A turning point in my ministry was the day in late 1981 that I asked the late Edwin Friedman for some pastoral supervision. In those days, he was only talking about his book Generation to Generation, for which a whole generation have come to know him. But what he had to say about emotional process and a dizzying variety of subjects changed my way of thinking and working.
My parents told me, “You can be anything you set out to be.”
In recent years the various modalities of the creative arts therapies including visual art, drama, music, movement and dance, and poetry and writing, have gained widespread use as vehicles for healing in healthcare settings and in psychotherapy.
It was Vita Sackville-West who once wrote:
“I worshipped dead men for their strength,
Forgetting I was strong.”
This may be an important couplet to remember as we consider the topic of women and self-esteem, a topic which seems to me to be at the heart of so many of the other problems that women face in this culture, a culture which is both sexist and patriarchal.
The questions that mid-life raises can be posed in many different ways. Here is how Malcolm X put it over thirty years ago: “We want to know what we are. How did we get to be what we are? Where did we come from? How did we come from there? Who did we leave behind? And what are they doing over there where we used to be?” Identifying the chronological age span that constitutes mid-life can be a dicey proposition since, in the words of Nancy Schlossberg in Adults in Transition, we have become an “age-irrelevant society.” The thirty year old person is the city’s mayor, the sixty-eight year old man is the new father, the forty-three year old woman is a new grandmother, the fifty year old woman re-enters the work force, and the fifty-five year old man takes early retirement. Rather than deal with age as the determiner, then, I would suggest a number of behavioral markers that might signal middle age:
A woman discovers that someone has taken a key and scratched the finish on her new car. A man has made a presentation about a new product and finds his colleagues strangely quiet. Another person has made real efforts to help a friend in distress, but is made to understand that nothing works, his help is worthless. In a classroom where students are seated by academic standing, those in the middle and back show disdain for the “brains” up front. Another person experiences discomfort in receiving gifts or compliments.