Posted on: August 6, 2008 8:01 pm

Lessons from Midlife - In the End

It was in 1943 that Abraham Maslow in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivations” identified five levels of needs that he believed motivated individuals in their lives and aspirations.  Starting at the basic of food, air, shelter, clothing and warmth (the physiological needs), Maslow believed that an individual would advance up the tier of the pyramid once the lower level has been met.  That our priorities change and become lesser or greater depending on which level we satisfied.  And that the higher levels we reach, the less we’re likely to stay there, if a need from the lower level resurfaces.

The tiers are as follows (from lowest to highest):

-    Physiological:  breathing, water, food, sex, sleep
-    Safety/Security:  security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of the health, of property.
-    Love/Belonging:  friendship, sexual intimacy, family
-    Esteem:  self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others
-    Self-Actualization:  morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts.

I first heard of Maslow’s theory of hierarchy during an NCO leadership class while I was in the Air Force and then again, during a Human Relations class in college.  This is one theory that I can actually identify with because, I can look back and see, where at times I was in my life when I reached the levels.

Indeed, there was a time, facing homelessness and knowing that I would soon not be able to feed myself or my daughter, that I couldn’t have given a rat’s butt about trying to achieve the upper levels.  Thankfully, with help from my family, I didn’t have to worry too long and was eventually, through the years, to continue up the tiers.  I guess, you can say, I am currently in the self-actualization stage.  I have learned that as each need was met, it also fed and interlinked with the next tier. 

Perhaps the reason that I’ve hit this “crisis” is because I’ve hit the self-actualization stage and attempting to establish or redefine myself.  I know that, as I write this, I’m far from over it.  I’ve also realized that what I’ve thought I’ve learned, I’ve already known and am, still in a way, searching to learn more.  

So perhaps I’ll take up painting, perhaps I’ll take a trip and make new friends.  One thing that I have learned through this all so far, I really haven’t learned a thing.
Category: General
Tags: Midlife
Posted on: August 4, 2008 8:30 pm

Lessons From Midlife - Transitions

Someone once asked me what song it was that I relate to most often. The answer I had to give was “The River” by Garth Brooks. I identify with this song because my life has been a lot like the words:
"You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin' as it flows
And a dreamer's just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what's behind you
And never knowing what's in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores...and”
I first heard it when I was a single parent, heading back to college, trying to make a better life for my daughter. It was a period of a transition, not the first and it wouldn’t be the last.

Indeed, I had, as I’m sure we all have, been through many transitions. Entering the military, the many moves during it, the many relationships I had. A marriage which failed, a pregnancy that led me to leave the military, going back to school, moving and a marriage and now watching my hatchling leave the nest. I’m sure there will be more in the future. Each time I’m faced with a transition, I sing those words to myself.

Despite the various changes in direction in my life, I’ve somehow seemed to have come through it. Maybe with more wrinkles and gray hair, but still, for the most part unscathed. Transitions were a little more easy for me. For some, like my husband, they’re less so.

My husband is at a point in his life where a physical injury left him incapable of performing the job(s) he loved. Though he’s functional and mobile, back surgery and two titanium rods in his back means his days as a bomb tech and cop are over with. This is not so easy for him. At 41, suddenly he feels old because the end of his career came sooner then he expected it to.

I’m sure professional athletes are faced with this prospect too at the end of their careers. Some, like Kevin Everett came way too soon due to a spinal chord injury, suffered last season. Others end their careers on their terms and still others, go out doing what they love, like Dale Earnhardt.

How we handle the transition or the changes is individual. Joe Namath didn’t seem to handle his well, resorting to alcohol. Kevin Everett continues to face his struggle with grace and courage. When it was time to retire, Richard Petty found another way to stay active in the sport that he loved. For each positive account athletes who adjusted to the transition, there’s at least an equal, if not more, negative accounts where an ex-athlete has struggled with the transition.

Perhaps it’s a loss of identity or loss of direction that seems to cause the turbulent water. It’s been proven that women who have stayed at home with the children have a harder time then women who have worked when it comes to “empty nest syndrome”. Suddenly, the very thing they put their efforts and energy in has left and there’s no outlet or replacement for the energy. Women who have undergone hysterectomies or masectomies, seem to loose a sense of their femininity and sometimes themselves, and struggle with the emotional aspect, as well as the healing process.

The same can be said for some men who’ve suffered heart attacks. Somehow they’re faced with their own mortality. Some sink into depression while others tend to take stock into what they may have missed out on and go about chasing their dreams.

For me, I’m sensing a shift in the current, perhaps a change in the wind. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to it, or sensing an impending sense of excitement. Despite the grey hair that will be continued to be covered with Lady Clairol, and the deepening lines around my eyes, I’m looking forward to facing them, regardless of how rocky the rapids may be. First though, I have to overcome other obstacles that may lay in the way. Regardless, I have my life vest on, to help me through them.
Posted on: August 2, 2008 5:36 am

Lessons From Midlife - Sometimes the Body Can't

When I was in my early 20’s, I was uninhibited and a little, okay, a lot, stupid. Call it a sense of invincibility maybe? There were things that I had done then, that I never would think of doing now.

Okay, so when I was younger, I had no shame in allowing a professional photographer shoot me nude. I did have standards, even then, though. They had to be artistic and too tasteful to end up in magazines like Hustler or Penthouse. And he did a very tasteful layout and though they never did end up in a magazine, they were part of a showing. Of course, almost 30 years later, I know I would never do that again. I know I will never have the type of “older” body that Joan Collins had when Playboy did the special edition of women in their 40s. So I have become content with covering the mirrors to prevent them from cracking.

There were other things I was able to do. All day volleyball games, ride an electric bull, I even went through a series of lessons on skydiving. (Ended up finding out I was pregnant before I made my dry jump, so that put that on hold). I could even stay out all night partying and then go the next day. Now, even my physical “strength” has changed. I know I will never be able to do a split or a cartwheel (okay, I confess, I never was able to do that when I was young, so no biggy). When I crawl out of bed my knees creak, my back hurts and I walk a little slower. I’m good for about an hour of volleyball and no more riding electric bulls. Now instead of staying up until 3 am. I’m asleep by 9 pm and awake at 3. Oh well.

No, the body doesn’t always fare well when aging sets in. I’m sure it’s worse and occurs sooner in professional athletes, especially football players, just due to the sheer abuse they take on their bodies. I remember after the 2004-05 football season, watching intently to see if Jerome Bettis would return to the Steelers to play another year. Although I was ecstatic that he did return, I knew his days were numbered. He had taken so much abuse running up the middle like he did for all those years. An interview that a network did with Bettis, had Jerome talking about how he barely is able to move days after a game. That year would be his last year as an NFL running back when he announced his retirement after the Steelers won Superbowl XL.

This year we’ve been questioning whether some aging players will be able to make it through the season. Sometimes the players adjust. We’re seeing younger players taking the reps that the more veteran football players have taken. The recent announcement with John Lynch leaving the Denver Bronco’s re-emphasized the fact. No doubt that Lynch is moving a little slower these days. One would have to question, even if Brett Favre is mentally ready to start, at 38, will his body start betraying him midway through the season? Okay, it’s still very possible to be a professional Quarterback in the NFL into your 40’s, Vinny Testeverde did prove it was doable.

Of course there are other sports where age is less a factor, such as baseball, or no factor at all, as in Golf. In fact, Arnold Palmer played on the professional circuit until he was 77. So, where the sport is less physical and taxing on the body, the longer one could play.

I’m not sure right now, where the limitations of my body will allow me to go. I’m still contemplating the skydiving thing though. After all, what’s the worse that can happen to me, (besides the shoot not opening that is)?
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com