V – VOICES OF AGING
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I’ll try again tomorrow’.
Mary Anne Radmacher
Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune.
Do we find a different voice as we age? I suspect so. From the first breath we take, we hear our own crying voice. Throughout our lives we’ve used our voice to express what we’ve wanted to say, even haltingly and fearfully. Though perhaps we’ve been silent on some issues for fear of reprisal.
We’ve learned much from the voices of sages and writers who speak their truth. The voice of artists whose expression is through music, painting, writing speaks to us. The sea sounds with its crashing waves. The wind sighs, its voice heard through the rustle of leaves. Bird song is lovely; sometimes lively and sometimes it sounds like a lament.
Finding our own voice as we age presents a challenge. Not only for it to be heard in the outer world, but in the inner world in particular.
What dialogue can we have with this inner voice? Does it lead to more questioning of its veracity? If we are non judgmental about our voice within and really listen to it we may be surprised to hear its differing cadences. Perhaps another voice keeps on invading even as we try to drown it. Noise and chatter trying to quieten us. Who and what are these other voices that are trying gain attention and be heard? They sound strange and unfamiliar. We wonder whether we should pay attention to them … will they work for me or against if I act on them? Is this my voice of conscience that speaks to me? Is this my soul who speaks?
We can give voice to our unique style, give it expression in whatever way.
Can we voice our opposition to what is intolerable now that we are older? Even if the price is high? Can we know what we like and don’t like and have the courage to voice them? We can say no to violence in whatever way it presents.
The veil is always there, with ourselves on the other side. It be a victory to pierce it to see what lies behind it. There are more valleys that need to be explored as we age. We would have to be vigilant about our attempt to go beyond our boundaries. We have the vitality as we age. Would we find a vale in which all our sadnesses and sorrows could be washed clean as we emerge from newly found insights about ourselves and our place in the world? A new image of ourselves -
Voting takes place here in South Africa in less than two weeks …
Do you listen to your own voice?
‘There is a voice that doesn’t use words – listen!’ Rumi
U – UNCONSCIOUS
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your
life and you will call it fate.
Maybe aging seems so immense because it is an ultimatum that carries within it uncertainty. The answer is obvious. Time is limited, time calls us to consciousness, and the unconscious calls to us through our dreams. The world of our lives draws us to urgently attend to the unfinished and the undone. The world of ‘un’ or ‘not’ or not in this lifetime face us now.
And, we might be unnecessary, uncertain. Are we? This attitude can feel so disparaging and demeaning. Yet, this is in stark contrast to the possibilities we were unaware of earlier in life, the choices we made. Lingering regrets come into play. Wisdom is the knowledge what we could have done, why we did or did not and respecting the path we chose. Whether circuitous or not, it is ours and ultimately we developed within its winding ways.
We might see where we were and remain unconscious of how we use or don’t use the world that lies right in front of us. We might erect false filters and ignore what is there. We do not notice that older women are useful in the Western culture so oriented around youth and energy. If energy only insists on moving forward, it resists the speed of the slow and steady. We become lopsided in a one sidedness. Usefulness lies in how we honor our experiences, perspectives, knowledge and contributions.
We always want to receive messages from the unconscious, clear messages telling us what to do. In approaching the unconscious, this place that speaks the language of symbols, from such a narrow perspective, we miss its messages. They come in the obtuseness of a dream, the surprise of a relationship, the meaning in synchronous events. All these are messengers of the unconscious. Our task is to take the time and effort to listen, even if it seems confusing, overwhelming, mixed or something we do or do not want to hear.
In the unconscious, brought to conscious existence, we encounter the essence of woman – of self, of other, of place and position, of core. With age, even more so than previously, our lives are taking form and shape that we previously knew, as well as those we never knew. Always, the lurking of the old is there…amongst the evolution into the unknown.
It is in the unknown and unexpected that excitement resides. The mystery of life is just that. We are not meant to know how it will be. It just is and that might be the hard part to accept. And if we get stuck in un-acceptance we do not move and we groan and we let life go by. The difficult aspects of life are the ones that lead us into consciousness and an awareness of the depths of our soul.
We can look to the unconscious to give the sustenance needed. It is there all the time, if we choose to access it. We are at a time of the unexpected – illnesses, friends dying, partners as well. We might be drained and without the energy we formerly utilized. But then we also have to recognize that we do have energy, but differently apportioned. The lens through which we view ourselves and our world perhaps reposes in the unexpected. Our choices stare boldly at us. Challenging.
Do you examine your dreams to gain access to the unconscious?
T – TOLERABLE
Anais Nin in answer to the question “Why does one write?”
“… It is a world for others, an inheritance for others … in the end. When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others’.
Can we make a world tolerable to ourselves as we age? Do we have to struggle with ourselves at all times? Do I have to grapple with inner and outer to make things tolerable? Will that make ‘…a world tolerable for others’? Is it possible to be more tolerable towards myself? Can I come to a better inner view of myself, which by definition contains many worlds? So many, and so different to each other, yet somehow there are also similarities, even in their differences. So many shadings and shadows, unknown places where we don’t want to go.
We know when matters are not tolerable to us. We feel unease, unhappiness and a sense of things not being fairly squared. We feel it in the workplace, in relationships, in the environment, in ourselves ..
Are we willing to sustain the effort of becoming more of who we are as we age? Can we trust the process of becoming more tolerable towards ourselves? Do we know those parts of ourselves that are intolerable to us? We are quite quick to find aspects of people that are intolerable – but how much of this is our own shadow? We are quite adept in disguising ourselves to others, and thus, almost from habit, we become disguised to ourselves. This is intolerable in some way. Will I allow my vulnerabilities and my all too human foibles and follies to become visible to myself and thus to others, allowing them to see that I too am vulnerable, just as others are. Will that breach of the gap make ‘… a world tolerable to others’?
I want to know that when I face death that I have done my best in making my world tolerable to myself. I reckon to do this, I must bring those dark unknown aspects of myself that are strangers to me and thus fearful to me. I want to know my moral identity to some extent. There’s nothing to lose in this and maybe much to gain.
I know that I have to take myself out of my comfort zone to bring all those disparate shadow parts of myself into some sort of unity so that I can truthfully say I know myself a little better. And if I know myself a little better, warts and all, foibles, follies, the whole catastrophe of myself, yet abide by truths (eg harm no one or thing), this then has value and may help towards making the world a little more tolerable to others.
I feel that if I can achieve this I may have added a grain of consciousness to the world.
Incidentally, I do NOT like the word ‘tolerate’ – I do not want to be ‘tolerated’. Or my race, religion or gender ‘tolerated’. It has a negative connotation.
Are you tolerable to yourself?
S – SOUL & SORROW
for that’s what I sing.
The conjunction of soul and of sorrow is apt. It takes going through age and experience to fully get the ramifications of what it is to be oneself. We could say that in a stillness arising from accessing the sources within, a shift happens. We are composed of many experiences – the satisfactions and the sacrifices; the aspects that make for inner and outer security and safety; the secrets we keep from ourselves and others. We become self developed from doubt to serenity as the spiral of emotions courses through our being.
Life is a spiral, aging and the process of development, going up and down and side to side. We might feel solemn, serene, secure, stylish, subtle, with or without shape and definition. As we roll with these feelings, we might find ourselves like the serpent coiling and recoiling to the events of our lives. A sudden burst of spirit and being, a stagnation and sleep, a sacrifice and surrender to what is, are all elements of a day.
Soul is spirit and passion, compassion and passionate. We say someone is soulful when we catch their spark. But, they feel soulless in sorrow. The drain. The sadness, the overwhelming lack and the sorrow that goes to the bone. The soul cries and sobs. It is devastates. Sorrow reigns. Why? Why suffer so?
We ask what our soul wants. Do we ever know? Should we? Is the sorrow there to bring us into the depth of our being that we would never otherwise venture into? It is hard, just plain hard work.
Aging is a separation, even a sorrow from what was, how we were. It seemed unchanging before in prior years, and yet change, and we within it, was always occurring. All of life is a movement and a dying, like the sun dies in the evening and comes alive in the morning. This is an intense process that requires all the emotions and feeling of intense involvement. We cannot hide in the shadows, or merely remain an observer or erase the talents and skills we are meant to develop. We arise each day and sow the seeds of our being, all the more doable as we continue to develop consciousness.
The letter S must include the concept of the self, symbolized by the alchemical philosophers’ stone composed of silence, spiral, substance, soil, seeds, suffering, sacred and many more attributes. It is beyond the everyday world yet includes that world. It is the beginning and the end. The self as a concept in Jungian psychology means a spiritual approach to what it is to be a woman, what it means to live to the fullest, how we best express and most fully are known and to know others.
Perhaps surrender, true surrender is a task for this older time of life. Is surrender sorrow? Or, is it connection with soul on a profound level that takes our life into un-presumed directions. It is possible that it is only at this later stage that we begin to ask the questions , the real ones and these include soul and sorrow.
Is sorrow part of your soul’s journey?
R – REBIRTH
There is no pleasure without a tincture of bitterness
In the midst of the word rebirth, I want to add something about reverie, an inner place that deeply feels and looks and holds both inner and outer conversations with oneself. Like an inner coming to meeting, reverie is integral to the rebirth. It emerges out of death and loss. It also means holding another in one’s mind. It can refer to holding ourself from within. Reverie and rebirth are aspects of a creative process that builds on itself. After all, this time needs reflection. What is required and what is wanted.
And, it is interesting that the opus of many people is completed or even begun at this time of being older. It can take a long while to emerge into the real being and who one really is. It takes courage to have the resolve and resolution to go for it. This occurs not in a driven way, but in a way reflecting the recognition that rises from the authentic self.
I also want to add to this the words ‘re-membering’ and ‘recall’ and ‘reconcile’ – with self and others. Age can be fructifying and bear the fruit of this later season. Through the process of recall we remember what we wanted and needed. We bring forward the dead branches for trimming to get to the essence – like pruning the roses in the winter even when they are blooming so fully – at least in the southwest of USA. This means that their beauty is cut down but the rose remembers and it will bloom again. Another rose will come forth and so on in the cycle of what it is to be a rose. This cycle is quite true for us as well. We bring back our old dreams and wants and needs and refresh our relationships, till their soil, make happen what we gave up and repressed. The renewal that comes from the old coming forth again is the fertilizer that nourishes.
And, these words – remembering … re-membering. It’s interesting that words takes on two different meanings when so put. Like response and response-ibility. Strangely they also are part of rebirth. The ‘re’ part is what is so intriguing – putting together aging and new growth. So often these are condemned – yes, such a strong word – but the feedback about desires that bloom in older age is often couched in words of too late, do not plant that garden or get another dog or begin that book as will you be able to take care of it? Will you get ill or are you strong enough to see it through? Why all this disparagement about life when it should be blooming all along the way. No matter, as long as life still is, the ‘re’ part needs attention. It cries out to be acknowledged. The birthing of each day, the setting of the moon and the rising of the sun are small rebirths that we can daily note. The daffodil coming forth, the new recipe and page we have written. All parts of the rebirth in aging.
And, last of all the feelings of resistance and the power to paralyze.
Do you have that sense of re-birth and reverie as you age?
Q – QUOTES & QUESTIONS
He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer (italics mine). Elis Wiesel (Night)
Why do people always expect authors to answer questions? I am an author because I want to ask questions. If I had answers, I’d be a politician. Eugene Ionesco
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. Maya Angelou
Quest is at the heart of what I do – the holy grail, and the terror that you’ll never find it, seemed a perfect metaphor for life. Jeanette Winterson
The quest for riches darkens the sense of right and wrong. Antiphanes
I like quotes; many quotes contain unstated questions within them and therefore remain open to the reader to digest in any way they wish. For me, it is not important to ‘understand’ the viewpoint being expressed because that is limited and fixed and closes it. What I appreciate is that the quote opens me up in a way not experienced before. It may be a pang of recognition; I may disagree yet see a grain of truth expressed; I may see a great truth succinctly expressed in a few words and I feel my thirst quenched.
I like subversive quotes that have a flavour of anarchy or nihilism and disturb my peace of mind. Helen Rowland: Love, the quest; marriage, the conquest; divorce, the inquest.
It’s apt that the word question contains ‘quest’ within it. Our quest in life ends only when we stop asking questions – about who we are, our place in this mystery of life as we experience it with all its up and downs.
The more we listen and learn from our experiences, the more questions we have as we continue the quest to know ourselves and our place in the world better. There are no certainties in life (besides taxes and death – and aging). Certainty is too fixed and allows for no room to manoeuvre. Uncertainty and ambiguity never ends and is the magic ingredient that assists us to continue unfolding and becoming as we age. We may not know our destiny with any certainty; how limiting it would be if we did and would quell the mysteries of life.
Artists of all kinds and throughout all times have a quest to better describe the human condition.
The question invariably leads us somewhere. Some say that part of the ‘answer’ is in the question. Life always brings up questions, and the only foolish question is the one that is not asked.
Do you ask yourself questions about how you are living and aging?
P – PATH
Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
This time of aging is a time of preoccupation and paying attention. The paradox is that it is a paradox. Feeling the time constraint, do possibilities really become limited or do we delude ourselves and use this as an excuse? Is this line of reasoning not at peril to the personality? The development of self has no time limit and is lodged more in the sacred space than the profane one. Our lives continue to have purpose, even when we are depressed, in despair, feel lost and unable to find the path. Like any stage of life, as we age, we have the possibility of progression through it or the choice to be overwhelmed and succumb to the emotional conflicts and distress. Our projects and activities mean keeping an active dialogue with the unconscious and using it as our guide. There are so few guides given about aging and its process of unfolding and becoming. We could consult our dreams…
What are the priorities now? They change as life does; and moves with the rhythm of our existence. We want to take pride in where we are and what we have done and plan to do. We want to use the present to reflect our persona with a connection to the depths of our being. We do not want to be bound by what ‘should’ be but by how we are, really and authentically. Our sense of self is more definite now, just like how we have definitely developed a certain preference for our coffee or tea.
We are on a path. It has twists and turns and each day and each moment we select this one and not that. We are limited and expanded at the same time. One moment we are private, passive, personal and protected and then at another, public and seen. One enhances the other. The path alters but in honesty we will prefer this over that. In time we are what we have chosen. The path defines us as much as we do it. In a way it is a relief to narrow the choices and be a specialist.
And, our path also holds surprises like when we post-menopausal women, older than the age of fertility, dream of being pregnant. Actually, it is not uncommon for many women after menopause to have dreams of pregnancy, giving birth, caring for children, breast feeding. Of course this makes sense, as inner creativity, or new birth, is not contingent on having an actual child. It is representative of potential that continues through the life cycle if we remain true to our fate and live with consciousness, in the flowering of our being.
Lastly, in order to do all this, we have the gift and problem of patience. Patience is a hard road. It makes for slow travel, minute attention, personal reflection, feeling. It is a requirement and a form of glue for the rest to work. Nothing happens fast anyhow. Why is this so hard to practise? Transformation and fulfilment is beyond age and time. Patience transcends both as well. The development of our psyche is unending and just keeps on going. The path is made more palatable with patience.
Are you patient on your path?
O: OBSTACLES & OBSTRUCTIONS
I’m interested in people who have to overcome obstacles, people who are not sheltered by the umbrella of the establishment, marginals.
As we age, obstacles and obstructions are prevalent and harder to bear. We trip over a blade of grass or slip on wet ground and our healing happens slower. Our partners and friends die … We’ve stiffened our spines before yet, paradoxically, made them more flexible; and continue to do so as we observe and digest and make our way through this particular stage of our lives.
We hit brick walls which cast their shadows -
Leonardo da Vinci ‘Shadow is the obstruction of light … necessary …’
Life continues to throw us slings and arrows even as we age and as they have throughout our life span. We feel at times as if this ‘opposition’ will never lessen and we will never be free of it.
Obstruction – of justice; fallen trees in the road; burning tyres on roads in protest of bad service delivery; our work colleagues obstruct us in some way; our partners oppose or friends ostracise us; ideas meet opposition; we find something objectionable in what so-and-so said or what we ourselves feel ..
Obstacles – can they be stepping stones as we tackle and manoeuvre through them? We learn how to manoeuvre around obstacles and obstructions with our knowledge gained as we age along the way. We know that each manoeuvre will be different to the last. Each experience and manoeuvre brings forth a new attitude, a stripping away or an adding on.
The lotus flower emerges so beautifully from the mud (its natural and fertile habitat) and its petals open slowly one by one, a thousand of them. We can be like the lotus flower emerging from the mud of our past and present obstacles and open, one by one, like the petals, in the moment, as we learn to live with ambiguity, uncertainty and paradox.
‘Certainty’ has no movement; uncertainty allows for possibilities of the unknown.
We can write about the mud, dance about it, paint it, cook it, heat it up, shape it, observe and engage in it, wonder about our reaction to it and how we overcame it, what opportunity actually arose from being in the mud.
We can be like the orchid, which can even thrive on neglect; sometimes it needs dryness. Yet, it needs an occasional drop of water to feed it. We can add that drop of water to what has been neglected within, and let ourselves continue to blossom, until we fall back into the earth, to be renewed yet again. Like the rose that in order to be complete, has and needs thorns on its stem.
Do you think shadows can provide stepping stones? Are we sometimes our own worst obstruction?
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.
Now is powerful and loaded, heavy with the limit of the day and yet contains a fullness with its possibilities. Now is ripe. It is juicy. You can feel it to the bone.
And, while it should be easy to stay in the now, it is not so. Being present is so very difficult. The now requires being in touch with the truths of our nature, living like the animals and in the moment of the current need, desire, want, fulfillment. Compulsions, drives, ego satisfactions are actions that often take us out of the now. Striving for outer achievements, hiding real desires, doing it for adulation, money or just to be perfect do so as well. (and thus take us out of the now)
The word ‘no’ narrows the world. The stress of not living or living in a state of nothingness and the unnatural, plague us too often and then fill up the now. The no to the present moment usually is based on some past upsets or future anticipations and these erase the present. Then, all feelings are vanished.
The ‘no’ to now implies conflict and can lead to numbing, behaviours of denial and distress, and essentially cause an avoidance of being. We lose the ability to note the need of the present day or the psyche, or the need of personal fulfillment. ‘No’ too often arises from fear and transposes into a deprivation artificially imposed. It is not a matter of merely saying yes but understanding more about what is going on beyond the limits imposed by ‘no’. This means getting into the complexities of the now.
Yet, to get there we go through what is called the stage of the nigredo, an alchemical term denoting the darkness, the shadow, the mud and the promises held within that we do not see – yet. It might feel nightmarish to confront this darkness. We back away. Yet at the same time we are faced with the task of going through anyhow. These are now moments that contain what we fear or do not want, the spooks in the nightmares that knock on our psyche and want our attention. These jolt us out of numbness and lack of reaction. They catapult us into life. We need the shocks to become awake to the time we have that is the now.
Reminds me of walking the mud on Mt. Kilimanjaro. This was a physical nigredo, the dark of the earth while traversed in actuality but also within the psyche. It seemed impossible. This was a going down, sliding in the mud, not able to find a footing, unsteady and yet having to negotiate all the unease, unsteady and unsupported except by an inner something that would guide down the path. This can parallel the time of aging for some women, the unsteady, uneven sometimes on our feet, the plowing through step by slow step as the only way to do it, no rushing, feeling each moment and having the pleasure or the forced necessity of being so present that otherwise our footing is lost.
We are no longer run by something, as and if we are present to it. We can identify through the being conscious of the now. What a relief to be in the moment that clarifies the needs of psyche and soul.
Do you appreciate the now?
A Blessed Easter to you all, and Chag Sameach for Pesach. There are many connections between the two – may your connections to this time deepen and strengthen you.
The Moon stays bright
when it doesn’t avoid the night
What other force is there greater than the one who pulls the oceans from shore to shore?
Does the Moon have anything to do with Aging & Becoming?
The moon has a natural rhythm in her cycles, and aging is one of the cycles.
She is always in motion, ever metamorphosing, dancing to her own tune, her own cycle. She is so unlike the sun which is constant and on which we rely for its regularity. Not so the moon on whose mystery we cannot always depend. Nor is it easy to grasp the power of the moon and it’s influence over us. The moon’s principle is change and ‘change’ is also an inner principle of women. It’s a very different one to men whose inner principle is primarily Logos.
When she is new, she is hardly a sliver, barely to be seen – a fine, fine crescent of light. When she is full, she is a mandala, a huge orb looking down on us from the night sky.
She increases and decreases -
She appears at night-time, dark time, goodnight time and, like our lives, undergoes the motions of waxing and waning and waxing again. Past, present, future; beginning, middle, end; death, re-birth, eternity, back to star dust from whence we came.
Now, as we age, we are more mindful of the night, represented by the moon and her feminine energy. She casts her diffuse and mysterious light upon us. She calls quietly, whispering about the cycles of change. She asks us to remember that we know that our lives have been experienced as cycles of change. She says remember me – I change as you do -
Sometimes night clouds obscure her and it takes a long while for her to re-emerge from behind them, if at all. I want to breath a dragon breath and blow those clouds away – but I also like to think of her as hiding, withdrawing. I feel at home in her concealment.
She says, yes, there is ebb and flow, in me and in you. I am sometimes dark, sometimes at half phase or quarter phase or in between those phases, sometimes in decline, sometimes round, sometimes invisible. In my complex rhythm I remain faithful to my nature. I remain vigilant even in my eternal solitude.
She says yes, man has landed on me, but you have much further to go, go within, the longest and deepest journey and seek the mystery that is you.
What better time than now, as we age, to look to the moon that becomes eclipsed and the evening that becomes morning again. We may see a harvest moon that represents our own life harvest. We can unravel the shadow pieces of our lives, those lying on the dark side of the moon and bring them into the open.
Use the magic of the inward flowing energy and become more of who we are …
Does the moon have any meaning to you?
L – LOVE & LOSS
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.
It is interesting to put love and loss together, as if the time of aging means love and loss coinciding. In fact, they often are associated together. Love and loss. Loss of self, partner, friends, health, body, energy, hair, time, life force, position and status, confidence and on it goes. Endless loss and lack and emptiness and no replacement. Nothing is the same as before. In fact, we delude ourselves thinking the befores are endlessly resumed. ‘Before’ remains just that and we move into something else repeatedly. If we search for the scenarios of befores we only find an abyss of darkness, loss and sorrow.
Yet, loss can feel so huge that it hurts to breathe. Maybe we are so pained we become numb, without even knowing it. Love and loss can leads to us going to sleep in a glass coffin. We look present but are not. To those who get it, we are like the sleeping dead. To those who do not get it, well, they will not understand. The losses of this time of life are irreplaceable. We cannot make up for a partner or friend or job or so many minutes of our lives. We do not just get over it. All losses are impactful, but these are more so. Like we cannot inhale anymore. The emptiness is so profound. Life is forever an alteration and shaped by emptiness. A partner gone, old friends no more, children and parents dead, relationships ended through divorce, divergence of interests and lack of a common thread.
A woman’s husband died only a year ago and the loss continues, each moment another feeling of lack and shadowed by sorrow. There is no reason, life feels empty, her muse is gone. Empty mind, no thought or feeling. The space of where he was sits off to the side or even is in the forefront, always. The flowers she got for his graveside are covered with her tears. She sorrows the love gone – even more due to their rocky relationship and previous separations occurring several times. The best and closest years were the last few ones, drawn closer through illness, and now he is not there. She is also not there as her memory for living is numbed. It is not dementia. It is emotional loss that deadens from within. She goes on but like a zombie and does not even see the severity of this state. The numbness has penetrated her inner being. Stymied her.
Yet, even with this despair around loss, rebirth will occur, like the seasons and cycles of everything in nature. From the dead arise the flowering of spring. We are nature. One part of life balances upon another. Eventually we smile, when we never thought we would; or eat when formerly food had no taste; or we move when our limbs were leaden; or we create when there was nothing. But, when subsumed by loss, there is nothing.
Again, age means resilience to the huge swings and the emotional adjustments to the paradoxes that get wider and wider as we age. The lengths to which we traverse the emotional, physical and psychological stages of life are huge. The process requires fortitude. Maybe now we can face it because we have enough age. We have lived long enough as we awkwardly and stiltingly face the demands of the flux between love and loss.
Does loss of youth seem profound to you?
K – KNOWLEDGE
I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all the extraneous delights should be withdrawn
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Older women, having amassed experience, have the keys to something. We know and yet who asks. Why the blank space around her? Are we merely a bypass to be avoided and not considered? Do we reveal what we know, asked or not? If knowledge sets us free, then older women might be more considered and consulted, their lives an example. And, we might consider that they have something to offer.
The type of knowledge we are addressing relates to the sources swinging on the underbelly of life. In some tales this is a character called Baba Yaga. In some stories she lives in a hut on the edge of the forest, denoting that she can negotiate the conscious and unconscious. The young princess often has to consult her and get directions about how to proceed on her journey. Youth does not know without the guidance of this older woman. There are such amazing tales depicting the various directions given by the older woman that the younger has to follow for making it through. In each one the younger must consult, listen to and trust the older. For the younger, the tasks she has to accomplish seem hopeless, daunting, the unknown too much to handle. The Baba Yaga figure, the old witch, is the one who knows. She has gone through life and can survive. With confidence and firmness she guides the younger so she will not waver but will achieve what she must.
The witch or the sorceress, an older woman is imbued with the knowledge of potions. She knows how to heal and she lives on an edge that is not part of the community. The witch is special and on her own. She carries mystique and a feeling of the unusual. She is of the world but not bound by it. She can traverse boundaries, she has a place of distinction on the edge, yet can be feared because of this. Her life is not like that of others. Why should it be? She knows what others do not and she passes it on to those who listen and obey. In many fairy tales the princess has to negotiate the witch and make peace with her. This means following her orders that seem obtuse or impossible. It means trusting in that which is unknown and which seem to make no sense. There is no orderly plan. The witch has mystical knowledge, without logical reason but knowledge in what is unseen and that belongs to the unusual.
In our modern day this also entails listening to dreams and following their wisdom. This is a wisdom that addresses the essence of what it is to be a person. It is the ability to untie the conscious and unconscious from reaching into the well of life and drawing forth the waters for sustenance. This knowing means honoring the wisdom emanating from the older woman to anyone conscious enough to enquire.
Do you respect the knowledge gained through your own aging?
J – JOURNEY
Rilke: The only journey is the one within -
Aging is yet another journey we step into. It is always changing, and it changes us.
We’re all pilgrims as we travel and experience peaks and valleys on our journeys. The path is never straight; it changes constantly sending us in new directions, sometimes unplanned and unpredictable. The journey often brings us to crossroads and we may be uncertain whether to go left, right or straight ahead and we wonder where our steps taken consciously or otherwise have led us or will still, yet to go ..
We’ve already made many steps; we’ve crossed bridges, swum in turbulent waters and come up gasping; some steps have been halting, some made with confidence. We’ve achieved much and have left footprints in the sand as we journey on – and we lose something as we go further into this journey called ‘life’. We lose friends, partners, we say farewell to youth -
How often we hear the saying: it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey – There is truth in this phrase, but to turn it around a bit, can we say that the journey IS the destination – unknown though it may be?
There are other discoveries we make as we journey into aging. Is this a question that needs asking? I like that the word ‘question’ contains ‘quest’ within it …
Do we have a quest for something more even as we age or approach old age? Even if we answer ‘I don’t know’ this in itself opens up possibilities. Aging is a journey of discovery – found within as we find out perhaps for the first time, what we need, what is important to us in the scheme of things, what gives succour to our soul.
We may be able to describe the scent of a rose to someone else, but there is nothing comparable to actually smelling it yourself. Similarly, we make our own map, weaving the tapestry of our labyrinthine lives. The course may change, and we change as we discover inner depths of which we were previously unaware. We may journey through darkness in search of our own truth and this journey takes us to where we’ve never been before.
It reminds me of tackling a jigsaw puzzle, fitting all the pieces together to make a whole. A large one say 1500 small pieces, takes forever, and is full of frustrations trying to get them to fit. And once complete, there is another jigsaw puzzle …
The sun and moon journey daily and nightly – so too we journey as we age and become more of who we are as we journey into our own presence.
Do you ever give any thought to being on a journey?
I – IMAGE
Once we give up searching for approval we often find it easier to
Aging and life itself require attention and the flow directed inwards. The interior life, the value of the inside of being, the ability to muster reflection upon what has happened and is happening. The intellect, intensity and the use of our initiative to be inventive, intense, intriguing and intuitive. These are all parts of creativity and valuable parts of being a woman. There are many ways we can make sense of what has been and prepare for what will be. Yet, we might not take advantage of them, or tailor them to what fits or slough them off as too complicated, too simple, too much trouble or difficult. We excuse ourselves with doing rather than being and the outer world supports this. We need now to amass the courage to confront the images, illusions, delusions and the issues of being through the stages of aging.
The issues of aging impress themselves upon us. They press us with inner movement to gain attention. The energy for this arises from the unconscious spaces. We are charged to make sense of it, even ethically and morally to honor the interior, the introvert, the private self and in this way, to make statements about our individuality, specialness, unique being from the inside out.
Can you imagine being 20 and looking in the mirror to see yourself at 60? It is an experience of life smashing into an image you cannot really hold. You cannot imagine how you will look or how you will feel. To yourself and to others. You cannot know what will evolve through all those years, nor that the image of yourself will undergo many iterations. We image ourselves as we are and how we want to be but what actually happens, we cannot do it.
The following is a story of image a friend recounted. She was at a fair and an artist said she would draw her picture for free if she could use the image to sell her work. The woman agreed. Several weeks later in the post came a package. In it was a note of something to the effect that this was a likeness, not an exact image. The likeness had aged my friend many years into the eighties. Astonishment, dismay, unlovely and then the contemplation of what if this was a true image. Why is it not considered beautiful? What is wrong with the wrinkles writing their years on her face. What if this was the truth and why not?
We live insular lives, even more now with the fantasy of global connectedness through social media and computers. The reality is also that we are ensconced in our separate worlds, divided, unapproachable and hardly intimate. The sorrow is that Western cultures tend to denigrate age. It becomes reduced to being fear driven through attitudes of indifference and ignorance about appreciating the full life cycle.
We are charged to create more complete images of aging.
Is the image of yourself now as you imagined it would be?