Monday, April 1, 2013

Turning 50: The Rousing Benefits of Self-Fulfillment

There’s something rousing about heading into my 50thyear while the last of my three children is firming up plans to head off to college in the fall.  Rousing in that way getting the wind knocked out of you in say, dodgeball is maybe rousing, or stupefying, or just leaves you gasping for a breath while your last breath is forced out.  Rousing. 

What better way to end or mark 1/2 a century then to start anewThe finalization of a divorce and the paperwork that has trickled through slowly and incongruently has forced a great deal of processing, and questioning and coming to terms with some pretty heady issues.   This has kept me somewhat stuck, but also perhaps glued, as opposed to entirely being forced to come undone.  I have been stuck the way someone in fear of drowning may take the doggie-paddle to exhaustive measures to stay afloat but not make much progress, or cover much distance.   

The aftermath of loudly flailing about in an effort to stay afloat and stuck in the process has brought on some unpleasant speculation that has been shared by a couple brave enough to go there.  It relates to a sense that perhaps, I have been, maybe slightly, or even a great deal, calling attention self-ward.  It may have seemed self-involved.  Or self-directed.    And, even before it was stated out loud, by one and then another, I had certainly self-reflected about this very sense of self-interest, which really hasn’t been self-absorption, as much as it has been self-concern in an effort for self-preservation, and self-survival in order to not lose all sense of self. 

Realizing, so late in the game, I have not been alone ever has not made me feel particularly pleased with myself.  I have had a weekend here or there maybe 5 over the past 50 years,  in which I have been separate from siblings, parents, spouse and/or children, which isn’t quite the same as being alone.  So reaching this phase of my life with the big bright reality that I will be by my very self indefinitely, came as a bit of a rushed, thrill, of epic proportions that might have caused me to loudly convince myself and anyone within a screeching sound wave that I WAS GOING TO BE JUST GREAT AND FINE AND SUPER DUPER SWELL!  SEE?  LOOK.  EVERYONE.  ANYONE.  SOMEONE.  Rousing.

Another reality I have been faced with is tackling the actuality that I have not exactly been spending a great deal of time on myself in a way that feels comfortable, or natural or slightly ordinary.  And certainly not healthy. The screaming, spinning, attention making noises and flashing lights that have been coming from me over the past year or two have been similar to someone starting tuba lessons at 50.  Someone like myself, tone deaf and incapable of carrying a tune in a bucket or a wagon or an 18 wheeler semi tractor trailer with acoustic engineering built into the cavernous articulated lorry.  (Rousing....the dead.)

I'm not big on self-involvement.  Or selfishness.  In spite of my loud, obnoxious status reports to convince my way through a day, a week, or maybe a rough month.  I don't really like a great deal of attention.  It causes me to break into hives, and turn bright red.  And although these signs can easily be attributed to the hot flashing sweats of being a few seconds away from turning 50,  I have suffered these symptoms throughout my pre-and peri-menopausal years.   Throw into the mix my cultural heritage.  The Irish Catholic are not particularly known for self-care.  You don’t run into a great deal of Irish spas, or meditation centers, or Irish fashion houses or shopping plazas.  Irish woolen jumpers and rompers are generally made to withstand sea salt erosion, windy tempests, peat fires, nuclear meltdowns and great bouts of self-despair.  Those cream colored, hand-knit Aran sweaters will look the same as the day they were made, and smell like the sheep they were shirred from for eternity.   

Self-indulgent, high-maintenance, primping and prettifying measures?  Well, there's my Irish skin, with rough dry patches of red and raw that does not take well to those very high maintenance habits of the self-indulgent.  Fragrant lotions, wrinkle reducing remedies, facials can not be had for fear of my skin reacting in bad temper and deep defense.  Redder and more raw,  causing people to stare and attend, not worth the angry skinned outcomes.  I was made to be humble, and somewhat self-less, lest I seek the attentions of a God that will shame me and suffer my offspring's offspring, or some such Blarney attributed to my kind.   We, Irish do however, have the crystal, the bright sparkly bling for the whiskey, to dull those self-despairing senses.  I have personally added a few pieces of the lower-rate Waterford collection to my kitchen if that might be counted toward self-care and selfishness, so be it.  My offspring will not suffer quite so much from this cheap, or economically sound transgression.  I felt a little self-indulgent in the purchasing of it just the same. 

Approaching 50 and deciding to start throwing out that I am an artist has thrown things off course a bit.   My art, and my process in embracing myself as an artist has been healing and life saving.  It has given me an outlet.  A blank space to fill with anything, everything, nothing.  It has forced me to speak and given me a voice. It has depersonalized some of my experience enough to allow it to become universal and communal and a part of something so much larger than me.  Which comforts me a great deal.  It makes me less alone.  It connects me to the shared experiences of others and it quiets my screams and fears and feelings of uncertainty.  Sometimes, it even celebrates the fears and uncertainties.   My art has anchored me to a place and people, for now.  It has also pushed me to take risks, safely out of my comfort zone.  It has provided me with a purpose in seeking out attention comfortably, for venues and shows.  It has been a grounding force, or maybe more of a calming benefit of me, this newly discovered organic self.

As I watch my children grow and strengthen and become more of themselves, and less of their perceived obligations and expectations of others, (such as myself) I’m self-satisfied.  Self-fulfilled.  As they go off and live their lives as they were meant to, I'm learning to balance, or limit self-sacrifice and avoid self-depletion.  I am content with being alone, now, finally.  I’m quieted enough to realize I am filled up with love.  Hopeful and proud.  What better way to preserve a sense of self than to have committed to being your best self so that another, or more, can shine and sparkle and gain attention?  Rousing, isn't it?

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