Q: I am a man in my late 40s. I am an artist with an artist’s personality—sensitive and moody. I have supported myself through selling my paintings and doing other jobs. In the last three years, I have not worked and have been living on a small inheritance and savings. I sold my last painting six years ago. Pretty soon my money will run out and I am starting to panic, yet I am not seriously looking for work. I worry a lot about money, health, and other things.
A: It’s really good that you pushed through your resistance and decided to write. You are dealing with several stressful issues. Your sensitivity, which makes you a good artist, also makes you feel very vulnerable and easily anxious and depressive. Yet, you have the ability to take care of yourself. Is it harder for you to work in the world without your father in your life?
Approaching the age of 50 is a major juncture. The motivation to start over and make it in the world decreases. You want things to be easier. Unfortunately, they are not. Your new life is very different from your old one. If you don’t let go of what you had and what you think you are entitled to as an artist, you will continue to suffer. Start taking small steps to begin a new life. Don’t wait for the ideal job or creative project to show up. Take work that you can do competently to get you working and earning. This will give you more confidence and you will start making connections for future work that is more suited for you. You might start painting about new themes.
Use the good support you have to help you process the changes and create a new life perspective that is supportive, fulfilling, and appropriately challenging. Each day do one or two tasks to reach your goals.
Q: I am a mother of teenagers and am thinking of returning to school to get my master’s degree. I have been home raising the children for 15 years. I am a good mother and have enjoyed my children very much. We are a close family. I want to study education, but am afraid I won’t do well or keep up with the pressure of classes. I am excited, but lack confidence. How can I transition into being a student again?
A: This as a very exciting time in your life. You have done your children and family a great service by being a full-time mother. You are reaping the fruits now. All your experiences in the last 15 years will serve you in pursuing a master’s degree. Identify the skills you have acquired through your life as a student, wife, and mother. They range from doing multiple tasks, managing a house, organizing, communicating with your children, and dedicating yourself to your primary task as a mother and homemaker. This is a lot!
This culture doesn’t value mothering and all the competence required in being a solid parent. So, you must realize your own competence. Begin by simply taking one course that you are very interested in and that is not too challenging. Set your schedule so you have quiet time to study. At first, it will feel strange focusing on a pursuit separate from your family. Talk to your kids about your concerns and ask them to join you in your new endeavor. Good luck!
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in Palo Alto and San Francisco. (415) 205-4666. www.wholenesstherapy