Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Middle Age Turbulence: the Presage of Growth

I found Anne Morrow Lindbergh's thoughts on the passage into middle-age to be insightful. Here is a quote from her book, Gift from the Sea:

"Many people never climb above the plateau of forty-to-fifty. The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing, are interpreted falsely as sign of decay. In youth one does not as often misinterpret the signs; one accepts them, quite rightly, as growing pains. (snip) But in middle age, because of the false assumption that it is a period of decline, one interprets these life-sign, paradoxically, as signs of approaching death. Instead of facing them, one runs away; one escapes--into depressions, nervous breakdowns, drink, love affairs, or frantic, thoughtless, fruitless overwork. Anything, rather than face them. Anything, rather than stand still and learn from them. One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation.

Angels of annunciation of what? Of a new stage in living when, having shed many of the physical struggles, the worldly ambitions, the material encumbrances of active life, one might be free to fulfill the neglected side of ones self. One might be free for growth of mind, heart, and talent......"

As one who is climbing that middle-age plateau, and at the same time observing my children experiencing adolescence, I was interested in her comparison of the two stages of life. I like the optimism in her words, and her observation that the struggles of life presage growth rather than decay.

I am just beginning to taste the freedom of that new stage of life; a little more solitude, a smidgen of time to devote to personal interests, to develop heart, mind, and talent. I have many years of child rearing and homeschooling ahead of me yet, and my challenge is to balance the freedom with the responsibility.

Perspective seems key in the process of growth. Whether growth in myself or in my loved ones, I need to see the big picture: struggles do not have to destroy us. Struggles strengthen us for new challenges that lie ahead.

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