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.
How about you? What stages have you gone through?