Ages and Stages

One of my aunts had a favorite adage she used to explain her children’s behavior.  “It’s just a stage,” she said nonchalantly, when my cousin Michael took to wearing a cowboy hat and chaps 24 hours per day.  “It’ll pass.”   It became something of a joke in our family, and whenever someone was behaving badly, or feeling depressed, or being obnoxious in some way, we’d wave our hand in the air and say, “It’s just a stage – it’ll pass.”

Over the years, I’ve found that old saying quite comforting.  And, looking back on my life, particularly the childrearing years, I can see it was also very true.  One thing you learn from raising a child is that nothing lasts forever – not colic or dirty diapers, not even curfews and noisy rock music.  Child rearing is growth and change in action, and every part of it is a stage waiting to pass.

But how about adult life?  Do we go through stages there as well?  In the novel I’m reading, Lady of the Snakes, by Rachel Pastan, Jane Levitsky, the main character is visiting a former college professor and mentor who has decided to relinquish her academic career in favor being a full time mother to her three preschool age children. 

Don’t you miss it?” Jane asked, her voice barely audible above the baby’s clamoring and Abby’s angry protesting, and the sound of birds squawking in the next room.  “Don’t you miss having a career? An intellectual life?”

“Not much,” her friend replied.  “I think of this as a stage.  My housewife stage.  I had my intellectual stage; who knows what will come next”?

Interesting idea, isn’t it?  That we can divide our lives into functional stages – the intellectual stage, the housewife and mother stage, perhaps the learning stage or the creative stage, or the knitting stage, or the traveling stage…well, you get the idea.

It was a meme that set me thinking about this.  Greenish Lady tagged me for it last week, and the first question is “What were you doing ten years ago?”   In May of 1998, I was just about to embark on the empty nest stage.  My son was graduating high school and getting ready to move to Florida.  Additionally, I was also heavily involved in my musical stage, working as an accompanist and becoming a full time member of a professional handbell ensemble.  And it was music that helped me traverse the rough spots in that empty nest stage, by occupying my time in a fulfilling way and allowing me to build strong relationships with other women who have since become my dearest friends.

But I think ten years might be long enough to remain in this particular stage, and perhaps it’s time to pass on to the next.  Last night was my final concert at the high school where I’ve been accompanying since 1993.  I mean final as in “last and forever.”  (You might remember I’ve said that before, but this time I really mean it.)  And there isn’t one iota of regret about that decision – only relief, and a feeling of “been there, done that.”

And, although I left Classical Bells four years ago, I’ve been asked to consider returning for one year to join them on a performance tour of France in May 2009.  And though part of me thrills at the idea of performing in the American Church in Paris, another (much larger) part quails at the thought of the hours of rehearsal and performing I’d be in for during the months leading up to the trip. *shudder*

As I ponder these decisions, I realize the most appealing thought of all is spending time dedicated to my own quiet pursuits – writing, reading, walking, working on some music that I’ve chosen for myself, perhaps even taking a cooking class or learning to knit. 

Would there be a name for a stage like that?  And would I be incredibly selfish to endulge in it?

Perhaps I should simply give it a try – after all, it’s only a stage. 

It’ll pass.

How about you?  What stages have you gone through? 

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10 thoughts on “Ages and Stages

  1. I’ll admit that when I started reading the sentence about your “last” accompaniment commitment, I was thinking exactly what you wrote in the very next sentence. I’m glad for you that you’ve done this your way, taken your time and gone back when you felt the pull, but are now choosing to move on to another stage. No regrets that way.

    I think the quiet pursuits you’ve listed sound wonderful and can wholeheartedly recommend knitting as a challenging yet calming pastime.

    My current phase: exploration.

  2. What a way to look at it. I like it. It means that we can move on to something else eventually. I need to believe that right now – everything in its own time.

    I’m happy for you. I hope you do take the time to pursue things that will bring you satisfaction and contentment.

  3. Yes, of course, life is traversed in stages. I’m glad for you you’ve drawn a close to the stage that was no longer satisfying for you, and the description of that new stage is very attractive indeed. Would that be the “coming into your own” stage? I don’t know I could name all my stages really, but I love Gail Sheehy’s description of life as having stages that run: adolescence – first adulthood – coalescense – second adulthood. I think I’m in my second adulthood now (most of the time. sometimes I’m in my second childhood, too!)

  4. I’ve wondered sometimes why we find it so easy to accept that a teenager needs experiences different than an 8-year-old, but find it difficult to accept that a 50-year-old might be ready for a different kind of life than that possessed as a 35-year-old.

    The Benedictines claim that there is time in every day for everything you need to do: for work, for prayer, for community, for self. I’d like to think that a life likewise offers time to develop facets, to explore many pursuits. Your ambitions to read, knit, write, and dream sound lovely.

    As always, it’s a treat to stop by here and read. Thanks for a wonderful post!

  5. I like looking at life as “stages” — and we’ll move on from it…but I like to savour each stage for what it “is”, for what it “represents”, and to think that the next stage is going to be even further proof of my growth and development. Loved this post Becca!

  6. Very nice post. Yes, I think there are stages of life–I’ve recently finished my college stage and then a working every day stage and now I’m in a little tiny child stage. Because I anticipate this stage lasting a while, I hope to blend in other things–why not have some intellectual exploration in this stage as well? I anticipate loving this stage of life, and I hope to make the most of everything throughout my life.

  7. I come via Anno’s blog and her meme. I knew that if Anno was curious to know more about you, I was up for something good. I am glad I came and read your great posts. I will be back.

  8. Sometimes I think my life has distinct stages, almost different lives – I’ve started over from scratch a few times. The smaller stages seem to come and go, flowing one into another. I think of those as a winding path that may loop back upon itself or take me to a new place entirely. When life isn’t so easy it helps to think of it as a stage. It reminds me it will pass.

  9. I’m glad you’re moving forward for you Becca. This can be your “getting published” stage. 😉

    I’ll be thinking of the joyful return on Thursday.

    I’m in my “seeking an outside social life” stage.

    XXOO

  10. There are definitely life stages that one identifies with. I had the decade of being an inquisitive newspaper reporter and freelance writer/photographer, another stint as a daring firefighter/EMT, five years of being a very tired caregiver, and now I’ve moved into more of a nesting, home arts stage filled with knitting, crocheting, dogs, and just liking being at home. Eventually I’ll move on to another stage that includes more things on the outside rather than home related.

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