's just another politically correct term for misanthropic and antisocial tendencies.  

Facebook is all the worst of high school, and I hated high school too.  I do have a few real friends and people I truly care for and whose company I enjoy online and in real life.  But sometimes it really strains positive relationships when we have to see the snarky, hostile comments that our friends make about people and issues that we might care about, even when those comments aren't meant for us.  It's like reading the worst entries in our friends' diaries.  Facebook puts all of those things In-Your-Face and that has fostered a huge increase in sarcasm, passive-aggressiveness, and paranoia.  And on the other hand are the braggarts and boasters who try to make their lives and relationships look perfect.  I know some people use Facebook as a kind of accountability journal so that they can keep up with tasks and responsibilities, but sometimes it looks like boasting.  And then there are the couples who seem to put all their love on Facebook and brag about every aspect of their partner and relationship.  It can be nice to have public validation and recognition, but I have to wonder about the real health of a relationship that measures itself by its Facebook presence.  

I've always been a bit antisocial, and today's prevalence of "social media" has been a struggle and challenge.  The antisocial feelings have always been a defensive response to the meanness and ignorance of people in general, and now our society has become even more hostile towards those of us who don't fall lockstep into the common mindset.  I've found myself severely self-censoring ever since Trump was elected because the world has become so hostile towards anyone who thinks for herself and questions the validity and reliability of mass media.  I cancelled my NYT subscription because every time I read an article a day or more after initial publication there were notes of correction where they had failed to adequately fact-check, edit, and/or proofread the original articles.  There's no excuse for that kind of incompetence, especially at that level.  Journalism has become a sad joke of unacceptable lack of quality and accountability.  Anyone who looks truly objectively at what is happening will have to admit that "fake news" is a real thing, and that it is an enemy of free people because it is seeking to control and manipulate the narrative and create its own reality instead of reflecting the actual reality.  We had hoped that Trump's election despite all the horribly wrong polls predicting otherwise would have opened more eyes to the problem of fake news and the media trying to create reality instead of reporting it.  But I guess people love their blinders and don't want to admit that they were fooled by a bunch of unscrupulous "journalists" who have abused the concept of free press to their own ends.  That is the real danger in this fake news movement - it truly does weaken the freedom of expression and the trust in the validity of information.  I would consider that an enemy of the people just as much as anyone else who abuses their power and position for personal gain or for the effect of weakening the people's chosen leadership.  I have been truly afraid of expressing my support for Trump because of the vicious attacks agains anyone who stands up and defends him. Accusations of "racist" are the witch-hunt of today.  The last time I was so afraid to speak my mind was in high school, but at least back then it was only the class bullies who could hurt me.  Now it is the whole of the internet and Facebook itself that can label and punish me for saying something that others might not like.  No wonder the antisocial feelings and paranoia are rising in me and many others.  

Although I think about quitting Facebook I most likely won't, more due to my hoarding tendencies than to social obligation.  After all I still have my landline phone (another thing I hate - talking on the phone).  I keep it because it might need it someday - the typical justification of all hoarders for their keeping everything.  I will keep Facebook because I will need it sometimes to communicate and to send birthday and holiday greetings.  Eventually, Facebook will be as relevant as the landline phone, and even then I'll probably still hate it.  To the friends and loved ones who might find these words, please don't take them personally, but I'm guessing you already knew these things anyway.