Tag Archives: aging

dark mother

leavesm

Why do I not write here anymore, someone kind asks me in a comment. I lost energy in the too-long journey of writing the current novel (not finished). I lost a little hope about life (regained). I thought, what does it matter what I say (whine).

Today, I want to share a lovely, deep piece about winter from Dunya. One line of it reverberates in me…..a last savoring of our mother. Her mother, too, has Alzheimer’s. My mother, in her 12th year of it, lives and breathes, but little else.

I share this with you in an embrace of the dark and fine, fine writing……leavesm

 

heart

So it’s morning, and I’m sipping my tea, and I hear music. My dining room windows overlook the street, and I peer out to see two of my grandson’s friends walking to school. One of them has an ipod sound system, and they are walking and singing along to the music. Their insouiance makes me smile, particularly since the larger one is really large, a hulking boy who towers over his friend. He likely towers over everyone, and he is very shy and uneasy in this body that has overtaken him. I have to smile. Both boys are in that awkward, junior-high phase when everyone is in various stages of morphing, and there are pimples and maybe breasts and hair and fat and thin and tall and short all over the place. But the two boys are singing like nobody is watching. I can remember myself at that age, waiting eagerly for a song I liked on the radio and singing along, so happy, maybe even filled with joy.

My face opens to another smile at the memory. What happened? I think. When did I stop focusing on what I liked and become so aware of what I don’t like. Is it age? Well, I–for one–don’t like that, I will say with a shake of my head, proud of my discernment and unsmiling.

Wouldn’t it be more fun if I could find my junior high heart again, where I was always looking for what I liked, and I found it everywhere….when I sang along to the music……

What’s in your junior high heart?

apples

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Who didn’t see Disney’s evil queen ask that question? Who didn’t fret over the fate of innocent beauty Snow White? Well, there are several new movies out, playing with a new look for both Snow and the Evil Q., but what doesn’t change is fading beauty and how a woman deals with that, and how society feels about beautiful women, especially if they’re powerful and aging. Our local paper ran a story about such, and it made me wonder…..does a fading beauty always have to envy a newer one? Why do some of us hang on to beauty to the point of turning ourselves into grotesque caricatures? It is hard to face the loss of youthful beauty. We women are all more lovely than we realize. But we can’t know it or feel it with the barrage of how we should look always before us. I didn’t realize the power of beauty until it was changing. I didn’t realize how much I’d depended on it. I didn’t realize that almost any interaction with a man began, for me, with unconsciously determining whether he found me attractive. There’s a power that comes with being attractive.

That’s gone for me. I’ve mourned it, but I really don’t miss it. I like the independence I feel inside. I like facing the fact of my aging, accepting it. I don’t mind the beauty of younger women, and I know the beauty of older women. When you’re older, it’s what you do, how you interact with others, that is the measure of beauty. That’s a better measure than the angles of one’s face and hips, a more sacred, difficult one….one to aspire to.

And we sure don’t need no stinkin’ apples. They always get us into trouble………….

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fresh

The new year can be a time of fresh starts, and one way is journaling. Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way recommends writing three pages long-hand before you’re fully awake in the morning.

Why? Because you dump irritation, bad feelings, complaints onto the pages usually, and then you begin your day, and a lot of what would have muddied the hours is on those pages, rather than carried outward with you. It’s as if you’ve been heard. And writing three pages every morning creates discipline. (And more, but you’ll have to find out about that by going to her website.)

A lot of people are doing gratitude journals. A blog I read recently spoke to this topic with words from Nicoletta Baumeister:  “Gratefulness thoughts in the morning light are about the setting of the daily lens. What will we take in, what will we seek and what is today’s sense of self? Feeling grateful puts my feet on solid ground, able to work out the next step; whereas, asking what I don’t have sets my day on a frantic course.” She ends her day in an interesting way, too: “A poem, haiku or a small drawing at night has the effect of driving all other thoughts away. The narrowed focus and purity of intent creates a sense of calm after a day of supersaturated activity. It also affords feelings of satisfaction, job well done, if only in the tiniest work, so that I slip seamlessly into excellent sleep. Too many people out there have insomnia!”

Another way to journal is from wonderful Dr. Rachel Naomi Ramen, who counseled a successful but burned-out doctor in one of my favorite books, Kitchen Table Wisdom, to find again these three things in his days: what inspired him, what surprised him, what touched him. I’ve done this one for a long time, and it has transformed journal entries from junior high whining to memory rushes with sweetness.

And that, my dears, is what I want to take forward into this long day’s journey into night, into this particular new year in the journey, into aging, the only way forward in the journey: sweetness. What do you want?

sweet again

I found this quote from Rumi, and it stopped me in my tracks:

Make me sweet again,

fragant and fresh and wild,

and thankful for any small event.

How I want that. It’s harder as I age. I can feel the faintest tinge of bitterness always there to shade its color in me….an is that all there is? Or…I knew you’d do that….as if too much life experience or being around people long enough has given me an inevitable edge of distrust.

I want to be the best of the girl I was: open, trusting, assuming good would happen. A wise man once asked a group of us, what is good? That which is nondisturbing? That which pleases you? What if that isn’t good to another? What then is good?

Ah. That brings God/higher power/universe aspects into the picture. The old Zen story of the boy who broke his leg (bad, right?) only that meant he couldn’t be dragged away from his family to be a solider when an army passed through. Or the rain that floods one place and heals another. The truth is I don’t know what good is, nor bad, at a bigger level, from a larger gaze that takes in more than me.

So I want to be sweet again, fragant and fresh and wild, and thankful for any small event. That, now, is good.

unlined

I wrote a few blogs ago about crones and crone energy. One of my questions was why the word was so scary? I didn’t get many answers, but one of the reasons I see is loss of youthful beauty. I’ve been thinking about power lately. A friend gave a talk to some high schoolers about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. What is a heroine’s journey, I wondered? Now we can live the life of men because we can keep from having children. But all women I know, married, single, widowed, divorced, crave connection, are often connected with friends and relatives in a way men aren’t, though gay men come close. And what if our heroine has a child? Without a partner, even with one? What, then, happens to her journey? It’s no longer straightforward. There are sacrifices and guilts if pursuing a career. If single, there are struggles and compromises so immense that they can’t be overstated. And what about beauty? What does that do to a heroine’s journey, for a beautiful woman is pleasing, and there is huge power in that. What does that do to her path, to her integrity? There’s great seduction in being pretty or more, in seeing men attracted like metal to a magnet. But in a savage, warrior culture, like the streets, a beautiful woman is captured early by a man, or she’s taken against her will. Her beauty is both power and a snare in which she’s caught. Youthful beauty is also a double-edged sword because it fades. I’m thinking now of Elizabeth Taylor, the great beauty of the 20th century, encased in the brown amber of plastic surgery and botox in an attempt to look 50 when she is close to 80. What if she, the most beautiful woman of her age, had let the hair grey, the pounds accumulate, the wrinkles place themselves on her face, so that along with the wisdom and strength she often displays, the deep marks life makes would show outside as well as inside? She was afraid of looking the crone is one of my guesses. Cronedom is a foreshadow of the dark side, and I don’t mean witchcraft. I mean death. The crone so clearly is walking toward death. But why are we more fearful of those marks on women than on men? And why is beauty thought of as unlined? Is it fear of death again? I don’t understand…..

alchemy

I thought I’d print the Hyacinthe Hill poem Reaching Toward Beauty from last week’s blog. I can find very little about Ms. Hill on the internet. The poem is from the book, When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple:

You love declines. You, thinking little lines

aound my eyes are fallen lashes, try

to brush them off. I do exfoliate.

In this autumn of my being, parts of me

fly, like tossed and wintry-blasted leaves.

I don’t regret their passing. I must work

to make a clean and crystal-perfect form.

I, alchemist, and I, philosopher’s stone,

have sacrificed the fat, and froth, and fur

of youth, to walk through fire, leap in the dark,

swim inward rivers, pray at a wailing wall.

The wrinkles, sags, the graying hair are earned.

You mourn like a child over a broken doll.

Only the core of this crone was ever real……….

Wow. This is what I love about poets, their ability to seize some small formation of words and make them explode in the imagination. I tell people who ask me about writing to read poetry to internalize the beauty of language. I tell them to listen to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac on NPR, a poem a day the man reads to us, bless him. Imagine what life might be like if the first thing we heard in the morning was a poem, if we chewed on its meaning all day, instead of what we do chew on.

It was the quest of pre-scientists in the 16th century to turn lead into gold. We are the alchemists of our lives. What brew are you making? Bitter or sweet? Forgiving or vengeful?