Sometimes we just have to say it to “get it.” Our “What’s Next?” Cindy sums it up …
Maturity is the process of moving from dependence on environment to dependence on self.
–Fritz Perls, Gestalt Psychologist
The “Fuck you Fifties” — a phrase coined by Suzanne Braun Levine* — describes the defiance many of us are feeling and acting on at this juncture in our lives. Little acts of rebellion — usually involving saying “No” — enable us to whittle away at long held roles we no longer want to play.
I paused for a minute to consider if this was appropriate material for a post. Then it struck me that the very reason I flinched is the reason I should do it. So fuck it! Here we go….
My hesitation stems from the fact that defiance doesn’t come so naturally to me. Like many of us, I’m much more at home in the roles of good daughter, good wife, good employee. Always the good girl trying to meet the expectations of others. Will they like me? Approve of me? Need me? In Fritz Perl’s words, “I have been dependent on my environment.” For far too long.
But enter the second half of life… fatigue with the old roles; appreciation that life is shorter; emerging feistiness. The time has arrived to say “Fuck it. No.” To be more provocative. As Levine says: “to speak up, speak out, speak our minds.”
So, I am working on saying “No” to roles that no longer work for me. Like the doting working mom, for instance. I said “No,” I won’t run home guiltily from work every week night to play Donna Reed and make dinner for my almost-adult family. (Half the time theyâ€˜re out with school or social obligations, and I’m home alone with the table set, feeling like a twit…) Instead, I schedule and try to have dinner once a week with a great woman friend or contact. (If dinner at home that night is takeout, so be it…)
To become comfortable with saying No, here’s an important point. There’s a distinction betweens “roles” and “relationships.” Saying “fuck you” to roles you no longer choose to play doesn’t mean saying “fuck you” to the underlying relationships. It may require redefining some relationships and investing time to explore if and how the relationships can work with new rules of engagement. But it doesn’t mean we are telling people in our lives to fuck off (although a little of that may be okay, too!).
If Perls is right and this stage of our lives is meant to be about increasing dependence on self, then saying “No” is an important first step. As old roles fall away, we free up bandwidth for a new, authentic voice to emerge. If we listen to this new voice, I’m pretty sure we get closer to answering the What’s Next? question. This is what Levine means by the “Fuck You Fifties,” and as you may have guessed — I’m in!
*I have referenced Suzanne Braun Levine’s book, Inventing the Rest of Our Lives, in a prior post.