Re-invention: The Wisdom of Sally Field

18 Mar

“My 70th birthday is coming up soon–I’m an old woman,” Sally Field recently told an interviewer.

“No you’re not,” comes the response. “You’re not old.”

“It’s okay to be old–it’s natural,” Field insists. “And I’ve earned my years–there’s a value in those years that wasn’t there when I was younger.”

She follows up with thoughtful reflection on her situation, delivered with a deceptively light touch–this is not Gidget or the Flying Nun talking. The Sally Field who is turning 70 later this year may have done a turn as Gidget when she was just 19, but she went on to win leading actress Oscars in “Norma Rae” (1979) and “Places in the Heart” (1984), and play roles in several other major films. This month she opens in the film, “Hello, My Name is Doris,” as an older woman who romances a younger man.

She is unusual among Hollywood actresses in that she has secured roles through her 60s–in an industry that is known for its discrimination against aging women. She has sixty-three films and television programs to her credit, as well a screenplay and several stints as director and producer. She is sharply critical of the Hollywood system–including the fact that women who dissent receive the worst treatment and are frequently shoved aside. Her mantra: “I kept my head down and found the work wherever it was.”

What attracted me in the interview is Sally Field’s vision of her own life. As we live our lives, we move through stages–childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, maturing, old age. This is familiar territory, set forth by developmental psychologists for many years. I would add, for parents, the empty nest phase and, for many others, the phase in which one occupation disappears and another must be invented.

Field believes that in every stage we must re-invent ourselves–the adolescent into an adult, the mature adult into an aging person moving toward death. Rather than viewing this endless challenge with dismay, she chooses to highlight the excitement of re-invention.

Field closes the interview on a very high note. The interviewer (who, I think, never really got the point) asks, “So, what’s next?”

“This is my challenge. There is something there that I can’t see yet, and I won’t be able to see it unless I am willing to let go of what I have been and move into the future.” This is re-invention.

These words are inspiring, at whatever stage of re-invention we find ourselves. For me, moving into a retirement community is a direct confrontation with the challenges of a new stage of life. There is a strong urge to regret that we cannot resuscitate the bygone phase. Admitting that re-invention is necessary comes hard. What are the guidelines? What resources do I have? Most of us introduce ourselves to others in terms of that bygone phase, and people may respond to us accordingly.

What if I introduce myself, henceforth, in terms of what I have not yet become–a person in the process of re-invention? A person I cannot yet see?

Are you in the midst of re-invention? Or do you have a few years yet before you face that challenge?

If we compiled the stories of our re-inventions, it would make for inspirational reading. What is your story? Share it here. I include portions of a poem in which I pondered my own re-invention.

A Parable

I will turn my mind to a parable. Psalm 49

I asked my self to reveal myself to me:
“Disclose your depths, tell me what you see.”

Whether in the mirror or the eye of my mind,
I see but little; there must be more that I do not find.

Perhaps I am not my self at all
not a self
that could be found.

I may be a parable–
all the pieces of my life
a story to be sung.

Phil Hefner 17 March 2016

6 Responses to “Re-invention: The Wisdom of Sally Field”

  1. Richard Busse March 18, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    HI Phil: i always enjoy reading your blog. I think I saw an interview with Sally Field also. You didn’t mention who it was with but I saw her interviewed with by Stephen Colbert. Your reinvention theme really struck home with me. Yes– ourselves are the story we tell.. The self is not some permanent thing. I’m going to be 66 and start collecting social security this summer. Never have written that down before. In some sense I still feel I’m going to school. And I’m in the process of reinventing the next phase. I’m not retiring, but cutting down on my law practice. Teaching has moved to online which I thought I would hate but it’s just different than the classroom. It’s like extended blogging like we are doing here. I want to travel more. Still working some in the vegetable business in the summer. But life is full of possibilities still — an adventure as Whitehead reminded us all. Keep on blogging.

    • Liftthescreen April 8, 2016 at 9:13 pm #

      Hi, Rick–sorry to be so tardy in responding. Thanks for the personal update; I appreciate catching up with you (or at least trying to). You’ve been reinventing ever since we first met–how many years ago, more than 40 years ago, right? I’m in the midst of my own, less dramatic, reinvention. I received quite a few responses, and my next blog will be a commentary on them. Take care, Phil

  2. sandyjwhite March 18, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    Hi Phil…I enjoyed your post. It made me think. Although ten plus years beyond retirement (Yikes!) I’m still in that loss of occupation reinvention stage, but not quite in the old age stage. I think the expectation and goal of the boomer generation, and perhaps previous generations as well, was to achieve stability in career and life…to settle in somewhere and collect the proverbial gold watch at the end. For today’s young adults, change is more the norm. They expect to have multiple employers, homes, friends, etc. I’m thinking they might experience less angst as they move through the stages of life, for they will have lots of experience with reinvention all along the way.

    • Liftthescreen April 8, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

      Sandy–sorry for the tardy response. I think you’re right about the changed situation today. I received quite a few responses, and my next blog will take them up.
      Thanks, Phi

  3. Cheryl .Pero March 19, 2016 at 6:29 am #

    Thanks for this blog, Phil. I guess this is where I am now. A sadder, older version of myself that desperately needs to re-invented. Retirement, Medicare and social security are in my near future. So I, too, amh eager to see what happens next, to see what Godchas in store in thiscnextvpart ofvmynlife’scjourney without Pete.

  4. Cheryl .Pero March 19, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

    Wished spellcheck had been working harder on this response when I was still awake this morning!

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