We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
No, this isn't going to be one more estrogen-intoxicated "poor women with all their problems" whines. I'll approach it differently, because I feel that this subject is about being human, not about being female.
Sure, men and women are different animals, hard-wired in different ways (You are right, Larry Summers! Don't let those nasty Harvard bitches slap you around. Be a man. I know those women, and they will never be happy - their identity is about being aggrieved victims, as are their careers. Small souls who will never find any happiness). Still, Life is Life for all of us.
The developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson cleverly and wisely outlined the stages of the healthy human life cycle, or at least of the Western Civilization life cycle, based on observation. Once he did it, it all seemed self-evident. At each turn in the road, people are confonted with new challenges and opportunities (Oh, man, does this sound trite.).
At these turning points, the person either faces the demand for emotional growth, or they don't. For many, the life span is relatively smooth (except for life's unavoidable external bumps in the road). For others, depending on a multitude of internal factors including genetic and personality factors, the changes can present big problems and disruption.
We've all known people whose emotional lives never quite seemed to pass childhood, or, more commonly, get stuck in adolescence. We call these things "developmental arrest". These tragic happenings require years of difficult psychotherapy, but are a different subject for another day.
Erikson describes a Middle Adulthood (roughly age 40-65), which presents challenges of "Generativity vs. Stagnation", and a Late Adulthood, dealing with "Integrity vs. Depair."
The stages are not hard and fast, and the issues do smudge all over, but they are good rules of thumb. During statistically-typical Middle Adulthood, families are completing their mission to raise their chicks. Kids are leaving home for college or to take on the Big World, marriages are no longer fresh, many people feel less ambitious and inspired about work, women become menopausal and men become less virile and physically strong. And most become more reflective and gain perspective on life and on themselves.
So it’s no wonder some people ask themselves “What is my life about now?”
Some will claim that anyone who asks that question is self-obsessed; that you just keep on keepin’ on. Maybe so. Maybe it’s like late teenagers worrying about self-fulfillment. Still, many ask the question, and how they answer it is important in shaping the final phase of life.
Sue Shellenbarger, the popular WSJ Family columnist, has written a book about this: The Breaking Point: How Female Midlife Crisis is Transforming Today’s Women. Despite the hysterical title, the fact that this is nothing new and definitely no “new paradigm,” it’s interesting to get inside the heads of middle-aged and late middle-aged women to see what is on their minds.