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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Afternoon of My Life

*This is what I aspired to be in my youth.

I've been thinking lately about an earlier post I made concerning my changing spiritual landscapes. Listening to the lovely Wayne Dyer in my car reminded me that Carl Jung said 'the afternoon of our life cannot be lived by the morning's rhythm.' Meaning that what is true for us in the morning of our life (youth) - our beliefs, desires, pathways etc, become in the afternoon of our lives a lie. Or at the very least - an ill fit. The afternoon of life can come to some people in early childhood - as whatever circumstances they find themselves in beats the last remaining idylls of childhood from their psyche. It can be through loss or failure or illness or pain and fear. For others the afternoon of life hits somewhere between early 30's and late 40's, when suddenly they question everything for which they once stood and to which they once held dear. For me, this questioning of everything has been going on, at least consciously, for the last year or two. I have not come to any firm conclusions and I do not think that this is the point of the experience anyway. I think that it is more a slow taking stock of one's life and a realisation that some things to which I have held on should be let go of.

In matters spiritual, I am a creature of habit. Or should that be, a creature of obsession. I longed to fulfil this ideal I have always held of myself as some mysterious priestess of all things spiritual. I imagined myself to be something akin Misty from that wonderful comic into which I disappeared as a sometimes unhappy and always mystically curious tween. Or as a modern day Morgan Le Fey (and who doesn't secretly want this sometimes) from Marion Zimmer Bradley's 'Mists of Avalon' - spending my life in service to the Goddess, sequestered away from the world and all its woes until such time as the Goddess had need of me. I know. I'm a horrible romantic. Or. Something.

This is why as a young woman witchcraft felt like a homecoming to me. I don't doubt that I have been here before, occupying this same familiar spiritual space and now, in the midst of spiritual change, I find myself clinging to this way of life, this pattern of spiritual practices despite my soul stretching itself out of its now restrictive form. It's not that I think that I will ever stop being a bit of a pagan at heart (or should that be hope?). It's not even that I think that this spiritual path is inferior in any way to any other. I love this path for its humour, for its cheekiness and for its grounded philosphy of nurturing self and the earth and I will hold onto those things for life. I just know that I crave more simplicity now. A simpler way of connecting with the Divine. A more direct conduit than I have been afforded to date.

For the longest time I thought that I had to 'know' what incarnation my spirit wanted me to take next. I thought that I needed to label my spiritual path and my journey in order for it to be authentic. I have only recently come to realise that this is not true. In fact, by seeking to label and to box and to 'belong', I have been unable to move forward or to embrace the simplicity of spirit I long for. My need to control my environment, even my spiritual environment (maybe even especially this) has been standing in the way of me embracing any change. The reason this comes back to me now (though thankfully with a little more clarity) is because of Jungs ideas of the 'afternoon of life' and how by not embracing it we stop growing and evolving and moving forward. I am very definitely in the afternoon of my life. I have been for a couple of years at least but I just didn't know it. I have mourned my loss of youth and beauty even as I have railed against the need to do just that. I have owned my youth envy every time I see a beautiful young thing float past on a cloud of sweet perfume and even sweeter promise. I have accepted that I am no longer the bright young thing that I once was (though I reserve the right to have a minor tanty about it when it occurs to me) and I'm learning to be ok with that. It's not that I have hit middle age - at least not yet. The afternoon of our lives is not synonymous with becoming middle aged, (though for those of us nearing 40, this may well be middle age supposing we live to be 80), it's more that it's a slow dawning consciousness that our lives and our dreams and our ideals have changed and with that change has to come acceptance and then right action. I do not currently know what my 'right action' might be but I am allowing a gap to open up in my psyche (Look out! Bats!). This is a supremely uncomfortable place for me to be in right now. I do not like not knowing. Especially when it comes to Spirit because I have defined myself for so long as belonging to that group of people called 'witch' or at the very least 'pagan'. However, I think that without being prepared to sit in this space and wait for whatever happens next, I risk becoming a spiritually inauthentic being. By that I mean that I will forever be stuck in the same groove without it being either spiritually nourishing and without evolving as a person. This I do not want.

So, as I accept that the afternoon of my life is upon me and that I cannot hope to know 'what next?', I find myself curiously detached and strangely opened, like a ripe fruit, waiting for the seeds to spill out of my pomegranate self and fertilise new ground. I almost like it. Almost. I am open, calling in a new song and hoping that when it comes I can sing it and sing it well.

Talking of singing (nice segueway) - I have recently discovered this amazing site (which will seriously expand your bandwidth!) and through it discovered some truly amazing artists. The site is Last.FM, its free and it's a way to discover more music than you could have thought possible. I am already addicted. Through last.fm I have discovered the genius of William Fitzsimmons (beautiful, beautiful music) and the lovely Vienna Teng. The idea is that you type in an artists whose music you love and it will then produce a list of people who produce a similar type of music or music with a similar 'feel'. You can then create your own 'radio' station of the type of music you like whilst discovering new artists all the time. You can even tune in to William Fitzsimmons Radio where every tenth track is one of his but the other tracks are by other artists you might enjoy. It's pure genius. I already have a list of artists (mainly female and folksy) that I want to hear more of. Check it out - it's way more fun than Facebook which, frankly, I'm over.

So - as I slip off, or possibly swim off, in a pool of my own perspiration (Hate this weather. Hate it. Peh!) to more article writing and some random pootling about, I leave you with a question. What was true for you in the morning of your life that is no longer so? What things have you let go of?

*Wonderful b&w image courtesy of The Sartorialist.


Griffin said...

Hmm, the morning of my life came late to me. I wanted to be a Curator, because they got to work with the lovely things. Two years ago I let it go and it hurt. It felt like I'd failed myself somehow.

Now, I wouldn't go back to it. I just don't know what to do next. I haven't since I walked away from museums. I still collect but I want something else...and I don't know what that is.

Working at the university tho' I am SOOO used to seeing the young things sailing by as if the world belonged to them. There's a few I would give it to as well. Mostly I mutter, 'Bloody Kids!' because I am old enough to be their dad after all!

docwitch said...

This post has struck such a chord with me.

And Misty! That was my absolute fave! I ordered it every week from the Newsagents in NZ, and there has been nothing like it since!

Anyway. In regards to your question - in some ways I am having to let go of things from my 'morning', but much of that has been a huge relief. And although I am slightly miffed that a woman over 30ish with child/ren is invisible in this culture, and I do at times grieve the loss of my youthful beauty. But I have to say that I have been very relieved, and liberated by the fact that I am no longer hassled, and followed EVERY FUCKING day in the street by men, (now that I'm an old bag of 37).

I realise now how inhibited I felt as a young woman, how preyed upon, how anxious, and how much I fervently wished at times to be ugly and unnoticed. That's sad isn't it?

Anyway, in other ways I want to get back to the path I was on in the morning of my life. My true, intuitive path that I pursued so naturally - growing and working with herbs, singing, dancing, reading, designing and making clothes, writing, journeying (spiritually and physically). Everything flowed for many years, freely and fiercely. It's as I emerged from the Maiden stage, and emerged into a new power (ironically) that I felt the loss of connection from that source. Not through motherhood itself, but in saturating myself in the fears and pressures of those around me. I absorb the energy of others too easily, and take it on as my own.

But now, I think I'm returning to myself. And I have to say that as I'm entering the afternoon of my life, what I have found along the way are some incredible friendships and connections with women - the discovery of a community that is incredibly empowering.

I'm so sorry to ramble. As I said, this post of your has struck a real chord with me. I should be banging on about this on my own blog.

Mon said...

Great post.

A few years back I discovered the pagan community. BOY was that a whole new world for me. Something I discovered was that so many were either obsessed with defining their spiritual path with a label (usually the younger ones) or were self-confined by their choice.

Language is a beautiful thing, but it is an enormous barrier to the evolution of Spirit. It is a tool, we can connect with like-minded souls, and communication can be easier. But rather than realising that language is a nothing more than a poor attempt to reflect back our world, so many of us believe it to be the truest reflection of Reality out there. Yes, it becomes a box, a self-imposed one.

As for uncomfortableness and pain - spiritually evolving that is like, you know, Life Changing, is painful. It is something to do with meeting our true Self only by diving into the deepest abyss.

And there's another misconception - Darkness. But that's another conversation....

Not living by the morning's rhythm seems so obvious, yet the familiar will always whisper its allure of safety.

sol y luna said...

Wow, another beautiful post AW, which struck a chord with me also. You know that I've been on a very similar journey with redefining all my old perceptions of self which used to fit so snugly.

My spirit has been yearning for an expression more simple and earthy. Massage, doggedly defining myself as sweet and accommodating, buoying others' dreams and not my own...these things are definitely on the way out the back door. Scary, but it feels good doesn't it? To surrender, open, and feel the slap of those bats' wings! Great image. I'm so excited for you, and for myself. For all of us, baby! Like docwitchy, my life's afternoon is becoming about nourishment, creativity, and the friendship of women. I do get a pang of Oh, god. Youth. Why is my skin fitting bit by bit like a set of baggy pantyhose? But at the same time, again like docwitchy, I feel freed from all the stifling insecurity and (mostly) unwanted attention of youth. I feel a different sort of power; older deeper darker, and I like it. I see it in you. The afternoon is a fine stage indeed. By the way, I'm loving Wayne Dyer right now, too. Thanks, sweetness. xx