Our Autumnal Years: Coming Back Home

Our Autumnal Years: Coming Back Home

Old Heroes and Old Battles

Some of us are inclined in the midst of our busy Autumnal years to give the most important people in our life almost anything other than what they really want: our undivided attention. For many years as adults, we have played the roles of breadwinner, defender of corporate values and objectives, crusader for political causes (in word if not in deed), and irate father or protective mother. We have been warriors or guardians of the hearth. We have on occasion even been true heroes. We have relished these moments. We are late midlife centurions who hunger for one more battle. It’s almost as if we lost an important role in life the day that we left the caves and no longer held the job of defending our families against predators. Instead, we began to pick fights with other clans, other states and other nations so that we might have a rousing good battle.

An anti-war movie, The Americanization of Emily, called it straight. Julie Andrews plays the role of a British woman who falls in love with an American soldier. In a moment of absolute frustration, she talks about how foolish war is and how much we aggrandize war by declaring soldiers to be heroes and celebrate victories with grand parades. We love war heroes. We make successful generals into presidents and cloak ourselves in the flag of patriotism. Julie Andrews pleads in vain for a world that does not glorify war, but instead glorifies peace, love and home life.

Yet, peace won’t sell—because it is nothing more than the absence of war. We must give peace some purpose and substance. We must somehow find a struggle that is just as exciting as war if we are to become a peaceful world. We long for war and are bored with peace. As late midlife centurion we are eager to take on anyone or anything when it threatens our child, though we are also scared to death. We want once again to become heroes in fighting against or even in escaping from the threatening entity. This is the most compelling of all the temptations being offered in our life. It evokes new dreams of battle and heroism.

We are reminded of the lessons to be learned from yet another movie. Robin and Marion provides a lovely depiction of Autumnal love and heroism. An aging Robin Hood, played by Sean Connery, is drawn back into battle with his old and aging nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Robert Shaw. They stagger out to the battlefield in rusty armour to fight one last time. Robin and the Sheriff are both too old for combat. Yet the battle begins. Within a few minutes they are both exhausted. Neither has the strength to pick up their heavy sword. Yet they somehow find the energy to renew their struggle and continue fighting to their death. Robin is victorious.

As Robin staggers off to recover once again from his war wounds, Maid Marion, now a nun, played by Audrey Hepburn, gives Robin and herself a poison so that they might die together after his triumph. The alternative would be for Robin to die alone in defeat some other day in the future. What greater joy can any man or woman experience than to die after a triumph? What greater joy for Marion than to die with the man she loves at this moment of triumph!

This greatest temptation is one of spirit. It directly appeals to the animus (masculine energy) inside each of us (whether male or female). We are brave and ingenious protectors—it is built into our biological makeup. Otherwise, our species would never have survived life on the African Savannah. Yet, we are also often stupid and unexpectedly cowardice in actual protective actions. We don’t really know how to communicate with those we are protecting. We can suggest to our discouraged wife that she need not find another job for “we can live off my income.” This doesn’t seem to be of much use, since she wants to avoid relying on me. She wants to be more “liberated.”


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About the Author

Eliza YongMs Eliza Yong, Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (USA), is a Certified Substance Abuse and Gambling Addiction Counsellor by The Association of Professionals Specialising in Addictions Counselling (APSAC) and has been counselling individuals and their families since 2009. She also works with individuals and their families with domestic violence to break the violence cycle. Eliza is trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Schema Therapy. She is a member of the Singapore Psychological Society, American Group Psychotherapy Association, APSAC and EMDR Singapore. She also provides regular talks to understand and cope with different addictions and emotions as well as presents her research at international conferences. Eliza had a 2-month attachment to The Connection Inc.’s women’s programmes in residential houses, outpatient counselling centres and homeless program (Connecticut, USA) in 2013. Eliza used to have previous careers in hospitality and event marketing in an investment bank. In her free time, Eliza enjoys reading, the arts, nature, cooking and time with her family and her terrapin, Misty.

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