Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Monday, October 05, 2009

Boomer Women Feeling Stuck?

I guess you’d say I’m in my second career. Or third. Or… who’s counting. What I know is that now that I’m an empty nester and GenSandwicher, my work and my options have changed. The masters degree I received in 1975 was helpful for the years I worked in the field. It did little or nothing for the years I home schooled my son. Now the work I do doesn’t require a degree, but I’m back in school finally studying a passion I didn’t even know about in 1974-75. Am I stronger? I think so. But I still feel I’m missing something. I still wonder what I’m really supposed to do with the rest of my life. Or is it too late to really become someone significant or should just drift through the next 20 or so years? Do you ever feel that way?

That’s why is was excited to be invited to review Marcus Buckingham’s new book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women do Differently. In fairness to Buckingham, I’m sure his primary audience is young professional women climbing the corporate ladder -- something I gave up on 25 years ago. But he does talk about women who choose to stay at home with their children – something I chose to do 25 years ago. He doesn’t talk a lot about us older women looking for a new direction. Thus, I found myself a little disappointed.

I was also a little confused by what I think was his primary message – the happiest and most successful women follow their passions. OK. And then… In my case, that’s precisely the problem. I have many passions and many things I do well, but also many responsibilities I don’t enjoy but can’t delegate. How to hone that into a 60-something life--that’s my question.

He offers a test at StrongLifeTest to tell you which of nine Life Roles are primary and secondary for you. It’s somewhat useful, although it seems very short and I would have liked to see the actual rankings. I came out Teacher and Creator. No surprise. But in reading the descriptions in the book, I would have liked to know my score on other roles I resonated with or didn’t resonate with. It seems that the point is to find opportunities where I can fill my primary roles and when possible, avoid roles I didn’t score as high on. He also encourages us to be intentional in looking for the lead roles and reframe the moments that don’t bring us passion. Good reminders. Admit it. We often just do what we do because we think we have no choice. Often we do and those are opportunities to grow and change.

But what do I do with Caretaker? I’m sure I scored very low on that one, but that’s much of my life through no choice of my own. I do balance my caretaking with many functions that fall into Teacher and Creator, but for now and for 18 of the past 25 years, Caretaker has been a primary role. And no, I wasn’t always happy or totally fulfilled, but I did manage to find a good life within that role (by being a Teacher and Creator whenever possible--which is his point). While Buckingham encourages that we strive for imbalance, sometimes that just isn’t possible. And when it is possible, is that the best way? My Teacher continues to try to teach my mom a better way to manage her life, but I do it at the expense of just loving and caring for her. Thus, she’s delighted when my brother (the Caretaker) comes to visit, but me, not so much.

So, if you’re unhappy in your life role or trying to reshape your aging years, this book could be useful. It may give you a different way to approach even the unchangeables. And if you have a daughter just starting out, it could save her from some of the mistakes we made.

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2 comment(s):

I am stuck in this caregiving role just as I finish my mommie role. My son is on his second year of college and he does not need me anymore at all. Which I miss but am greatfull for because at this time in my life I have nothing leftover for him but lots of love. I wonder everyday if I will be able to start over when my caregiver duties are over. I guess we will have to wait and see . I just hope I have some sanity left by than.

By Blogger karen, at 11:45 AM  

Karen, I hear ya! I really think this is one of the hardest periods of life, and yet, we know that none of it has taken God by surprise. I'm amazed at the difference in attitude in our culture vs. others. We seem to think we're entitled to freedom and self-actualization, and we want it. I know I do. Yet in other cultures, even in America with the Amish, caring for the elders is an honor or just "what we do." I'm trying to learn to take this season in stride and learn from it. But I confess that I don't have the answers. Just lots of questions. And I'm not dealing with Alzheimers. Blessings to you for all you do and all you are and all you are becoming in this process.

I guess one lesson is that as our kids see us caring for our parents, hopefully they will understand that their turn is coming. And of course, as we do this, we're modeling the care we hope to receive someday. Something that keeps me motivated to do it well...

By Blogger Pat, at 12:05 PM  

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