<< Back to Article Listing

Are You Generative or Are You De-Generating: Your Choice

April 7th, 2010

by Nancy Dagenhart, MA, MFT

Nancy Dagenhart Psychotherapy & Counseling

Are You Generative or Are You De-Generating: Your Choice

If a woman’s body had a separate and distinct voice, what kind of message would she send to her entire feminine being when the last egg has descended from her ovaries? How does the body feel about, and adjust to, an internal empty nest? Does the physical vessel start to feel like an empty-bag lady, unsure of her relevance other than as a mode of transportation?

Your body is talking to you. Are you listening?

For me, this was a week in which my body spoke through my dreams. First came the images of a dying family member, joints mangled by osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and slipping away due to coronary artery disease. Then came the dream about a daylong search for my parked car and the dawning recognition that Alzheimer’s disease had swept away short-term memory and the ability to take for granted everyday functioning. Leave it to the body to express an awareness of the top four potential major effects of losing ovarian activity.

“But,” as the oft-repeated infomercial line goes, “that’s not all!”  Next came the dream that I was pregnant--now, as a postmenopausal woman, in this no-ovum body, I know that isn’t wishful thinking so what kind of wisdom is embedded in that message? My body provided the answer in the form of a question to all parts of my whole being:

Shall we de-generate or continue living generatively?

The impulse to create doesn’t end with procreation. The need to nurture and care doesn’t stop with children or grandchildren. And, the feelings of love and passion aren’t limited to relationships.

Clearly the flow of creativity, abundant generosity, and passionate love must cut new channels of expression as we age or we risk feeling damned. It goes against our nature to resist growth and our bodies know the price we will pay. In the sentiment of Barbara Marx Hubbard, cancer is growth without a plan.

Is your growth plan de-generative or generative?

A healthy, optimal growth plan emerges naturally from consciously investing in two critical areas:

Cultivating a positive attitudeFollowing a clearly identified purposeA Generative Attitude

 Attitude is a choice we make by where we put our attention. Our minds are like radios and our thoughts are the sound waves. We can tune into whatever station we choose.

What are you listening to?

Negative, self critical, or fearful thoughts (yours or those of others) are always around for our mental antennae to tune into. However, you can decide to turn the dial to a station that transmits positive, uplifting, and calming thoughts. Your body, mind, and soul will all benefit, as will the people around you.

A Generative Direction

 It’s obvious that the purpose of an acorn is to become an oak tree. What makes it hard for you to be that clear about your own purpose, your own path of generativity?

There are two challenges that typically have to be overcome to find this clarity:

First, you must regularly extricate yourself from the hypnotic trance of the trivial. Bill paying, doing laundry, running errands, shopping, responding to emails, and watching television all have their place but in themselves probably don’t create a life of purpose.

Do you feel more urgency about (and put more time into) these activities than you do into identifying and living creatively and purposefully? 

You must make yourself a priority.

 Second, living a life of purpose is predicated on knowing yourself well enough that your choices reflect what is deeply true for you. This requires regular, disciplined self-reflection, meditation, journaling, quiet contemplation, or prayer. There is no other way.

You must have a disciplined approach to discovering and defining your authentic goals, your heartfelt desires, and your deepest truth.

Your purpose may be as clear and simple as:

I live as kindness.I bring more justice to the world by being judicious in everything I do.Or, I live simply so that others may simply live.It doesn’t have to be global to be personal and relevant.

Find the Self that is creative, generative, and purposeful. She sits on the fulcrum between self-absorption and selflessness awaiting your attention. She requires that you listen--to the voice of your body, the sound of your heart’s desires, and the wisdom of your years. She needs channels of expression throughout every stage of your life so that she may bring joy, fulfillment, and beauty into the world.

In the words of Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?-- in “The Summer Day”