How Old Are You?

 

I had a wonderful week last week visiting St. George Island in Florida.  We did the typical beach things – built sand masterpieces (not castles, but mainly sea turtles and mermaids), jumped and dived in the waves, flew kites, walked to the lighthouse on the island, shopped a little (only a few stores), played board games, ate seafood and otherwise relaxed, rested and read a lot of books.   It was a much needed break and time to be together as a family.

It also gave me some time to look at the feelings I have been carrying around this school term.  I adore homeschooling, but I  have lately been more wanting more time to myself, .  I have vacillated between feeling a bit resentful of not having more time to myself and then thinking what would I  even do with this time –   a vocation?  a job? a midlife crisis? (Insert cheeky grin here).   I love homeschooling, adore it, but  often what I want is a few hours a day where I am not on call so to speak and can devote time to my own interests without any of the outside world intruding.  I have  also had this same conversation with many veteran homeschooling mothers, and I know many other homeschooling mothers feel this way (especially, it seems,  those of us in our mid-40s).

I wonder if this is partially just midlife – that strange time and feeling where you wonder is this what life is?  What different path would have taken me somewhere else?  Where is the future really headed?  In past generations, many women had children earlier and often their children were headed off to lives of their own by the time a woman hit her mid-40s.   At this point, a woman really had the time to re-discover herself.  My mother- in- law remarked to me awhile ago that most women in her generation hit menopause by their early 40’s (ie, when she was 40, many of her friends were already menopausal), another sign that life was taking a different turn than previously. Contrast that to this day and age when so many of us in our mid-40s are still in the trenches raising small children or even having babies.  So, part of me wonders if this is programmed from the past – this need to re-discover one’s self apart from children – and if we as a generation are not yet caught up yet  to the reality of having children later.   I feel for me as if these thoughts and feelings started with the seven year cycle that began around age 42, but now is in full swing at age 44.  I keep being drawn back to the words of Betty Staley’s book “Tapestries” about the years 42-49 here.  here..  I am even looking into the years ahead ahead.

Sometimes I also wonder if  this feeling of wanting more and needing to be alone something specific to homeschooling mothers?  We spend so much time and energy as a homeschooling family on our children (and hopefully on our spouses as well, but I guess that is a whole different post!); perhaps it is only natural after some time to feel or want a bit more for oneself.    I don’t feel like a “veteran” homeschooler by any means, but my oldest is in seventh grade and we have been at this for some time without any interruptions.  Perhaps this stage of homeschooling  just contributes to restlessness in general?

I don’t feel burned out or worn out, just thoughtful about the developmental process in adults.  Where are you, and just you alone, these days in your thoughts and feelings?  How old are you and do you think that plays into how you are feeling and what you are wanting at this point in your life?

Love,
Carrie

Let’s Finish Up “Tapestries”: Ages 56-63

No, life does not end at age 63, but for the purposes of our study we will be stopping here.  Betty Staley entitles this chapter, “Getting Older, Getting Better?  The Active Years: 56-63.”

She mentions some of the more salient points regarding this life phase:

We have a new-found peace, calm and simplicity in this stage.

We are living out the depth of our inner experience and emotional maturity.

We develop enthusiasm in this stage through conscious effort.  “The challenge now is to develop a new kind of idealism, what Steiner calls “achieved or mature idealism.””

Another challenge is to respond with empathy to things instead of with ego.

This is a time to prepare for the later years, but it may not be the time to retire.  Betty Staley recites the studies that correlate death and retirement; for example, the peak in the male death rate is two years after retirement.  Therefore, it is important during this phase to think about one will do after retirement and develop new interests, relationships, social outlets.

Marriage in the late 50s, sixties and beyond has the quality of devotion emerging.  “The love of partners and friends has a depth at this period that can rarely be experienced in earlier years when we are oriented much more towards the outer world.  Appreciation and tolerance also characterise this phase.” (page 236)

Betty Staley has several more chapters in this book, including “Looking Back, A Different Perspective:  Beyond 63” and “The Threshold of Death.”

This is a powerful book, and I hope you all have enjoyed going through the seven year cycles from age 21 onwards. 

Yours till next time,

Carrie

More Inspirations from “Tapestries”: Ages 49-56

Yes, we are going to finish going through the seven-year life cycles as they apply to adults ages 21 and older as seen through the eyes of Betty Staley in her wonderful book “Tapestries”.  If you missed the older posts on this and would like to read them, please do hit “seven year cycles” in the tags box and catch up!  There is also a post based on the cycles that occur in marriage and you can find that by hitting “Challenges in Marriage” in the tags box.

We are up to ages 49-56, a time Betty Staley labels as “Reassessing Our Priorities”.    She notes the following things about this stage:

  • We draw closer to our childhood experiences in this age and have a renewed interest in our roots and our family.  We question things such as “Why was I born into this particular family?  This particular culture?  This country?”
  • Through an understanding of our relationships, accomplishments, and struggles, we are able to bring wisdom to these experiences and also gratitude.
  • She remarks that, “By the time we enter this phase, middle-age is a fact of life.  Many of the strong emotions of earlier stages seem far away and even a bit silly.  In fact, it’s hard to remember some of the reasons for our disagreements with friends or partners.  We find ourselves forgiving those who caused us great pain.”
  • The strong urge to compete has diminished.  With it comes freedom to reform our own lives, ourselves, to live according to our own values. 
  • “Unwillingness to look at ourselves objectively and accept criticism will only block our further growth. “  We have to take responsibility for our behavior, and often flexibility decreased during this period of life.  “The big question during this period is whether we will have enough flexibility to learn from the past, or  become too rigid and replay past errors.”
  • Career change is common at this point of life.
  • Often men go through this stage and career change dramatically.  In the past, he may have been the provider and now savings may get used for daily living while he re-tools for a different career.  “It is a strong wife who can keep her family together at this time….”
  • If a woman has been mainly at home and now feels the need to make a career change while a child is still at home, her decision affects the entire family.    All the family is more on their own, and “the feeling of being nurtured is weakened.” 
  • If the woman has been mainly at home, a change will come when her children leave home.  Some women feel abandoned as their children leave the nest one by one, some cannot wait to have time for themselves again. 
  • Children leaving home can also be a challenge to a couple’s relationship.  “It can be a delightful experience to get to know each other again, to have time for each other; or it can spell the ruin of the marriage if a couple discovers that their relationship has deteriorated and was only held together by routine and concern for the children.” 
  • Betty Staley talks about how childhood trauma can cause problems during this period, that early traumatic experiences are woven into the body itself.  Fear of death can be intense during this time period. 
  • Men who come through what is called “the pivotal years” (40-50) are often in three groups – those who had unhappy childhoods and know how bad things can get and who are not frightened by much; those who have a strong sense of responsibility to other people; and then the third group composed of men who never had much ambition, optimism or confidence – since they didn’t set very high goals for themselves, not reaching these goals doesn’t seem so disappointing.  The men in the first two groups seem to come through this seven year phase much better than men in the third group. 
  • This seven year cycle is really about the balance between flexibility and rigidity, the balance of the soul with the art of living, the use of rhythm, the balance between stability and newness.

 

Happy pondering,

Carrie

More Inspirations from Tapestries: How to Transform Yourself during the Ages of 35-42

If we look at the the basis of transformation that occurs during this stage as a product and force of willing, feeling and thinking, Betty Staley writes:

“In our willing we are learning to “walk” in a new way- in other words becoming more aware of what we do, of how to direct our actions so that they pass through our hearts and minds in the service of a higher goal.”

“In our feelings we nurture a quality of devotion so that our hearts become activated to serve what is highest.”  Betty Staley points out this devotion is not only our immediate family, but also may extend to our community and especially to nature.

“In our thinking we have to work to overcome the prejudices which have slotted other people  into convenient categories; we have to stop giving simple reflex answers, or adhering to common opinions and “party lines.”

She also adds on page 160 that, “During this period, as I mentioned, we begin to realize that our physical body no longer has the agility and strength it had before.  So there is a temptation to concentrate only on the physical body, to try to revive some of the old vitality, forgetting that what is really needed is to activate the soul and the spirit. Of course, we need to pay attention to  our health, diet and exercise; but ignoring our inner development is like building a strong shell around an empty space……When we gain the humility to realize we want to work together with spiritual forces or beings greater than ourselves –however we choose to express this –then we can recognize our capacity for contributing to the world.”  This becomes even more pronounced in the new seven year cycle of years 42-49.

Deep food for thought on a cold night,

Carrie

More Inspirations from Tapestries: Ages 42-49

“In our forties we enter a very dramatic stage of life.  Many changes go on which call upon us to wake up and re-evaluate our lives.  This time is often characterized by continuing crisis and change, and by a sense of rebirth.”

-Tapestries, page 175

Betty Staley remarks upon other changes and characteristics of this seven-year cycle:

  • We are more patient with others because we realize we are just starting to understand ourselves.
  • We are more relaxed and warm in our relationships.
  • We have confidence; we are asked for our opinions regarding matters of life.
  • Our personality becomes more individualized
  • The temptation of this phase is POWER.  “We can be tempted to control other people’s lives and to influence situations through the very force of our personalities.”  We have to learn to hold back our energy at times.  Developing patience during this seven year cycle is very important.  Truthfulness becomes very important.
  • This is usually a time of spiritual awakening and connection to the spiritual.  Betty Staley writes, “Many people try to avoid dealing with spiritual questions, but it makes a big difference at this age whether we are asleep or awake to such things, for they are the source of our transformation.” (page 177).  This general question is so important in Waldorf education as we homeschool; we often hear the same concerns regarding the spirituality in the Waldorf curriculum from both the “religious right” kind of parent and the pagan parent.  This is something that MUST be addressed by you, internally and through your inner work and meditation, in order to access the full healing potential of this educational method!
  • This is a stage to find balance in as we attend to elderly parents and children.  This can also be a stage to balance our decreasing physical bodies with other areas.
  • Betty Staley warns that if you do not properly face the changes that belong to this seven year cycle, you can expect an ever bigger crisis in the fifties.
  • Friendship is one of the great comforts and joy in this cycle.  There also comes a new need for more privacy in both spousal relationships and friendships because there is a need to be alone and a need for companionship.  Balance comes into play again.
  • “Our late forties and early fifties is a time for discovering the parts of our personality that did not fit in with our previous image of ourselves.”  (page 179).  For example, a man may suddenly become interested in the home.

Special to Men:  Male vulnerability in this phase can make older men appealing to young women.  If the man is married, a wife may find it difficult to deal with this softening and mellowing of the spouse’s personality.

Special to Couples:  Couples can develop a new loyalty to one another, a new strengthening of love,  if both parties can be patient not only with themselves but with the other person.  If this does not happen and the couple does not transform their relationship, divorce is very common throughout the decades of the thirties, forties and fifties. 

Betty Staley writes about marriage in this period, “  It is during this period that a couple can begin to see marriage as an art form, as the most challenging and complex  of all relationships we create.  We begin to see that marriage is of our own making, and we must take responsibility for  it as a labour of love.  This is the most critical turning-point in marriage.  If it is not consciously grasped, even a good marriage may reach a natural end.”

I have said it before in this blog, and I know I sound like a broken record, but will say it again:  It is worth your time and your energy to nurture your relationship with your spouse. It is very important.  Homeschooling your children should not be a substitute for an intimate relationship with the most important person in your life – your partner or spouse.  Learn how to make love the verb that it truly is, practice patience with your partner or spouse as you also look objectively at your own personality traits.  A mature long-term relationship is scarred, is tender, is happy, is sad, carries the burdens and the joys, is open.    Do not miss it. 

Peacefully yours,

Carrie

More Inspirations from Tapestries: Ages 35-42

“In our late thirties or early forties we meet the results of our actions in the first half of life.  Up until now we have in some ways still been children, but at this stage we become fully responsible for what we do.  The spiritual world has completed its formative influence and withdraws.  The “I”, our unique individuality, has thoroughly penetrated our soul life, and we stand solidly on the earth.  We may feel the pull of gravity, experience a certain heaviness.  We may feel moments of intense inner loneliness, even that we are “dying” inwardly.  We cannot approach life the way we previously have.  It just doesn’t work any more.”

-From Tapestries by Betty Staley, page 149.

  • What she is writing about is the notion during this phase that no one can reassure us, solve our problems, shield us.  We fully experience the consequences of our own decisions.
  • These are the years we are most cut off from inspiration, from ideals, from the things we believed in during our twenties.  How we deal with this stage of life will influence how we move through our forties, fifties, sixties and beyond.
  • We are looking for meaning in what we have done.  We are asking ourselves if we should change, if we are satisfied, what do we really want to do with the time we have on the earth.
  • This period can be a time of physical change and loss of youth.  “It’s an odd feeling when we look in the mirror and begin to see a resemblance to one of our parents, “ the author writes on page 151.
  • But more than physical changes, there are psychological changes.  We feel more mature, like we understand more in life, but also more uncertain.
  • “This period can be a time of loss, doubt, loneliness and self-examination:  a time, above all for questioning everything.”

Special to Women: 

  • Inner doubt can be a hallmark of this phase.  “Where she felt confidence before, she lacks it now. Where did it go?  If she is out in the working world, esteemed by colleagues and excited about her work, it may be different.  Especially if she waited to start her career until after she had children, or her studies went on for a long time, or she lived with her parents and only began her career in her thirties, the crisis may not occur until her mid forties.”
  • For mothers that have been stay-at-home mothers, a woman may feel her life is dull and that she isn’t sure if she likes her kids or her spouse.

Special to Men:

  • “Some men get into their stride during this time, while others begin to feel less and less sure.  Much depends how they evaluate their work-situation.” 
  • Betty Staley writes about how marriages often go through chaos when men are in this phase of life.   Daniel Levinson calls this period for men the “pivotal decade” which he coincides roughly age forty to fifty or forty-five to fifty-five.  Some men panic during this time period and this panic can manifest itself in impulsive decisions. 
  • Betty Staley writes on page  156, “When a man begins to feel middle-age creeping up on him, his strongest urge is to “escape” it, for he has an unconscious sense that facing it will require inner change.  This is even more intense in him than the woman. “
  • She writes about the challenges that men face here, sometimes leading to “the twenty year fracture” – the point where marriages that had seemed solid suddenly collapse.   “Since many marriages today are taking place in the couple’s thirties, the “twenty-years fracture” may occur in their fifties.”  She also adds that a couple is “in for serious trouble when either separately or together they cannot find new spiritual  content in their lives.  If they can experience new purpose in their relationship and become conscious of their struggle they may work their way through to new aims.”

(This really struck me personally; nurturing your marriage is so very important.  There have been some blog posts on this if you search the tag box under “challenges in marriage” and I will definitely write some more about this important subject.  If your marriage and family collapses, you cannot focus on homeschooling.  Your marriage is vitally important, do not make the mistake of making your children your marriage.  Your partner is who you are married to , not your children.   Sometimes I see pictures of a family, and it is only the mother and child with the husband not pictured (and there is a husband in the family) or I see a picture of the family and all the kids are crowded around the mom and the dad is sitting of to the side in the family portrait.  It always gives me a funny feeling inside.  Ladies, do not shut dads out in the younger years of parenting and then expect things to be different later on (and yes, I am aware some dads are just not involved no matter how much the mother tries to help dad be involved).  However, if you set the tone in your home think about how you nurture the relationship between your children and their father, and your relationship with  More on this in a later post).

  • Another odd characteristic of this phase is possibly recurring dreams of your partner dying.
  • On page 155, Betty Staley writes, “One of the characteristics of this period is dealing with our negative view of others.  In the previous soul period we were beginning to see the faults of our partner, but the experience now intensifies.”  She talks about how we see our partner’s negative traits far better than our own.  (Carrie’s note here: Ouch).
  • “The moment we start to face the negative aspects of ourselves is a turning point both in our own individual development and as a couple……Instead of blaming the other, we can see how our own actions triggered the other person’s reaction. Admitting our responsibility for causing pain to the other person can release amazing capacities of trust and caring.”
  • “There are so many positive experiences that emerge from this difficult period.  Perhaps the  most important is clarity and honesty. We begin to see the difference between imposing our wishes on a person, a situation, forcing something to come out the way we want it and learning to listen to what is really wanted.  Life is no longer a struggle for power.  Egoism begins to give way to understanding.  Instead of putting ourselves in the center of our experiences we will be able to perceive others and their needs.”

Next post:  The three essential things you MUST do during this period to move to the next phase with a sense of renewal.

Lots of food for thought in this wonderful chapter,

Carrie

Inspirations from Tapestries: Ages 28-35

Betty Staley entitles the chapter about this age range, “Trying to Organize Our Lives,” and discusses how around the age of 28 many of us feel it is time to become more conscious about our lives, our decision-making, our plans and goals for the future.

She talks about for some people how around age 30, some men realize already they are having more physical limitation than in their twenties and some women notice their bodies are changing.  I personally was curious about this from the perspective that we are certainly living longer than in the time of Rudolf Steiner, so I wondered how many of you found this to be true.  I have heard more women comment to me about their bodies changing and about it being harder to lose weight and such closer to the age of 40 than 30.  I wonder also if this is because so many of us are delaying childbearing until our 30s.  Please leave a comment in the comment box and share your experience.

Betty Staley writes that there are not only physical changes to be reckoned with, but changes within the way we relate to others. She writes, “The bold confidence of our twenties starts giving way to more sensitive awareness of ourselves.  We may no longer be satisfied by just relying on our feelings:  we become more inward, perhaps more subdued.  It is time to become realistic and practical, to take stock of what are we doing and organize our time.”

She talks about how we use our critical intellect to help us organize things, but how this can also be something that pierces and wounds the people around us as we step back and see more and more faults and imperfections and become cold and critical.  We have to work hard in this stage to look not just objectively at others, but also at ourselves.  How do we learn to appreciate other people?  How do we develop concern and compassion for others that transcends our own feelings of woundedness and loneliness?

The thirties can be a positive time of life as things settle down, become calmer, become more focused.  It can be a time to look deep within one’s self at one’s current situation.    “There can be a conflict here between our previous dreams and ideals, and present realities.  How can we realize both?”

Typically there are no easy answers to this question.  Men in particular can have competing desires and wishes.  Daniel Levinson writes about the ages of 21-35 being the “Onward and Upward Phase” for men.  He writes:

“Fatherhood is not the all-important role in a man’s life.  His starring role as he sees it during the Onward and Upward years is that of the promising young man on his way up.  He has important tasks to accomplish.  He is driven by the need for achievement.”

Betty Staley writes that this can be an age where many friendships break apart, and there can be loneliness.  She also writes about the importance of having a mentor and building relationships with friends who have similar values to you.   Do you have a mentor in the areas of parenting and homemaking?  This could be something important if you are in this age range of 28-35 years.   

Rudolf Steiner saw the period of age 30-33 as analogous to the last three years of the life of Jesus Christ, often a period of being in the “valley of the shadow of death.”  Perhaps renewal is around the corner if we can progress past the challenges of this phase:

“The great inner challenge during this phase from 28-35 is to transform critical judgment into thoughtful consideration, allowing emotions to ripen into feelings; to take more time to make decisions, and to bring to the light of the mind and warmth of the heart together in a more conscious way.”

This has implications for both marriage and motherhood.  For mothers in this age range, Betty Staley writes about the importance of strengthening themselves during this time.  She writes of the importance of having private time everyday for “inward activity”.  She also writes about the importance of learning how not to use the sharp-edged intellect of this phase to judge our partners and spouses. 

She writes on page 130 that we do not need to explain or apologize for the things our spouses do because it is not our place to judge, nor do we know our mate so very well that we need to protect other people from his or her faults.  “A point comes in a relationship- and in this case it can be in a close friendship as well as in a marriage – when we let go.  We no longer ask, Why am I with this person?  We no longer add up the irritations, marking them in some invisible account book.  The moment arrives when all that disappears and we acknowledge he is our partner or friend, and accept him totally.”

When people marry in their thirties instead of their twenties, then neither person has formed the other.  The ideas and habits of each person are more set, that as partners they tend to respect one another but humor and tolerance are needed.  More freedom is needed in some ways.  She writes that second marriages often have these characteristics as well.  She also talks about the research showing people born after 1966 are tending to study until age 30 or live at home for longer periods, and how this may postpone the entrance into adulthood by ten years.

A very full chapter with lots of food for thought.

Thanks for reading,

Carrie