Friday, June 13, 2008

I am my age

"let me take advantage, then, of the warmth that is still in me and which may at any moment be chilled by the affirmities of age..." (Mariquise de La Tour du Pin, Memoirs, age 50).

About two weeks ago my very young staff workers laughingly plunked a fat hardcopy book on my desk. It had been gathered in by a book collection intended for schools in Africa. This book, "The Change" by feminist author Germaine Greer was deemed by them, not suitable for African youngsters, but apparently suitable for me. I laughed. Took it home. And started to read.

I did not read the feminist writers in their hay day of the fifties and sixties. I was a bit young for them. This book is published in the 90's. And I am eating it up. This book is about me. And it is about me when hardly anything is about me. In fact, recently I told my very young and nubile daughter that I wanted something to be 'about me'. About my feelings. About my accomplishments. About how life is for me. But I am in the invisible period of life. After all, what is interesting about a woman in her fifties?

Well. If you don't know, read Germaine Greer.

Just a taste, on 'the pressure to keep young and fit and beautiful if you want to be loved:

A woman has a duty to go on 'being attractive' no matter how fed up she is with the whole business. She is not allowed to say, 'Now I shall let myself go: letting herself go is a capital offence against the sexist system. (I did tell you she is a feminist.)

Yet if a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?

Women should not have to masquerade as girls in order to remain in the land of the living.

Greer talks about the mid life change in women, from a productive to a reflective person, as a fascinating but hidden process. In part or whole it goes unseen, not because it is uninteresting or pitiful.

If there is a belief that nothing happens to middle aged women, it is only because middle aged women do not talk about what does happen to them. (At this point of reading my blog I know my daughter is cringing thinking, 'that's all we need - mom to be encouraged to talk more about what is happening to her!' :-)

If there is something to say, why not say it? I have lived fifty years. I have been a source of life, figuratively and in fact, and a manager of death, walking in where very few would go. My arms have held the body of a dead infant. I have walked as close to death as is possible with others. I have gathered the spiritual an psychic resources to not be afraid of either.

I heard Dr. Oz on Oprah - so that makes it authoritative, right? - say that people call the doctor not so much to get a solution and restore health, but to bring order to the situation. The doctor is not afraid of sickness and death, and thus, even when the situation really does not improve, we all feel much helped simply by his/her presence. I get it. And I can do in life what Dr. Oz is talking about.

I am fifty two. I do not look good in shorts. My years force idiosyncratic changes on me that I am not invited but forced to deal with. But my life is moving more and more away from anxiety and striving and into the deep waters of a gentle and peaceful potency. I am not afraid of life, finally, even as I serve tea to death more often.

Greer says the journey inwards towards wisdom and serenity is as long as the headlong rush of our social and sexual career, if not longer, but there are no signposts to show the way. She is right - if there are women beckoning the way, I don't know who they are.

So maybe I can be one of those. When I was in my twenties I looked around for older women (aka - late thirties, forties) who might be what I wanted to become. I could find few. So I decided that with God's help and my intention I would strive to become one of those for the women who come after me. It has been a lifelong goal.

Now in my fifties I see that my choice is to quit striving and begin to listen patiently to all of life, and in so doing, aim towards being someone who is, at least, not silent about this season. Sorry Rae.

I don't think what I will finally say will be the same as what Germaine would say. But I thank her for giving me a nudge to be me, right now, and enjoy this lively time of being a woman.


rachel said...

i've been the ear to your overshare for years, mom. bring it on! :)

Anonymous said...

Two things:
1. The funny part about being one of your "very young staff workers" is that the comment both offends (I want to be older) and compliments (I want to look good in shorts.)
2. The serious part about being one of your "very young staff workers" is that I get to see your lifelong dream fulfilled of being the woman who "
very young staff workers" can look to when contemplating aging and death. And glorious life at 50 and beyond. I shall now refer to you as Germaine 2.
~Your Loyal Ass.