Artist's Way

The Artist’s Way for Midlife – Humility

I am currently working my way through Julia Cameron’s newest Artist’s Way series, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – a program specifically targeted to help those in midlife discover creativity and meaning.

This week I focused on chapter six: Reigniting a Sense of Humility.

I continue to follow the four cornerstones of the program:

  • Daily hand-written Morning Pages (wrote 6 out of 7 days)
  • Weekly solo Artist Dates (made Taralli and posted the recipe)
  • Two 20-minute solo walks per week (basset walks only)
  • Ten weekly Memoir prompts (this week focusing on ages 26-30)

I think my biorhythm was off this week. Even though I accomplished quite a bit, I consistently felt behind. I couldn’t seem to garner the energy (or desire) to do anything but essential tasks. Even the memoir prompts proved difficult and uninspiring.

  1. Describe your major relationships.
  2. Where did you live? More than one place?
  3. What was the role of your ego in your life at this time?
  4. Describe one sound.
  5. Describe one taste.
  6. Describe one fear.
  7. What dream did you harbor during this period?
  8. What was your greatest challenge? Do you relate to this challenge today?
  9. What did you have to learn? What did you feel you already knew?
  10. What other memories feel significant?

The word I would use to define this period of life is DRAMATIC. We went from DINKS (dual-income-no-kids) to two children in 2.5 years: the true highlight of these five years (and the center of my major relationships during this time).

We moved three times: from a one-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village (which was a wee bit small for a family of three) – to a three bedroom condo in Norwalk, Connecticut (overpriced for the amount of space) – to a four-bedroom house in Johnson County, Kansas (just right).

Between my husband and myself, we had a total of six different jobs/careers in five years. Some were planned changes, others a depressing surprise. While this took a toll on our finances and self-esteem, we developed a sense of resilience and persistence that remains strong today.

Perhaps reliving these challenging years took its toll. Perhaps that is why I’m currently feeling a general malaise. Or perhaps it is just the summer heat. In any case, rather than force myself to complete this week’s exercises, I decided to give myself grace. This is a rather new practice for me, but fortunately, I’m learning this important self-care lesson in Midlife.

So instead of sharing an epiphany this week – or a fun creative artist date – I will leave you with my favorite definition of humility:

But if you are content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

This is Eugene Peterson’s translation of Matthew 23:12. I like it.

Humility isn’t about false modesty or thinking little of yourself (what I incorrectly assumed for the past fifty years). Rather, it is about self-acceptance and becoming who you were meant to be.

It’s never too late to learn new lessons…



  • Leanne |

    Those early days with my kids sound a lot like yours Molly – we moved and built a house, my husband changed jobs several times, I had to go back to work (when I’d rather have stayed home with my children full-time). We had sicknesses and upheavals and tough time financially. But we got through them and came out the other end – I think it taught me resilience and our kids grew up without a silver spoon in their mouths – they know you have to work hard to succeed and are doing so well with their own marriages – maybe it all pays off in the end?

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM x

    • Molly Totoro

      You are absolutely right, Leanne … it DOES pay off in the end 🙂 And it is nice to know that others, such as yourself, experienced the same challenges I did. There is strength (and encouragement) in numbers.

  • Patricia

    You continue to inspire me with your progress through the memoir questions. I WILL be doing the same this summer….Maybe not getting to the same places as you as I never went the kids route. But I am also liking some of your insights… Humility is about self-acceptance. The second time I have heard that recently. Humility is about being my authentic self and even valuing myself….not feeling less than. I’m wondering if this period of life is when my Imposter Complex flourished? Hmm, we’ll see!

    • Molly Totoro

      I think you might be onto something! I have not fleshed out when Impostor Syndrome began for me… but I bet there is a connection. I’ll let you know what I find out 🙂

    • Molly Totoro

      I LOVE all of her books too! This one is very well suited to this time in my life. Thanks so much for stopping by – and please let me know what you think of this recent Cameron masterpiece 🙂

  • Karen Hume

    Hi Molly,
    I appreciate you commenting on the malaise you are feeling while working on this chapter. I’m having the same experience with chapter 3. Good for you that you are cutting yourself some slack and not worrying about completing the memoir prompts. I’ve convinced myself that it’s okay to take more than two weeks to finish a chapter but hope it won’t be too much longer than that or this memoir work could take a year. #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      That made me giggle 🙂 Yes… if we don’t persevere, the memoir will never come to fruition. I’m not sure how much of my malaise was regarding the past or the present. But I refuse to stay down for too long. I hope you get through your malaise soon, Karen.

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    Molly – thank you for this honest, heartfelt sharing. I am sorry you aren’t feeling too well — from my experience, rehashing tough times can sap the energy even if, in the long run, it is cathartic.

    As for the definition of humility – St. Francis of Assisi is said to have remarked: “You are nothing more than you are in the sight of God – and nothing less.” The second half of this quote is often forgotten. No matter your understanding of ‘God’ – the thought rings true. We each bring unique, invaluable gifts to the world!

    I have worked long and hard to come to terms with the concept of humility given that during my early convent training (ages 18-28) I was almost constantly admonished to be humble, that pride would be my downfall, and that I must pray the Litany of Humility daily to ‘save my vocation.’ Took me years to recognize my own value.

    • Molly Totoro

      I want to read more works of St. Francis. I think I would enjoy his perspective.
      I’m sure my parochial school upbringing contributes to my warped sense of humility and pride. It took my daughter telling me that no one likes to hear self-deprecation to make me take notice. Old habits are hard to break, but I’m determined to learn this life lesson, Janet. I think God wants all of us to learn to accept ourselves as He created us, don’t you?

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly thank you for joining us again at #MLSTL. We are building such a lovely community. I do hope you are feeling better but sometimes life just gets too hard and we need to give ourselves some care. I am enjoying your thoughts as you work through Julia’s book and look forward to your thoughts each week. However, I am also pleased to see that you recognised you weren’t feeling 100% so didn’t add pressure by trying to finish the tasks which might have been a burden. I felt like that when doing my Meditation course and some days I just had to say ‘no’. Take care and see you at next week’s link up. xx

    • Molly Totoro

      Just saying “no” … sounds so easy but I find it incredibly difficult, Sue. This was my small attempt at practicing self-care rather than, as you say, push through. I have a feeling this topic will become a #MLSTL blog post someday 🙂

  • Jo

    I’ve been feeling a general malaise lately Molly, perhaps the universe is tilting at a strange angle or something! I loved your quote : But if you are content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. Sometimes we have to trust in humility and just be. Thanks for commenting on my blog earlier 🙂 #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      I struggle greatly with “just be”
      However, I am learning to remind myself that we are human beings – not human doings – and it is okay to take it easy sometimes.
      Thank you for stopping by, Jo!

  • Kay

    I’m loving your posts about working through this book. So, I bought the book and will do the same myself – later in the year perhaps. Too many things going on right now. I am ‘pre’-thinking about the various aspects of my life along with you though. I think we are very close to the same age and I know that we have many similar thought processes. And I’ve been working on my health and weight loss quest. I’ll have update on that Monday on my blog. I’ve loved what others commented to you here, especially the St. Francis quote. Mostly, I just wanted to share my gratitude for what you bring to the blogging world. It really speaks to me, especially at certain times. Thanks!

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Kay… I so appreciate your encouragement and support! And I look forward to reading your Monday post. I’m not at all in a good place when it comes to exercise, but I desperately want to change that perspective. Perhaps your post will inspire me 🙂

  • Natalie

    Thanks, Molly, for sharing your thoughts on Humility. I think you’ve actually demonstrated your self-acceptance by recognizing how you felt and not completing the memoir prompts.

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you for noticing my one small step toward self-acceptance, Natalie! Old habits and thought-patterns die hard, but I am determined to tame the “should” voices in my head and instead rely more on intuition.

  • Leslie Clingan

    I am just beginning to work through this book. Just reading about the memoir writing. I look forward to doing it but feel certain I have forgotten a lot of the crazy details of my earlier life. One word you used that resonates with me is resilient. I think I have become resilient. Although, the last few weeks/month, I have felt off kilter. But never completely down for the count!

    • Molly Totoro

      Don’t worry about remembering all the details, Leslie. What bubbles to the surface is what you are supposed to focus on. Once those memories find a place to land, others will surface in time. AND… if you like the word “resilient” then please return next week 🙂

    • Molly Totoro

      Living in the present is such great advice (and really… the only way to live). But old habits are hard to break, Mary Lou 🙁 I still find myself dredging up the past (asking: What can I learn from this?) OR worrying about the future. BUT… I’m committed to giving up this unhealthy lifestyle and focus solely on the NOW. I find making a gratitude list helps ground me in this way.

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