Monday, August 3, 2009

She Said: How to Stay 29 Forever

Most of you must know by now that I am close to having that BIG birthday. And you also know that I'm really fighting it. An upcoming event that exacerbates the problem is that my first grandchild will be born in that same month. It's not that I don't want a new baby in the family, it's just that--I don't have any desire to be a grandma. I'm not moving gracefully into that stage of life.

That there is a term for "mid-life crisis" shows that I am not alone in this. Like many my age, I'm doing everything I can to stave off old age. I have changed my diet, I exercise faithfully 5 times a week, I moisturize! Dylan Thomas' villanelle has become more and more meaningful to me:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

In Jungian psychology the puer aeternus, or the Peter Pan figure, is an archetype, or a "primordial, structural element of the human psyche".
Luckily, like all archetypes the puer (or puella, for women) has both a positive and an negative aspect. The positive side of the puer is the Divine Child who symbolizes newness, potential for growth, hope for the future. He is open to new beginnings, is imaginative, inspirational, and a dreamer in the positive sense. He also foreshadows the hero that he sometimes becomes. The negative side is the child/adult who refuses to grow up and meet the challenges of life face on. On this side, certain life patterns keep on being repeated again and again without the achievement of any real inner or outer change.

I feel a certain empathy for those who relate to the Peter Pan myth. Michael Jackson is often cited as the most well-known recent example of this phenomenon:
In a 2003 interview, Jackson told interviewer Martin Bashir, "I am Peter Pan". Bashir said, "No, you're Michael Jackson". Jackson then stated, "I'm Peter Pan in my heart".

I am Peter Pan in my heart, too.

I assume that Dr. B., in responding to this post, will tell me to grow up. In overcoming the Peter Pan mentality, Rahima Spottiswood mentions "the themes of abandonment and danger" that one must face, "the trials and ordeals suffered by all child gods and youthful heroes of myth and legend which reflect back to us the human condition of which we are all a part." It is true, I am afraid of abandonment. I am fearful of going forward, of aging, of losing the magic and the faith and the simplicity of childhood.

Some psychologists have said that archetypes cannot be chosen or abandoned. It is not necessary that the archetype be overcome. It needs to be recognized as the gift it is and worked with. Once the psyche understands what kind of archetype it is carrying, the individual can find ways to work with it in order to release its projections and take back the energy. In this way, the archetype can become an ally to the individual.

This sounds intriguing to me. I wonder if this technique is simply an avoidance of real life, a very "Peter-pannish" response, or if it actually holds promise for helping me integrate that foolish soul inside and the maturing container that houses it. Is growing up essential to finding happiness?

1 comment:

  1. Well, you certainly look 29. Hard to believe you're old enought to be married to that man with you in the picture.