Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of living, it doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come.
In my last blog post, To know sorrow, I wrote about the loss of dear friends. Unfortunately, they will not have the opportunity to do this exercise. I invite you to consider your life with reverence. View your journey with compassion for the person you were and who you are now. Don’t linger too long in the past but learn from it and, if you want, change what you can. It’s possible to do things differently at any stage of life.
If you’re a woman of “a certain age,” then you’ve probably weathered more than a few storms.
One of the benefits of aging is the ability to slow down enough to look back and evaluate our lives. We have patterns of behavior in our reactions to external events. We can decide whether or not they have been effective, or, if something needs to change. As adults, we never stop learning and growing. Wisdom emerges out of experience.
Take time to pause for reflection. See what you can learn about yourself. Of course, mistakes have been made, but don’t wallow in regret. Use all of your experiences as an opportunity for learning. It’s never too late to change.
Before the fruits of prosperity can come, the storms of life need to first bring the required rains of testing, which mixes with the seeds of wisdom to produce a mature harvest.
~ Lincoln Patz
The southern hemisphere is entering harvest time. The fruits of labor are evident in farmer’s markets and home gardens. Our personal stages of growth, physical, mental and spiritual, have similarities to the patterns in nature.
Let’s return, for a moment, to ancient female images that represent the harvest.
Ceres, a Roman goddess, was beloved for her service to mankind in giving them the gift of the harvest, the reward for cultivation of the soil. She was credited with teaching humans how to grow, preserve, and prepare grain and corn. Demeter is her Greek counterpart.
The Native American Corn Mother is also known as Corn Woman, Corn Maiden and Yellow Woman. Corn Mother is a nourishing aspect of the Goddess. She represents the bounty of earth. The major themes associated with Corn Mother are abundance, energy, fertility, harvest, health, grounding, and strength.
Archetypes reflect the collective conscious of human experience. They transcend time and place. They provide a rich and meaningful connection to centuries of human experience. Archetypal images, such as Ceres and Corn Mother, help us understand ourselves. As women growing up in Western society, we’ve been denied easy access to these potent images. Fortunately, now we can now invoke their power and knowledge as we seek to harvest our inner worlds.
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.
~ Carl Sagan
What have you created for yourself throughout your lifetime?
There are many different techniques we can use for self-evaluation. I’ll offer you three. Work with whatever appeals to you the most.
Ira Progoff coined the term Steppingstones for use in At a Journal Workshop. Steppingstones are major life stages. They are signposts along the road of our individual lives. They also change over time. When I was 28 and first studied Progoff’s journaling methods, my Steppingstones were much different than they are now.
Get out your journal or some paper and identify each Steppingstone in your life, either by a brief phrase or by a single word. List 8 – 10 major life events. Approach these questions with kindness and curiosity.
- What adjectives come to mind when you consider each Steppingstone?
- What kind of person were you then?
- What feelings did you have about yourself?
- What relationships have the most inner importance to you?
- Were there outer activities that were a focus for your energies?
- What situations or occurrences concerned your body?
- What groups or institutions have a fundamental connection to your existence?
- Did unexpected or unexplained events take place? How did these change the course of your life?
- Did you come to a crossroads that affected the course of your future in a fundamental way?
- What profound truths remain from this time?
- What were your deepest yearnings or moments of ecstasy?
- When did you feel a sense of connectedness to life?
- When were you most disconnected?
It will take time to consider the answers to these questions, but doing so will yield a valuable crop of information for self-evaluation.
2. The Third Act
In her TedTalk, Jane Fonda refers to life after 60 as the Third Act. In screenwriting, the third act is an important one. The three acts are exposition, rising action and resolution. Our Third Act gives us a sense of who we really are.
Consider your life as a play.
- How was the stage set in your first act?
- What events stand out in your second act?
- How would you like to write your third act?
- What needs to be included?
- Who played leading roles?
- What key events determined the course of your life?
The Third Act is a significant developmental stage of life. How can we best use this time? Ms. Fonda encourages us to move towards “wisdom, wholeness, and authenticity.” There remains enormous potential in aging. What feels undone? What needs to be resolved?
3. Life Domains
Psychologists divide life into six major domains:
- Physical and mental health.
- Spirituality and values.
- Family and friendships.
- Jobs, careers and meaningful activities.
- Use each life domain for self-examination.
- Where do you view yourself as successful?
- How do you define success?
- Are there domains you’ve neglected?
- Where would you prefer to concentrate your energy now?
Try breaking down a domain into Steppingstones to glean more information about yourself.
Ms. Fonda also suggests that we can go back and revise our relationship to the events of the past and create more positive feelings. It’s not the experiences we have, it’s the reflection on the experiences that helps us become whole and authentic. We have a lot to glean.
The key to life is resilience, and I’m old enough to make such a bald statement. We will always be knocked down. It’s the getting up that counts. By the time you reach upper middle age, you have started over, and over again.
~ Dominique Browning
Being able to see the big picture comes with age. Life is a cornucopia of abundance and nourishment. Take the time to do your life review. View your life as the gift it is. Embrace what you learn from your experiences. Continue to grow and evolve as you live out your Third Act.