The Art of Midlife: Courage and Creative Living for Women

By Linda N. Edelstein | Go to book overview

PART II
RECONNECT TO THE SELF

Even if we have avoided change before, midlife presents possibilities. Relinquishing old ways was just the beginning, maybe the most difficult. Next, we reconnect to ourselves.

Rollo May called creativity "the encounter of the intensively conscious human being with his or her world."1 In art, we do not judge the greatness of a poem or painting by its exact likeness to clouds in the sky or a vase of flowers; we accept the artist's vision, the subjective world that resulted from her encounter with reality, the objective world. That can be our metaphor. We encounter life and its problems as honestly as possible, engage them completely, and use what we learn to construct a better life.

To encounter is to enter into a relationship. Carolyn, an occupational therapist who is also partially deaf, had never worked in the world of the hearing impaired. When she got a job working with deaf people, she "was confronted with an enormous amount to learn, but also had to face what it was doing to me . . . and I really began to think about what it meant to me to have grown up with an invisible handicap. People had no sense that I was perceiving the world differently, and basically I didn't know. I had no awareness of the impact that not hearing had on me." It opened up more than a career for Carolyn; as she put it, "it set me on my way."

To encounter is to make contact. It has nothing to do with winning or losing; it has to do with keeping the appointment, with being there. I do not refer to a physical presence only. As a child, I sat through geography lessons and never encountered the subject. As an adult, this still happens in other contexts. My use of the term "encounter" here refers to an emotional as well as a physical meeting, marked by receptivity to people, ideas, feelings, sights, and sounds outside of ourselves. Why? Because when we live exclusively within ourselves, there is not enough stimulation and excitement, not enough newness. Women are particularly good at being receptive to ideas and feelings from inside and outside, so we have a ready-made advantage.

With this advantage, we begin to think creatively as we bring ideas into our minds, take them apart, play with them, and toss them around until they become our own. The reconstruction is ours -- how we put thoughts and feelings together, what we add or subtract, and how we turn it all

-71-

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