Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Age Appropriate Activities: Late Bloomers?

With the advent of the movie Julie and Julia, the discussion of quality of life and creativity and 'late bloomers' has escalated, especially among artists.

Erik Erikson, a well known psychiatrist, described the eight stages of aging ending with the 50 to death stage. This final stage he described as a time of integrity or despair.

Certainly not despair for Julia Childs who sold her first cookbook at the age of 50 and didn't become a popular television personality until the 'end stage' of her life.

The link between creativity and generative or positive attitude has been measured and the results are in. The creation of art, the process of creating, will keep you young, vibrant, and boost your positive attitude. But then, we already knew that! Artists tend to forget age and what is appropriate for that age and just dive in, focused on the project or the process or the imagination and forget about success or failure. Actually success or failure, if there is such a thing in art, is based upon the perceived or imagined project -- what we see in our heads as the thing we are attempting to create. So the world can not set the standards for us. We set our own.

When I started out decorating cakes, a wise teacher told me in the first class. "Don't worry if your cake doesn't look exactly like the one in the picture. No one will know except you -- if you don't show them the picture!" Of course later on as I took off the training wheels, there were no pictures, just images in my mind.

I don't think creativity enhances only the end stage of life, but any stage. Also in the movie is Julie who faces the milestone of turning 30. She becomes absorbed (obsessed) in her task of making all 500 plus recipes in Julia Child's cookbook which drew her out of her 'powerless' job. This movie based on two true stories, written by Nora Ephron, strikes a chord at several ages. Just watching the trailer I feel strengthened and encouraged.

In Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot's latest book "The Third Chapter" she interviews forty people age 50 and older and concluded that people fall into two categories by that age. One group is stagnant, retired, waiting to die. The other is generative and finding new lives and living with enthusiasm and vitality. They are curious, outspoken, secure. Most of the people she interviewed were upper income, but a few were not.

One man, a factory worker, had resorted to selling his belongings at a flea market in order to get money to pay his bills. He noticed some metal sculptures at one artist's booth and thought he could do that. He had been a welder most of his life, he was good with metal. So he returned home, used the found objects around his house and drew on his love of all things dinosaur, creating his own dinosaur sculptures. When he displayed them at the flea market they were a hit. He not only found a new income, he also found the joy of creating and he elevated his entire lifestyle simply by changing his attitude about 'perceived abundance.' He wasn't poor any more although his art didn't boost him into a higher income.

Peter Drucker wrote in The Harvard Review back in 1999 urging employees to "manage oneself."

"It means we have to learn to develop ourselves. We have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution to our organizations and communities. And we have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do. It may seem obvious that people achieve results by doing what they are good at and by working in ways that fit their abilities."

Considering fabric art and quilting as a form of work -- well, that's difficult for me to think of it as anything but fun because I'm engaged, enthused and doing what I enjoy doing. At any age, I think this is the secret to a happy and successful life: doing what you most want to do. Just looking through the various guest blogs that have appeared here at Subversive Stitchers you see a whole host of examples of people happily succeeding at something they love. I hope we can all have that in every stage of our lives.

How to achieve it? The American Creativity Association have great information on this subject. Maybe not quit your day job, but definitely devote your energies to your first loves. Make time for your art and experiment. I'm heavily into experimentation these days. It is not just for the teenager or college student.

There's no failure in experimentation, simply results. Those endeavors that don't please you are examples of what not to do -- but they are learning experiences, not failures. And who knows those 'ugly fabrics' may be exactly what you need when making your next masterpiece. No learning experience is ever wasted.

So what is age appropriate? Who decides when life is over? The answers lie within YOU! Within me! And there are so many techniques and fabrics and ideas and and and so little time! There's an urgency at my age. It isn't about death. But it is about seeing myself closer to the end and needing to stuff as much as I possibly can into the remainder of my years.

I can't wait to see your experiments, personal successes and creative endeavors! We're subversive stitchers -- we do not stagnate, we do NOT retire. We NEVER say die. And if that doesn't get you off your duff, I have two words: Grandma Moses, one of her creations is pictured above.

Bon Appetite!


Susan Turney said...

Great post! And I so agree. I'm 64 and feeling like this is really the prime of my life. I'm quilting right now...just finished up with polymer clay for a while...and am seeing some watercolor in my future! Because I can do anything I want and don't have to get up to an alarm or report for anything, I think I have it made!!!!!! I've hit a little snag right now but only because I bought some new furniture for my workroom and therefore have to clean the whole thing out and throw, throw, throw. But I'm beginning to see the end!!! Can't wait to get back to quilting.

Dawn said...

Way to go Susan! You are living the life and doing it up right. And getting organized too -- how perfect! Thanks for commenting.


ann said...

Thanks, I needed that!

Lorraine said...

great post..and encouraging...so many women I see just give up and become frumpy 40 or 50 somethings.. I am 46 and my friend is 53 and we have a great time at kickboxing with most of the class being half our age..keep your body and mind active and you will never age

Dawn said...

Interesting comment and I'm so envious -- kick boxing!

I was raised to be frumpy and that's what I always expected. But I'm slowly realizing that my body might actually have a thinner person in there somewhere. I dusted off the treadmill and gave it a run yesterday and I survived! :) Kick boxing. Wow! Way to go!


Gari in AL said...

I have not yet seen the movie but it is #1 on my movie to do list. And I could have written your post so I grinned all the way through. I found quilting 5 years prior to my retirement and by the time I retired I was fully involved in my new "work." But while working, a job I really loved, I always said I didn't live to work, I worked to live and that my real life started when I left the work place. I have seen my creative mother live with the sociatal restrictions she felt (what will others think?) and I never wanted to live that way. I am 66 and loving it: just completed an 18 hour drive to visit family and having a great time.

Dawn said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, either. But I am addicted to the trailer. If you click on the link in this blog it takes you to the site. I watch it every day and every day this joy bubbles up inside of me and I laugh out loud. Your mother and mine sound soooo much alike! And I've spent way too many years trying to please and be what others want me to be. One thing nice about this 'stage of life' -- we can finally just be!

You're an inspiration. Thanks for commenting.

Rayna said...

See the movie -- it is wonderful! Joie de vivre despite the vicissitudes of her life (and there were some).
Yep, it's never too late. I was almost 60 when I quit my day job -- and now I have a day job I hope never to quit! In general, we are who we want to be -- and being creative keeps us young and vibrant at any age.

Dawn said...

Hi Rayna,
Thanks for commenting. I'm sooo anxious to see the movie!

I for one am VERY glad you quit your day job and agree that you should NEVER quit this one! And you're such a great example of 'vibrant'-- but I bet its your natural look at any age!


Silvia "OrkaLoca" Dell'Aere said...

Hi, thanks for this post, is great!
I think that creativity is in anyone, but came out in late age just because before we are involved in other things (job, children, home). I think that turning 50 people feels the right to do something for himself, after doing a lot for others.

I'm in the opposite situation. I'm just 29, and I'm the youngest of the quilters I know. I'd like to do quilt professionally but I'm "too young" at the people's eyes.

(sorry for mistakes, I'm not english motherlanguage)

Dawn said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the blog.

And I agree that everyone has creativity -- most of us are afraid to let it out. Maybe age makes us bold and less afraid of mistakes. Although there is an aspect of youth, maybe it is innocence that allows for more experimentation and exploration.

Well, if you read some of the other blogs here, especially Karen McTavish http://subversivestitch.blogspot.co
m/2009_01_01_archive.html you will see that it isn't so much about age or even background, but about passion. Many of the 'older' women you see quilting and teaching and advancing innovative techniques began when they were in their teens or were new wives and mothers. It isn't that all quilters are old, its just that we've been quilters for a lonnnng time. :)

And I will admit that although the OUTSIDE may look 50. The inside can be any age. Today I'm thinking 35. Yesterday, I was 18. :) Its all about attitude. Age is definitely a state of mind!


Lesley Riley said...

Dawn - This is a lovely and thoughtful post on something that has consumed my curiosity for decades - creativity. I now belong to the over-50 club and consider myself a late-bloomer too.

When i was in my thirties I couldn't wait to be 40. (How many 30-somethings read and devour May Sarton?) I thought that my 40s would be a magical time. (Just the opposite of what our culture feeds us.) I told a older, wiser friend and she said, "You think that's good, wait until your 50s." Boy was she brilliant. I love this decade and am eager to move onto the wonderful things awaiting me in my 60s.

I'm glad I had the time to visit your blog today! A holiday is a necessity once in a while.

Dawn said...

Hi Lesley,
I'm so glad you enjoyed this blog -- it is one of my favorites and one I need to keep rereading. I'm with you that the best is yet to come! And 50s and 60s can be our best yet!