“One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization.” Saul McLeod on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Through the years, I have been constantly reminded of Maslow’s paradigm–I was fascinated by the concept in high school and have thought of this “hierarchy” in its relevance to my life over the years. Specifically, in recent years, it seems I have been in “survival” mode, tending devotedly to my little flock, yes, but tending with my head barely above water. My daughter said to me yesterday, “Mom, I’m tired of barely making ends meet.” In our family, we don’t focus on the scarcity, so it was a surprise to hear her voice this frustration. And deservedly frustrated.
This one-week job project for me has everything to do with Maslow’s highest step: self actualization. I have been stuck and I’m seeking to un-stick myself not only for me but for my children. Although as young adults they still want me to care for them (and give them immediate and full attention!), they are my strongest advocates for me embarking on a new journey because this has infused much-needed and hopeful energy into our family.
After the recent experiences of bankruptcy, foreclosure, death of their father, illness and unemployment (what else IS there?!–really, it sounds like a friggin’ soap opera), it’s time to ACTUALIZE some long-dormant potential here! I harken back to my first blog where I stated my goal in doing this project was to become fully alive and to perhaps inspire others.
In thinking about writing these thoughts, I was remembering many conversations I’ve had with my dear friend, Kathy, about the joys and fulfilling devotion of motherhood. We both, along with other mothers we know, have poured ourselves wholeheartedly in this role not because we have to, but because we adore our children and find great fulfillment in caring for them. Plus, we’re aware of how short life is and we don’t want to miss out on any experience with our children (e.g. theater and music performances!). So we haven’t. And I just plain enjoy taking care of people. Period. However, I also am aware that it’s much easier for me to devote my time and energy on my children than to perhaps figure out how to reach a personal goal. Okay, kids, I admit it: I’ve used you! Wouldn’t have changed a thing:)
Back to Maslow: even though I have been blessed with achieving (for me) the highest level of actualization and fulfillment by loving and nourishing my incredible kids, I always felt a yearning (not just wanting to climb out of financial scarcity) to explore and commit to talents that I was given and know I possess (singing, writing, counseling/healing, speaking, dancing–OK, that one’s for fun). I suppose this is a common theme among parents: are those dreams I once had forever buried–or can I drum up the time and energy to dust them off and re-envision my life actually actualizing one of them?
So, I have a confession to make. This project at times feels to me to be a very self-centered endeavor at the age of 59, soon to be 60. Afterall, “who am I” and “where do I go from here” questions seem to be more suited to 20-somethings. Indeed, when Sean created his journey of working 52 jobs he was a recent college grad looking for his passion and purpose in life. In theory, and in my distorted perception, I’m supposed to be past this, fully entrenched in my choices and thinking of retirement!
I have mentioned my concerns about the “me-focus” to friends–and even my reluctance to share these blogs not wishing to burden anyone’s time and energy of my self-pursuits. Thankfully, I have been gently thrashed by these friends who tell me that my experience has offered new perspectives to their lives. Good people: keep tellin’ me what I want to hear.
So, in this writing process, in making contacts securing jobs, in the work with Sean of obtaining sponsor-funding, in networking with friends and meeting new people in this journey, I am little-by-little re-designing my life so that the sense of life is not one of surviving but actualizing some goals to energize me and my kids. I’m beginning to see that I can learn to devote time to this project and experience much as I’ve devoted time and energy to Laura and Alec. Absolutely nothing will ever replace my love and care for them-they are my biggest dream.
I have Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 written in calligraphy, framed and sitting on our piano. I’m sure many of you know the sonnet well, but it is so relevant to my thoughts here. The writer bemoans his seeming “disgrace… with fortune..and fate” but in his darkest thoughts remembers that he actually is blessed beyond measure:
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings, That then I scorn to change my fate with kings
I am looking forward to this year of new experiences, and actualizing my potential–but I’m already “actualized.” I hit the jackpot here at home.